Lunch Date: Lelo Boyana

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Between nine and five, Lelo Boyana dons her chic office wear and works hard at her corporate job, but, when most of us are catching our beauty sleep, this multi-tasker becomes Brown Shuga or Boss Lady to the estimated 60 000 readers who visit her entertainment blog, Just Curious. Here, the Sunday newspapers are dissected and, in the active comments section, secrets are spilled and the most scandalous (sometimes true, sometimes not) scoops are revealed. Just as Just Curious is about to celebrate its fourth birthday, we decided to ask the woman behind the headlines what it's really like being the Head Blogger in Charge.

We're on the eve of Just Curious's 4th birthday. Did you ever think your site would make it this far?

I knew we would get somewhere, but I just didn’t know where exactly and I’m happy with our progress. Our readers have been very phenomenal in contributing to our growth. It’s been a hard and crazy journey, but I do believe there is still room for us to push the boundaries further.

You seem less involved with the day to day running of the site than in previous years. Is this an ideal arrangement for you or would you like to be more involved?

That pains me actually, I wish I was more involved, but there are so many other aspects of my life that demand the same attention. What worked well before was that I had journalism students who were keen to write, go out, take pictures and it helped so much with the content. They also gained writing experiencing, made industry contacts and now they have graduated and are professionals who are doing such incredible work. I currently have an intern, but I’ll be looking for a second person to assist – there’s so much more that needs to be done.

Sometimes the site's commenters can get vicious and, I have no doubt, you get loads of flak for it. Do you ever feel the need to moderate the comments?

[Laughs] I have a love and hate relationship with the site’s commenters because I’m often on the receiving end of those vicious comments, there are no holy cows.  The sad part is that when celebrities get attacked by the faceless names in the comments, they block me on social networks , they don’t greet me at events and you know what, it’s okay, it comes with the territory. The way I see it, if I expect the celebrities to be able to handle the criticism from our readers, I should also be tough enough to handle their anger towards me and the site.

But there are smart entertainers who are able to differentiate between a Blog Post and a Blog Comment, and those are the people I respect. I can back up whatever I put out there so hate me because of what I said, not what people I do not know said about you. I often say that the celebs who get offended by JC’s comments need to visit the American blogs like Bossip/ TMZ to see how rough it really gets. When I’m alerted to sensitive or damaging information, I will review whether it’s necessary to remove the comments. I’ve blocked a few users as a result.

In many ways, people like yourself and Mika Stefano are the forerunners of pop culture online media. After you guys set the standard, many others jumped on the bandwagon. What do you see as the next step in the evolution of how we do mgosi online in SA?

The sad thing is that, even with all those many others who jumped on the bandwagon, Mika and Just Curious are still up there, because we have our unique ways of setting ourselves apart from the crowd. There is definitely still a future in Mgosi online, even with the existence of platforms like Twitter that are now breaking the news. Blogging is not just about being the first to break a story, it’s about HOW you report on it, having an opinion and adding your twist to what is already out there. This means thinking and, sadly, some bloggers don’t want think. So, with a plan of where you want this blogging to take you, putting hard work and updating your platform regularly, you’re on your way to the next step. Next week we will be revealing our plans for #JCTurns4, the plans scare me because I’m worried it might be too big a step, but I’m also excited about the challenge. Writing a blog post has become something I can do with my eyes closed, so now I’m hoping to stretch myself and JC to the next level.  Wish us luck!

Without mentioning names, for a minute you became the story when you were rumoured to be involved with a celeb. Did this affect how you report on celebs and gossip?

[Laughs] How I report on celebs has changed purely because I now know better and have more insight into the celebrity world and how things work. Now I know how a TV show is put together. Before, I used to just shoot from the hip, today my criticism and commentary is armed with knowledge of what happens behind the scenes.

Aside from JC, you also have a corporate day job. How do you keep your two lives separate? Is it at all important for you to do so?

I often get asked why I don’t quit the corporate world and run JC full time, I could do it but I don’t want to. Besides the fact that I love my corporate job, I’m very comfortable in the blogging space, and my job is there to remind me that I don’t know it all. I work with such incredible minds, driven go-getters and it keeps me on my toes because I’m challenged to be a star performer in that world too and I’m learning a lot about what goes into running a successful business. I make it clear to brands I interact with that I have a day job so I can’t attend events during the day, I work on JC in the evening and, four years later, I have no issues.

You're essentially a media owner, a business woman, and a mother - how do you maintain balance and what do you do in your off time?

I sadly can’t do much else... I get back from work, have to be a mother for a few hours before my son goes to bed, then it’s time to update the blog. I watch a lot of TV series, you can call me an addict and most of my weekends are spent at home relaxing. I’m super boring.

As someone who's seen many celebs come and go, flavours of the month lose their flavour, do you have any advice for up and coming celebs?

Do not chase fame; chase the work, fame does not pay the bills. It’s a very small industry with lots of people fighting for jobs, so be careful who you trust and have a tough skin, focus on your goal and not what people say you can’t do. Criticism will always be there, deal with it by listening, taking from it what is relevant and ignore the BS. I get invited to a lot of events, but you won’t see me everywhere because I always stop to ask “What’s in it for JC?”, not “What’s in it for me?” because I’m not trying to be a star, I’m trying to grow my blog. I was telling a friend of mine that, when I open an invite, I ask “Would Khanyi Dhlomo go?” She is my idol, so emulate what your idol has done to achieve their success

Who is the one celeb who, when mentioned on your site, generates page views like crazy?

I’d say Bonang’s personal life sparks huge interest.

There seems to be an idea that loads of industry insiders are 'silent bloggers' on your site. Can you name-drop a few?

Definitely journalists! Some have told me that they read the comments and take cues from there to follow up on stories. “Anything Goes” comments are also a hit with businessmen, PR folk and the celebs themselves. We have quite a diverse community over there.

Images: supplied and MsLeloB Instagram

Follow Lelo 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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