'Money calms me' - Africa's hottest Netflix reality show Young, African & Famous is here

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Young, Famous and African. (L to R) Zari Hassan (Zari The Boss Lady), Nadia Nakai, Annie Macaulay Idibia, Khanyi Mbau in Young, Famous and African.
Young, Famous and African. (L to R) Zari Hassan (Zari The Boss Lady), Nadia Nakai, Annie Macaulay Idibia, Khanyi Mbau in Young, Famous and African.
Mosa Hlophe/Netflix

If ever you’ve doubted Khanyi Mbau’s star power and pull, her influence, longevity and relevance in the entertainment industry, then you should organise a watch party with your girls and plenty of Moët for tonight.

Young, Famous & African is quality content and from the first episode, the original Queen of Bling drops one-liner bombs, meme-worthy exclaims and expressions that will have you cracking up. She’s not the only one.

Shot in and around Johannesburg, Netflix’s first African reality show follows the who’s who of media, fashion and Insta stars from South Africa, Nigeria and East Africa. Khanyi Mbau, Diamond Platnumz, Annie Macaulay-Idibia, 2Baba, Zari the Boss Lady, Naked DJ, Nadia Nakai, Swanky Jerry, Andile Ncube and Kayleigh Schwark make up this key cast and are all connected through friendship, work and romance.

READ MORE | Meet the Real Housewives of Lagos showcasing extravagant fashion, luxury lifestyles and power moves 

What makes #YoungFamousAfrican extra special is the stardust from each member of the key cast. It’s not unusual to make one or two personalities the centre of a storyline but in this series, everyone is primed to bring and own their unique magic to screen in each episode.

As part of Netflix Africa’s screening rollout, TRUELOVE caught up with Khanyi, Kayleigh and Nadia about their time filming the series, the impact of reality TV on their personal lives, authenticity in non-scripted TV and their favourite moments in the show.

Young, Famous and African. (L to R) Zari Hassan (Z
Young, Famous and African. (L to R) Zari Hassan (Zari The Boss Lady), Diamond Platnumz, Khanyi Mbau, Quinton Masina (Naked DJ), Annie Macaulay Idibia, Jeremiah Ogbodo (Swanky Jerry), Nadia Nakai, Andile Ncube in Young, Famous and African.
Young, Famous and African. (L to R) Zari Hassan (Z
Young, Famous and African. (L to R) Zari Hassan (Zari The Boss Lady), Diamond Platnumz, Khanyi Mbau, Quinton Masina (Naked DJ), Annie Macaulay Idibia, Jeremiah Ogbodo (Swanky Jerry), Nadia Nakai, Andile Ncube in Young, Famous and African.

“I’m definitely the observer. The dangerous observer,” says Kayleigh when we talk about any personas they think they filled on the show.

She adds, “I like to keep my space, my energy, clean at all times. I didn’t get involved in the drama or the pettiness… All the time.”

This was something that Nadia says was actually her role in the show.

“I wasn’t there for any of the drama. I was there getting the tea, giving commentary when getting the tea. But I think I was the actual observer,” Kayleigh explains.

Khanyi on the other hand, says she was that involved friend. “I set the tone. Yes, I’m also the anchor, but I was involved. I’m there… If there was a fight, I was there. Happiness, there. I’m a witness, I’m there,” she says.

And did the idea of a reality TV show make them nervous?

“Definitely,” Nadia says. “You think about your personal life and how people will perceive [you]. I was in a long-distance relationship at the time, and it ended; but you do think about what people will say about the decisions you make and how you articulate yourself and how you interact with others in the group, and if you’re received the way you intended.”

For Khanyi though, this is like anything in showbiz. “I’m a star, you know. Turn that camera on! Bring out the cars, bring out the champagne! Let the people know. I’ve had a reality show before, Mbau Reloaded, so I’ve had a little practice run with how it works with reality shows. Whatever comes out, comes out and we’ll ride the wave because with reality, you really can’t plan anything because things happen in real-time and you respond in real-time, and we’re there, so roll out the red carpet. Si la,” says Khanyi.

As a newcomer to this world, Kayleigh agrees with the eventuality of things coming out and sharing. She says, “Walking into the show you initially have a lot of boundaries around what you’re going to say, or not say, what you will reveal and won’t; but as the show went on, opening up would just naturally happen, and you need to reveal things in order to make sense to the public and viewers and give them everything. That was very nerve-wracking, but it was an amazing experience, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Young, Famous and African. (L to R) Nadia Nakai, K
Young, Famous and African cast
Young, Famous and African. (L to R) Annie Macaulay
Young, Famous and African cast

With such a weighted, compelling key cast – all achievers – and the varying language, culture, and regional differences, something that crossed my mind during the previewing of the new show was whether A: anyone tried to reaffirm themselves as a boss brand or bigger celebrity than the others, and B: if there was a deliberate effort from the cast members to set themselves up as the king or queen of the throne – a common occurrence in many other reality shows.

“There was no room to do that because the level is so high in talent, success and exposure,” says Khanyi.

“Everyone in the show has worn these brands; everyone in the show has had an award or has been appreciated in a certain thing; everyone has over a million followers, so there's nothing you're bringing to the table that's new that could wow everyone,” she says. 

“But the only thing that you could do to touch people's hearts is to be yourself and that's the only thing that helped everyone survive on the show because if you're gonna try and bring ‘do you know who I am?’ – we don't care who you are. ‘Do you know what this is?’ I've got ten of those. ‘You know I've done this?’ I’ve recorded 90 of those. This was a group that was literally being there for each other, supporting each other and getting to know each other more than anything else,” she adds.

READ MORE | Moja Love’s new reality show Lovey Dovey promises entanglements, break ups and make ups

So, should you watch it? Definitely. The entertainment value is top tier and the casting and the dynamic of the casting, brilliant. Watching it, I was reminded of Jerseylicious (only that the tans are not orange, but deep, rich melanin), and the pop culture phenomenon, Jersey Shore – more than Bravo’s Summer House, which is what I was initially expecting.

And this isn’t to say that there’s the perpetuating of stereotypes, but rather, a celebration of authenticity and African success and excellence. There is opulence, but it is met with humility; there is lots of gold, tonnes of soft life moments, but they are not garish; and finally, there’s what seems to be deliberate friendships and connections. Plus, Khanyi delivers some killer speeches!

Young, Famous and African. (L to R) Annie Macaulay
Young, Famous and African cast
Young, Famous and African. (L to R) Jeremiah Ogbod
Young, Famous and African cast

The show is an amalgamation of life-long friendships, realistic romantic challenges and a more honest lens into the roller coaster ride that comes with being young, famous, African, and most necessarily, being human in this entire set up. It’s a tried, tested, trusted formula of reality TV.

There are some of the usual TV character archetypes; the intertwined storylines; surprising alliances; divas and femme fatales; and underdogs that emerge as heroes from mess. What makes it addictive though is how in each episode, we see these archetypes being adopted interchangeably by the cast – highlighting the diversity, nuance and multifaceted nature of everything that informs the show – Africa, her people and their stories.

Our personal favourite? Swanky Jerry – the African man in the building.

Young, Famous & African, is definitely worth your time. Bring out the champagne!

Young, Famous & African, premieres today (18 March 2022) on Netflix.

Don't miss our top stories, sign up to the TRUELOVE newsletter now!

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24