The stage has been set, the lights are on and Idols SA season 18 new judging panel is ready to discover new talent.
Award-winning rapper and author Tebogo 'ProVerb' Thekisho returns as the show host.
Making his way back to the judges’ chair is fan favourite Somizi Mhlongo, after Unathi Nkayi and Randall Abrahams announced their departure.
Taking over the two empty seats is triple-threat pop culture icon Thembi Seete and rapper-producer JR Bogopa.
Thembi is no stranger to the judge’s chair, she was a guest judge in Idols SA season 17, and was warmly received by fans, who loved her bubbly energy, constructive critisism, and useful nuggets of advice for the show’s performers.
“I had the best time being a guest judge last year. I didn’t know it was preparing me for something bigger. I was just having fun and being myself and unaware that people are watching and studying every move,” she says.
“It feels good to be back permanently this time.”
She is excited to be joining the Idols SA judging panel, but also slightly nervous.
“There are no words to describe the feeling. I am over the moon, excited and I still can’t believe I was chosen to be one of the judges. It still feels like a dream, like someone is going to wake me up,” Thembi tells Drum.
She did not once ever she herself in this position.
“It’s a place that seemed so far from my dreams," she says.
She's been in the industry for almost two decades.
“I never thought I’d get an opportunity like this, so I’m also very nervous because it’s a big show and it’s been doing well for many years. The numbers are great in viewership, the support is there, so I just hope and pray that God will give me the strength to do my best and to shine.”
The first person she told when she got the call was her younger brother Moagi Seete.
“I told my brother the great news first and then my manager. I couldn’t carry such a load on my shoulders. It was such big news and my manager had to wrap around the project.”
She had to keep the secret for a month but told the closest people in her life, just to get it off her chest.
She wishes her mom was around to see her shine.
“Since my mom passed away, my brother is the closest person in my family, so I had to share the great news with him and people I really trust who have the best interest for me. But keeping the secret was really hard for me.”
After hearing that she would be a judge alongside JR and Somizi, she felt at home.
“I have known JR for the longest time. He is a great producer and I have been a fan of his work forever; following his music and supporting his work through the previous dance show I did Jika Ma Jika. His song Make The Circle Bigger was big at the time and I’ve always been a fan ever since,” she says.
“I was also excited to hear that Somizi is back,” she says.
“Somizi and I grew up together and we worked on many other projects together. He used to travel and tour with Boom Shaka, as part of our crew.” Thembi says Somizi was close with the late Boom Shaka member Lebo Mathosa and they remained friends.
“I know me and the guys will make a great team.”
Going into the show, Thembi has no strategy.
“It really depends on the situation. I can’t say whether I’ll be the sweet and kind judge. It really depends on the situation and what I see in front of my eyes at the time. But I am going to try to be honest and have a good time and not be stuck up. I am a very bubbly person, and I won’t let that part die. That’s what keeps me relaxed. So, I’m really going to be myself and help as much as I can.”
Being a judge to thousands of contestants and having millions of viewers comes with pressure.
“This position comes with a lot of criticism, but you know life needs to balance,” she says.
“There’s no way in life you can do something and only expect compliments and praises all the time. I also need to take the punches and the criticism and really pay attention to it and improve as much as I can and not take things to heart or be heartbroken. It’s all about taking the criticism, working at it, and making things better next time," she says.