In an industry where people fade into obscurity as quickly as they shoot to fame, Melanie Bala has proven her mettle.
This year, Melanie celebrates 30 years in broadcasting and is grateful to have made it this far in a tough and demanding industry.
“When you’re working, you don’t think about reaching 10 years or more, you are just doing what you love at that moment. When I started, I was happy about the great job I had received and time rolled into months and then years,” she shares.
She got her first job in television when she was 17 years old on Bop TV. “That was where I got my start,” she says. But time has flown by.
“I was hustling and grinding and when I blinked, it was almost 30 years. But there is no real secret to longevity in this industry.
Melanie says she has always been professional and reliable. “I show up and do work exceptionally well.”
Melanie never thought she would last this long and expected to take the legal route and become a lawyer at some stage. “Ask anyone I went to school with, they would be shocked. It wasn’t me. I didn’t do drama or study the arts.
But she is grateful for the career that has chosen her, saying that it has "allowed me to see the world, travel, raise my kids and be present in their lives. I’ve met amazing people, presidents, dignitaries, and stars. I have loved every single moment.”
The mom of two says she also loves how radio has allowed her to be a full-time mother who is hands-on.
In the past three decades, Melanie has lost some close industry friends and colleagues, namely Bob Mabena, with whom she worked closely at the beginning of her career as a presenter on Studio Mix.
“It’s been heartbreaking especially with someone like Bob who has so many plans and dreams. He was particularly passionate about radio and broadcasting. For me, his death has given me an acute sense of gratitude. I am grateful for being here, and doing what I love,” she says.
Melanie’s mental and physical well being
Last year, she qualified as a yoga instructor.
“I am a qualified 200-Hour Vinyasa teacher, which has been hard but amazing.”
She started practicing yoga six years ago while going through a difficult time in her life. “The yoga gave me so much, and it allowed me to be able to navigate my mental health.”
On a good week, she practices daily, and on a bad week, three times.
In 2020, during the pandemic, she needed something to help her deal with her mental health. “I loved the practice and I wanted to understand the history and lineage so I signed up,” she says.
Yoga has been her lifeline.
“The physical benefits of yoga have been secondary. It has mostly helped with my mental health. I have in the past suffered from depression and yoga saved my life. It’s allowed me to find the balance and understand when things are out of balance. It’s allowed me to understand myself better. When you practice you learn every day is a journey,” she says.
“I learned to process what I’m thinking and feeling and I can vocalise and take it to the rest of my life. It helps me manage how I’m like with people and how I deal with my children and everyone.”
Melanie understood she had depression at 27 years old.
“I knew something was wrong, but I was too embarrassed to speak about it because people will dismiss it and say you’re just sad and it’s nothing that a good drink won’t solve. But it’s bigger than drinks,” she says.
After many moments of introspection, she visited her general practitioner who prescribed anti-depressants.
“I speak openly about it because it’s okay and our capacity to manage that stuff is different,” she says.
“If I hadn’t asked for help, I don’t know where I would be. Something in the back of my mind said something is not right. But I made the appointment to see my General Practitioner and I was almost embarrassed to say I’m depressed and there was a certain pressure from the outside,” she says.
“People see you on TV and hear you on radio and think everything is okay. But my GP was amazing, and she helped me through it and gave me the right meds. Whether it’s a teenager or mother going through post-natal depression, nothing except you from it.”
After the birth of her daughter, she suffered from post-natal depression.
“That threw me for a loop because I thought I understood depression and I had a handle on it and by the time that hit me, I could not understand why I was back here again. I went to see my GP and she explained that it was a different dynamic and circumstances which are proving to be incredibly challenging. Again, medication helped.”
When she started practicing yoga six years ago, she felt fulfilled and it helped her deal with her issues.
“I made sure that I am careful. I now knew what would push me and I understood my triggers and yoga was the answer. It’s been transformative. If I don’t practice because I’m busy for a day or two I feel unsteady like I haven’t connected or checked in with myself. There’s kids, homework, dinner, and the next morning there’s radio, constantly need to check in on me and find out how I’m doing, identify what is bothering me and deal with it.”
Her biggest personal achievement has been raising happy and healthy children.
"Sometimes I catch myself looking at my kids when they are being funny or silly, having a happy moment or a happy dance and I feel I did good, or I am doing alright. As a mom, your biggest hope of fear is that your kids turn out okay. Particularly having gone through a divorce, you worry about how it will affect them. But I am doing alright, I think they are going to be fine. They survived the divorce and it’s a great feeling.”
Getting a divorce was wasn't easy for Melanie but she survived it and is not looking back.
She is proud of what she has achieved so far in her career and personal life.
“Honestly, I just want to teach yoga at the beach. I want to throw in the towel.
"I often joke with my kids that's let's sell everything and move to the beach where I will teach yoga and they think I’m crazy.
"They are horrified by the thought. I am starting to realise that money is nice but it's not everything. When you want to be fulfilled and at peace, you can only ever drive one car at a time or carry one bag.
"It's not material at all. I’m all about creating a life that is filled with joy, happiness, peace, calm, and ease.”
She does not plan to retire anytime soon though. But anything is possible.
“Everything that’s happened in my life has not been accidental, but it hasn’t been planned and I’m always open to the magic of possibility.
"I like to keep myself open. I am just proud that I have been able to sustain a career in broadcasting for nearly 30 years. A year or so ago, I started realizing that I did well. I have been able to do a lot but the longevity is something to be proud of.”