24-year-old Capetonian Carissa Cupido decided to enter the TLC Next Great Presenter after stumbling upon the competition on social media, but little did she know that just a few months later she would be in the top three and the only finalist from South Africa.
The competition, hosted by TLC Africa, offers one lucky African the chance to be flown to London, and to appear in a four-part series on the channel where they will hone their hosting skills at the helm of the show called TLC’s Most Extreme. The winner will also receive a luxury seven-night holiday for two people.
“This all happened very quickly. There were four days between going from the 13 semi-finalists to the top three. It felt very surreal. So, when they called my name, I was like ‘What? What do you mean?’ I was really excited because I want this so badly, but at the same time I was very surprised because so many other people were so brilliant. But I suppose it came down to who would fit TLC best at the end of the day, and hopefully that’s me,” Carissa says light-heartedly.
Carissa isn’t just a TV presenter hopeful; she’s also a radio DJ for GoodHope FM where she hosts on Fridays and Sundays. She says the transition from radio to TV was tough at first: “Radio and TV are very different, even though they have similar aspects. With radio, you find comfort behind the mic. No one gets to actually see you. I used to work graveyard, so I could come to work in my slippers with no makeup on, but for TV you have to show up. You have to be on point all the time. You have to consider that it’s not just your face (that’s being looked at), it’s your arms that need to move a certain way, but naturally. Your body and everything. So, it’s more encompassing of your entire presence than radio is, and it’s challenging, but I’m so up for the challenge.”
She didn’t always plan on being in the entertainment industry, though. “I definitely didn’t think I was going to be where I am now. Growing up, I wanted to either be a journalist or a radio presenter. So I pursued radio in particular, and for a very long time, I thought I was going to be the next Debora Patta, but life has a strange way of surprising you…”
Carissa wasn’t always the bubbly, go-getter she is now. Growing up in Strandfontein, on the outskirts of Mitchell’s Plain, she was made to feel different by her peers in the coloured community. Carissa says: “there was a great sense of community and everyone was very neighbourly, but at the same time I felt like if I tried to reach out, I was always made to feel like my accent was an issue. People said that I thought I was better than them because of my accent or that I thought I was ‘white’ or whatever. And I was so young, I didn’t even realise what this issue was, but I felt rejected.”
Even though she’s much happier now and found other people who have had the same struggles, Carissa says she’s still constantly on a journey of self discovery. “I think that everyone’s always in a state of becoming and I think that I’m finding myself more and more. I had very big issues with identity politics. Just like ‘who am I?’, ‘why am I here?’, ‘being coloured: what does that mean in South Africa?’.
“We are a very small and marginalised section of society, but we exist. And examples of success need to be raised and shown to the world. It’s not just white success or black success, its coloured success. So I’m very much for coloured excellence. And although I identify as coloured, I don’t let it define me. I’m a lot more than that.
“I think the cross-section of being a woman and a person of colour is... (is a group) I feel so privileged to be a part ofof(sic)…. And I don’t get it because, I’m like, we’re magical. I feel honoured and privileged to be a representative of that and I hope to do my people proud. I acknowledge how important that is because representation matters”.
Even though Carissa seems cool, confident and put together, she admits that it’s not as easy as it looks. The key to her confidence? “Self-belief. Just believing that I am enough. That I’m good enough and that what I have to offer the world is worthy. It’s definitely a journey. It’s not every day that I feel this way. I need to remind myself often. Be kinder to myself often. It really is just about believing in what you have to offer the world. Because if you don’t, it does everyone else such an injustice and yourself. You need to trust your dopeness.”
Her future plans also involve her launching her own YouTube channel – so keep an eye out for her!
Vote for Carissa in the TLC Next Great Presenter Search now! You have until 15 November.