From the archives | Inside the mind of RHOD star Nonkanyiso 'LaConco' Conco

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Nonkanyiso 'Laconco' Conco is not about the glitz and glam of the limelight but wants to make a real impact in society.
Nonkanyiso 'Laconco' Conco is not about the glitz and glam of the limelight but wants to make a real impact in society.
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She's become known for her spicy comebacks on Real Housewives of Durban. She shook things up in her introduction episode by asking people to 'google me' when they asked who she was married to. 

And as the season progressed, she was the name on the trends list. 

South Africans have gotten to know a different side of her in the new season of the Mzansi Magic family show Ingan’Yam, which she's now presenting.

Reality show star and businesswoman Nonkanyiso 'LaConco' Conco is using her fame to impact people’s lives positively.

“I never planned to be famous or to be on the small screen. But this seems to be the direction God is leading me towards,” she tells Drum.

Ingan’Yam is a show about parents who introduce their children from the past to their spouses and families to help the children get a sense of belonging.

“I am naturally a person who has an interest in uplifting and building a better community. I have always been doing it, but on a smaller scale and this show does just that but on a bigger scale,” she adds.

“In almost every community I have visited or where I come from. I would speak to youth, women would come to me and seek for advice, young and old.”

When she was called to present Ingan’Yam, she knew that it would be difficult.

“They were looking for a presenter with certain characteristics. But I took the opportunity to get a chance to work with families and have a positive result, why not?”

It has always been her dream to be on the radio, but she did not see herself doing television.

“My dream has always been to be on international and national radio in our country. I have done radio before, I was on Vuma FM, and a community radio station, Mgungundlovu FM when I was still at school. I saw myself growing my career in radio, but I have never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be a TV presenter,” she says.

With the many moving stories she deals with on the show, LaConco says she is truly moved by the story of a young couple.

“This couple story truly touched me because I read through the blurred lines that this woman was living under patriarchy because her husband is a breadwinner. They fell in love, he paid lobola but they’re not fully married. But because he is a breadwinner, she was not allowed to voice her emotions and express herself,” she says.

“That story touched me and reminded me about the importance of self-empowerment. I saw how patriarchy is still a problem in our community and how women still allow it. I was sad and touched on behalf of this woman who agreed to be suppressed in this manner.”

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What to expect on season two of Real Housewives Of Durban

Soon, her fans will get to see her on the new season of Real Housewives of Durban. She came back for the new season because she believes in “finishing what you’ve started”.

In season one of the Real Housewives of Durban, she says there were misconceptions of who she might be while others understood her journey.

“People thought I was ducking and diving questions about my personal life. They thought I am secretive, I’m a bully and a tribalist and it’s incorrect,” she says.

“I am a very deep person, and you will understand me if you listen carefully, angikhulumi budlaba (I speak carelessly and not out of turn). The questions I avoided or chose not to answer were me protecting only what I know. I felt the timing and platform was not right,” she says.

“Certain cast members asked me questions when the cameras came on and they came as though they were vessels of a conspiracy. While others were kind and asked me questions off-camera and I respected that.”

LaConco says people should allow her to be herself.

“If they come with preconceived ideas or build ideas of who I am in their mind, they will be disappointed. I advocate for dignity and empowerment. I respect people and time. I will never ill-speak of anyone, including the father of my child. One day I will share my journey and my story and even then, I will not ill-speak about anyone,” she adds.

In this coming season on Real Housewives of Durban, LaConco promises to open up a bit more to her viewers.

“The only thing that some people are interested in is my personal space; the house I live in, the car I drive, and the relationship with the father of my child. I have seen comments that you would swear, I came from season one and sat there and gave nothing,” she giggles. 

“The purpose or rather what I had in mind when I joined the show on season one was to introduce myself first. First impressions last and they will stay with that impression forever. I wanted people to know what I do for a living, how I make money, how I started my businesses, and what I stand for as a woman and view things,” she says.

In season two, she will be opening up a little bit.

“They will see friends coming over to my place, my car, and everything will be done at my pace and my comfortability. I had reasons for not showing people where I stay and giving out details of the father of my child. I don’t care what people think in terms of their interests. I have lived my truth and I know the reasons for not opening up to those areas of my life. At the end of the day, there is a sensitive part and a national key point which is my son, and every mother wants to protect their child. But people will definitely see me become vulnerable.”

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LaConco on fame and the limelight

She is bold, confident and doesn’t believe she has any insecurities.

“I am a very content woman who is at peace. I let God work and channel through my life.”

She believes in helping people before putting fame first.

“I’m not a person who wants to walk in a room and be recognised anywhere,” she says. 

