She has a distinctive husky voice and a contagious positive energy about her. YFM radio presenter and car spinning fanatic Khutso Theledi (30) is approaching 10 years at the station and says everyday has been a joy ride.
Recently the drive-time jock was announced as one of the South African influential stars joining Telkom as one of their ambassadors alongside Tumi Morake, Leigh-Anne Williams and Martelize Brink, Zizo Tshwete, Seipati Twasa Seoke, Dudu Khoza, Selby Mkhize and Brian Rikhotso.
“This is validation for me that I am doing something right and that someone out there is watching and seeing my hard work,” Khutso says.
Born in Mpumalanga where she spent the early years of her life, Khutso moved to Johannesburg in 2005 to complete her high school.
Her dad passed away when she was two years old and being raised by a single mother taught her resilience, nurturing and compassion for others.
“Although I didn’t know him for long, my dad meant the world to me,” she says.
“Growing up I always had a sense of wanting to connect to the sky spiritually with my dad.”
And because of this, the first job she took on was as an air hostess while studying at Monash University.
“But I changed my mind about Monash and I decided to go study Journalism at Boston Media House because I wanted to tell people’s stories,” she says.
On her first day at Boston, she was asked to do a voice over for their open day. The voice over aired on YFM, and a week later she was called by DJ Mo Flava to do a demo for the breakfast show as a presenter. A few days later, she also got a call from Emirates and was offered a job as a flight attendant which made her conflicted.
“I recorded the demo, and I was offered the job. So, on my 21st birthday, I signed the contract and started on my birthday. I left my job in the air for the airwaves,” Khutso says.
This year on her 30th birthday she was announced as the first female in South Africa to host an afternoon drive time show alone. Khutso is proud of how far she has come.
“I believe my dad has a hand in everything that’s happened in my life. But I am also so grateful about having the discipline and people who believed in me and my vision,” Khutso says.
“It has not been easy, and it means people are listening. It means there is power in my voice,” she says.
As a teenager, she was always teased for her voice and didn’t think she would use it to speak to millions of people.
“I was always mocked for having a deep, husky voice,” Khutso says.
She loved to stand in front of the mirror with cue card pretending to be presenting a show, but "it never dawned time I grew into it,” she adds.
“I learned to love my voice and own it. I realise that my voice was my power.”
Even today as an adult and having been on radio for nine years, some people still giggle when they hear her speak or compare her to the likes of Bonang and other radio personalities with deep voices. But she does not take offense to any of the criticism.
“All women with deep voices will be compared, but I have never taken offence because people can only compare the voices, but they know the characters, personalities, styles and everything else we stand for is different.”
Khutso is inspired by many women making big career moves like radio and TV presenters Pearl Modiadie and Masechaba Ndlovu to name a few.
“To be compared to and to be put on the same list as those women is a compliment for me. I have great respect for them.”
Khutso believes what has kept her grounded and given her longevity is her discipline.
“Radio helps with discipline because you learn about time,” she says.
“But being me helps me to stay disciplined. I am an introvert; when I go out, I go out with purpose and intention. I surround myself with people who support me and understand me. I am a grounded, God-fearing woman and if I tried to be anyone else, I would have lost my ways,” Khutso says.
Khutso is also an adrenalin junky and spins cars in her spare time.
“Car spinning is my vice.”
She got into spinning in 2013 when Pule N, who is a spinner, invited her and Mo Flava to a spinning gathering.
“My dad had a Gusheshe (BMW 325i) but I only started spinning in Johannesburg and I have never stopped,” Khutso says.
One of her dreams is to open a licenced spinning academy for women.
“I have many dreams and I know with time, they will be achieved,” Khutso says.
Although she has no plans of leaving YFM yet, in future she would like to see herself on national radio and eventually on an international platform.
“I also see myself in a different country and getting into TV, doing talk radio and talk TV, making a difference in people’s lives using my voice,” Khutso says.