Lunch Date: Anele Mdoda

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When I call Anele at 9.30 in the morning for this interview, her opening line is ‘you know, I’m talking to you and I’m totally naked’. Before I can even tell her the direction of the interview, she’s already made me laugh. The broadcaster, TV presenter and comedian has a knack for putting people at ease. In this interview, Anele does get naked – talking about everything from leaving 5FM, the nature of relationships and her weight.

When you left 5FM, there were so many opinions and mixed reactions. How did you experience the reactions and the move itself?

You know what, I’m glad I’ve never based anything I do on other people’s fears. It’s so strange what people define as a good move or a bad move. Are you going to tell me that you listened to me for four years at 5FM and didn’t think ‘Anele’s good’, you were only listening for 5FM? Any move can be good depending on what you make of it. So many celebs go around saying ‘I don’t care about fame, I don’t care about fame’, well, then prove it! 5FM gives you this fame and maintains it for you. This was my chance to see if I could maintain my own fame and I think I’ve done very well. At the end of the day, you decide what happens to you. No one thinks Highveld is cool, but I’ve always been authentic and consistent. I mean, MTV invited me to the EMAs – why’d they do that if they thought Highveld was a stale station? Highveld’s where I work, but it doesn’t define me. For years I’ve said what I look like doesn’t define me, so now it’s time to say where I work doesn’t define me. I’m a broadcaster; give me a mic and an audience!

And now you’ve fallen into comedy! We first fell in love with you at the Roast of Steve Hofmeyr. What’s it like being a comedian?

Yes, I’ve fallen into comedy! Yesterday I did a gig with a little comedy and I died! That’s the great thing about comedy, it doesn’t care who you are, all it expects is that you deliver at all times. Comedy is such a lesson. When your main objective is to get up on a stage and make people laugh – that’s your only job – you can fail so bad. I must say I’ve had the most amount of growth through comedy and it came in the year of me challenging myself. It’s really rewarding for me because I’m one of those people who just enjoys seeing people smile. I genuinely love that. Comedy’s been more a gift to me than I’ve been a gift to it, if you know what I’m saying. David Kibuuka is my mentor and he’s so hard on me. We hardly ever meet face to face, all our sessions are over the phone and if I showed you the SMSes he sends me … Tjo… He’ll send me these threatening SMSes. Like, he’ll SMS me at 2am and say ‘if you aren’t up writing comedy right now, you might as well quit’. But I need that; I would be so lazy without him! He’s worked with Trevor Noah, so he knows his story. In comedy, you have to work and write and observe because your audience has to relate to what you’re talking about. You have to be charming and people must love the honesty about you.

What do you make of the lack of women in comedy?

First things first, there’s a lack of women in everything – comedy, TV, radio, flying planes, everything. The strange thing is that, worldwide, women are the biggest consumers of everything. I was at an event and the CEO of Bentley was telling me that a man will come into his showroom and, before he buys that car, he takes out his phone and calls his woman. For me, women have to decide they want to see more women. I don’t think men are the ones holding us down. As much as there are no women in comedy, there are no women watching women in comedy. Even if we just start with the little gigs. Women must be daring. If you want to watch comedy and you see a show with women on the bill, buy that ticket. And we, as performers, have to be brave enough. So many dreams are killed by thoughts – we rationalize and overthink things.

Tell us about your involvement in Dream School SA?

That show is pretty much pay-as-you-go. My management and the show had agreed that I’d be booked on the show for a few days, there were contracts in place and people had spoken – I’d only be there for five days. But, once I got inside the show, those lines just got blurred. I just decided to stay and added on days with no pay. I even hid it from my manager and he was so mad, he’s like ‘I’m fighting for you to get paid and you’re undermining me’. That’s why I don’t involve myself in money negotiations. I’m driven by love and, being part of this show, I really got involved with those kids. I remember towards the end of the show, I was interviewing Trevor, his mom and his sister and I asked his mom when she saw that Trevor was losing interest in school and she said she could see him dying in his eyes, life was leaving his eyes because of other kids destroying him. I really have a soft spot for Trevor and when his mother said how great it is to see the life come back in her child’s eyes, I couldn’t stop crying. For me, this entire show has become a part of me.