“There is nothing to enjoy about fame. I don’t subscribe to fame. I am in people’s eyes because I appear on social media and TV. But the best thing is God putting me on this platform is to come across individuals that I can engage with and inspire, even [with something] as small as laughing or posting a picture. But it’s all about inspiring people. I was told that I can make people feel comfortable and vulnerable about something bothering them,” she says.

Bad publicity does not affect her in the least.

“You find what I call mobs and intellects. We have more mobs than intellects, people who think they know you because they see you on TV and they can have any opinion on who I am. They just talk without having met me, and they make a conclusion,” she says.

“But it doesn’t mean that it changes my life and my truth in any way. When I read something negative on social media, I see it and I pass because I knew from the beginning that taking the step to be in the limelight will come with some positive and negative. But then I’ve received helps me deal with the hate.”

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Family and childhood

Her mom has been supportive of most of her decisions.

“My mom supports my dreams, and my family is impressed and proud of the woman I have become,” she says.

She is the opposite of her mother.

“My mom is not a talkative person; she is a listener. She has one-line punches which leave me moved all the time,” she says.

The best advice she has received from her mom was to always have multiple streams of income.

“Growing up, I watched what she does. My mom does not sit you down and talk but acts the part. I learned from her by watching,” she says. “My mom was a seamstress since the early ’80s. Today I am a qualified journalist through my mom’s hard work as a seamstress, knitting and hairdressing, being a domestic while knitting on the other hand. She has shown me versatility and taught me about multiple streams of income at a young age," LaConco says.

“She did not get an opportunity to study, but she vowed to never be poor. She made a lot selling shweshwe and that inspired me. I am truly blessed to still have her alive and learning through her life I learned. My dad has always advocated for education and pushed me to study.”

LaConco grew up between Kwa-Zulu Natal and Johannesburg. She had the best of both worlds, living with the Conco family home in the suburbs and also in a shack where her mom worked hard.

"I had a good childhood, the best of both worlds. We didn't have a tv, and she kept her shack clean, I was clean and my school friends were shocked to learn that I lived in a shack because I had everything I needed at school and I was clean.

“The best people to ask about my childhood were my schoolmates, neighbours and friends who shared with me that they are not surprised on how I turned out because I’ve always been an open, honest child and I grew up matured,” she says.

“I was never hit for breaking curfew or being naughty. I was never that person from high school. I grew up old, I have an old soul. I was neat, covered my body at all times. At my ehlolweni (virginity testing ceremony), I was the one taking care of everyone and sharing food with everyone. At school, my friends were the teachers, I could relate more with them. I would have more conversations with older people. I was never a problematic child,” she says.

But life was not perfect, and she had challenges she overcame as a young girl.

"My mom lived in Matatiele, I lived with my dad and MaMemela was a lady that raised me, as a stepmom. There were days when I needed my biological mom and it affected some areas of my education, but I pulled through because my mom wanted me to have a good education.”

LaConco is, however, grateful for all her childhood experiences. 

“Because of the hardships, I started selling sweets, chips, and airtime at school. But it was not allowed, and they would often confiscate my goods and I would start over. I then sold only sweets that I kept in my pocket. I had to sell something for me to make money to have lunch and taxi fare. I learned entrepreneurial patience at school. My childhood taught me to make decisions to protect myself,” she adds.

Dreams and purpose

LaConco studied Media and Journalism at Varsity College. 

“I’ve done a lot of jobs in stage productions for award ceremonies, eventing for big brands, and facilitation. I worked on radio and did community volunteer work, visiting adult homes and cleaning.”

Last year she recovered from Covid-19, which really gave her something to live for.

“It was extreme, one of the worst cases of Covid-19. The only way I conquered was to keep a positive mind, as I do with all my challenges,” she says.

The mom of one doesn’t subscribe to New Year’s resolutions but has long-term goals.

“I plan to get closer to my creator and try to invest more for my son,” she says.  “The little steps I am taking and growing is to see myself being able to invest.”

LaConco is working to expand her brand.

“Exactly what I prayed for last year I received, it was visible. This year I am working on growing and securing more bags. The business must make more money and be able to live off it. LaConco Naturals is a long-term business and a legacy for my child. I am investing in my growth.”

She believes, the sky is the limit, 

“My dream is to absolutely allow God to use me in instilling hope in everyone I cross paths with. In time, I will share the struggles and the pain I have lived. A year ago, my life was not this way and in time I will share how my life transformed in the space of a year,” she says.

Her advice to others is to never fear anything.

“I am not easily shaken or fearful. My advice to people is to always remain in your lane and don’t be fearful. People are living with stress and worry. Our lives don’t belong to us but to God. John 1 verse 14 explained the truth of God and how we should live. That verse is my theme for 2022,” she says.

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