South Africa's musical darling has had yet another stellar year and she's recently launched her first book, Lira: Making Her Story (price: R179) and is gearing up for two shows at Big Top Arena, Carnival City next weekend. We catch up with one of Mzansi's best deal- and hit-makers.
Why did you decide to write a book?
I wanted a platform where I could be very detailed about the things my fans are most curious about. This is really about my fans, they were my biggest influences, I get so many questions from my fans on Twitter and Facebook and I can't really get to everyone on a one-on-one basis, so a book is really the best place for everything from intimate details of my life, my relationship, spirituality and my success. So the book is really a FAQs, if you will. And it's also just the perfect time, I'm celebrating my 10 year anniversary in music and it's been an incredible journey.
How did you approach writing the book?
The book is written in three tiers. The first tier is about my journey from my perspective. I wanted to tell my own story because that's the only way the essence could come across. Even though I'm not a writer, I thought of it as me sitting with a friend and chatting. The second part is about my journey from a third party perspective and it's written by Clyde Meela, a journalist from Ekurhuleni. I felt it necessary to empower someone from where I come from. He spoke to my friends, family, people who can comment on my journey - even Arthur Mafokate! Robyn [Lira's husband and manager] discusses the brand and the business because he really champions my career from the business management perspective. Although I'm responsible for all the decisions, I can't do everything myself.
Can you believe it's been 10 years already?
I know! It's gone by very quickly, but it just goes to show that time flies when you're having fun. I started my career at 25, and that's actually quite late, I was a late bloomer.
But isn't that a blessing? So many younger people go off the rails because they start early and aren't mentally prepared.
The book also gives some of my secrets to success and how you can fasttrack that. I found that you really need to get your thinking right and then if you align your thinking to your actions, that's when magic happens. If one is out of balance, your thinking or actions, that's when self-sabotage sets in. i found that when I focus my mind and align my actions, things start happening for me immediately. No one teaches us to do this as children, some of us come to that quite late. I had to wait until my twenties to figure that out.
Wouldn't you say that maturity plays a big part in success? Because it's one thing to become successful, it's another to maintain that success.
I agree. In my case, everything worked out perfectly. Part of that comes from having worked in a corporate environment. It taught me to be professional and to be organised. I am passionate about service and corporate really sharpens those qualities. Then of course, I knew about finances and I went into my career thinking about accountability.
It's said that most powerful, successful people are control freaks. Is that true for you?
I'm not a control freak, but I am in control of my business. I delegate, but every decision ultimately goes through me. I've created systems where different people can make decisions within certain parameters, but I do have the final say. I think other people would probably call me a perfectionist.
Having been in the industry for a decade now, what's the one thing that hasn't changed for you?
We still work like we're about to perform for a first time audience. We can't relax - my band and I treat each gig with the same commitment. I have fans who've seen me 10 times, they come to every show, so you have to keep it fresh and dynamic. I enjoy it. I'm always thinking 'how can I be the next best version of myself?' The stage is really my happy place. The only down side is that the more successful you get, the busier you become.
What's a typical day for you?
I have to schedule myself and my life down to the last detail - my day is highly detailed. After I put the phone down [Lira's interview with TRUE LOVE Online started before 9am], I have to be in Soweto for a rehearsal and then have band rehearsal until 4pm, then a dance rehearsal later. We still rehearse all the time. I find that rehearsing can add new life to your set, it's a way to activate those creative juices and it allows us to tweak things for different performances. I do admin about once a week, I still do my own invoices, but I have one day a month dedicated to heavy admin .
How do you maintain the fire, hunger and drive when you are, for all intents and purposes, at the top of your game?
The core of what drives me is wanting to live out the purpose for which I was born. Life gives us opportunities and it's really about what you do with those opportunities. I found that life kept giving me these opportunities and I have to take them and make the most of them. That's how I approach everything. One day when I finally close my eyes and meet my maker, I want Him to pat me on the back and say 'well done'. But, at the core, I enjoy what I do in ways that continue to blow my mind. I love it and I trust the process and believe that God will reward me for it. My part is to return my gifts and opportunities to Him with gratitude.
Are you super focused on making it in America?
I always need a goal, something to work and build towards. But I don't necessarily have to fulfill that goal, it's all about the experiences along the journey. I'm not obsessed about making it in America. I have the most phenomenal career here but I also have fans across the world and I want to get to the point where I can give them the same shows that I give to fans in South Africa. The ultimate goal for me is to be able to tour the US, Europe, Asia and then come back home - all within one year. I'm concentrating my energy in the States because I feel that if I make it there, the rest will follow. I feel like it's something that's coming. For now, I need to learn to juggle and manage all aspects of my life so that I have the correct balance when it happens.
Speaking about 'balance', you've recently said you're ready to start nesting. How will having a family affect your plans for world domination?
I'll probably work until my water breaks [laughs].
One of the most interesting things about you is that, while you're a 'media darling', you've avoided being a 'tabloid darling'. How did you do this?
Things could've gone so wrong for me if I'd courted tabloids. You know I don't really like people in my business and it's my natural inclination to go private with everything. Being in the tabloids just didn't make sense to me. I think I've always wanted to be a positive role model - I have sisters! And then also, having grown up in a township, I saw how role models in that environment had an impact on me and I wanted to become that for other people too.
You work very closely with your husband, Robyn. What's your working relationship like? Do you have a distinction between 'office time' and 'couple' time?
I think we manage that distinction with great difficulty [laughs]. But, the good thing is that we actually really like each other and we don't like to experience things without the other. But we are human beings and we do reach boiling point. The good thing is that, when we do have those blow outs, we sort them out within an hour or two. We're too close to let stuff fester. I think we have a system that works. We're both very stubborn and we have strong opinions, so we're similar in those ways. He's very practical and grounded and we have a good balance. We're also not together all day, so when we do see each other, we can chat about our days, cook together, watch movies. I think the true challenge will be when we become parents. I think that'll be interesting.
What kind of parents do you think you'll be?
I think I notice about both of us is that we're natural teachers - we have patience to teach others and a desire to create experiences, so I think we'll be very hands on and willing to share experiences with our children.
Lira, to be honest with you, I can't imagine you doing every day, normal things like cooking dinner or ironing clothes...
[Laughs] My life is so normal! It's private enough that it can be normal. I live my life very privately. I still get up at my parents house and wash dishes.
Which artists do you most admire and what are you listening to at the moment?
I respect people who don't care about trends. Thandiswa, I've always loved her, Simphiwe Dana, she's amazing, unique. I recently had Paige Mac open for me, I saw them on TV and was blown away, I had to find them. I love The Muffinz. And then I'm really enjoying Mafikizolo's new album.
Images: Supplied and Lira’s Instagram account.
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!