Did you have issues at school or were you a model student?

I struggled with maths and my parents never let me drop it. I mean, I was bad, I got 19%. No matter what, I just couldn’t get it. But besides that, I was a fantastic student. I tried to be a rebel; I tried so hard, for about one week. I tried to bunk class, smoke and drink, but I couldn’t do it; I just had to admit to myself that I was a goody two shoes. There were this kids who’d bunk school and go hang out at one of their houses and, if one of their parents were away, they’d sleep there and be naughty. I just couldn’t do it, I feared my mother too much.

Being cool in high school is overrated though…

You can’t peak early, hey. I must say, I’ve peaked at all the right times. In the last 18 months, I really got to know and love myself. My friends tease me that I’ve turned 30 at 29. But I must say, I’m really happy.

There’s something to be said about that stage …

One thing about this age, I accept things about myself. I accepted that I’m controlling. I wanted so hard to appear as if I was the perfect woman and girlfriend, like I was the balance between fun and sexy. But once I figured that I was controlling, I now know how to channel it. I also discovered that I can’t control other people, that’s being manipulative, so I channeled that control of others into control of myself. Which is why I go to gym every day without fail. So I slowly took my hand out of other people’s lives and put it into myself. When you understand yourself, you become so powerful.

We see you on twitter all the time and you’re very bubbly, yet somehow we don’t know much about your personal life. How do you balance that private and public thing?

I feel like, if you’re going to invite people into your life, they must stay for everything. I find it so funny that celebrities will tell you when they’re together, when they get married, their weddings will be in magazines, but, when they get divorced, they release these statements asking for privacy. The funny thing with me is, I’m more prone to be public with heartbreak than when I’m happy. At some point, I tried to be mysterious because everyone was being mysterious and it seemed so sexy, but I couldn’t. I’m a farm girl – I have to let everything out! I won’t go as far as mentioning a man’s name, but when I am in a situation, I will mention it.

How did it feel to be named Most Stylish Celebrity last year – did you expect that?

It was another part of growing up – to realise that what you are and who you are comes together in what you put in your house and how you present yourself. To be honest, my house was stylish before I was and that’s because I was more comfortable with my house than I was with myself, if that makes sense. You have to understand that not everything in fashion suits you. I believe you need to dress the way you want to be addressed. You don’t have to wear every trend, just everything that trends with you. I understood when I was named most Stylish, because I had finally come into my own.

Did you see it as a win for bigger girls?

For me, it wasn’t just a win for bigger girls, it was a victory for ‘different’ girls. We’re not the same – not all of us are size 32 and 1.74 metres tall. This was for the bubbly girls, the girls who aren’t ‘cool’. My personality is almost sloppy – I’m the girl who goes to the club to dance until I sweat.

So what happens when going to gym every day leads to you becoming a size 32?

I know I won’t be! I have a steady intake of chicken wings in my diet. The goal isn’t to be skinny, I want to be toned. I want to rock shorts and heels and feel hot.

Tell us about your hair – this pixie cut is banging!

I just got tired of having a sweaty neck. No one tells you, when you get that weave, that you’ll have a sweaty neck. I also love the freedom of taking a shower without ducking and diving.

You’ve already authored one book – will we be seeing a follow up soon?

I want to write a cookbook! The way I’ll structure it is, there are certain dishes I like to cook for certain people and, while I’m preparing it, I’ll invite those people and we’ll record the conversations that happen. I love to cook - I even have personalised aprons! If I love you, I’ll cook for you.

You have loads of women friends, you seem very close to them, and that’s so refreshing to see in Egoliwood…

I love women, I get along with women – for me, it’s all about sharing joy. If you can’t be happy for another woman, then you’ll always be miserable in the company of women. The same way I have my time [to shine], it’ll happen again. And being happy for another woman’s success just generates such joy. I’m one of those women who doesn’t mind acknowledging another woman’s beauty – your hotness doesn’t take away from my hotness.

Images: Anele's Instagram

Follow Anele Mdoda on Twitter and Instagram.

Lunch Date is a weekly feature in which we profile a fab South African woman. Please let us know, in the comments below, who you’d like to see featured in this space!

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