Claire Johnston on what it means being a woman


She's played a big role in Afro-pop, Mango Groove as their lead singer and even though born in England, songstress Claire Johnston is definitely a South African at heart.

She'll be one of the acts - including the likes of Freshlyground, Mi Casa, Gangs of Ballet and Goodluck -  at this year's Emmarentia Live concert taking place tomorrow bringing together a host of iconic South African music acts for this one-day music experience at Johannesburg's Emmarentia Dam.

This unique Joburg festival is open to South Africans from all walks of life and all ages, to come and relax in the sun and celebrate National Women’s Day.

The concert kicks off at 10 am and runs until 4 pm, providing six hours of the best in music and picnic vibes in one of Joburg’s most beautiful green spaces.

  • What are you most excited about performing at Emmarentia live?

I am excited about pretty much everything! The exquisite location, the endless stretch of blue late- winter skies, people young and old coming out to relax and to feel connected to their families and their friends..

. And then there's the line-up of artists: so many of my favourite South African acts are going to be there celebrating what it is to be South African in 2016

  • What, to you, defines a “phenomenal woman”?

Hmmm... difficult to avoid being cheap and potentially cheezy- I don't think women give themselves enough credit as to how much they achieve on a daily basis, largely unrecognised because it seems to be part of the 'Woman" dress we put on everyday. I would like to think that a "phenomenal woman' recognises how important it is that she take care of herself as well. This is not a selfish act - in order to take care of others you have to first take care of yourself.

  • Do you feel like the recognition for women on a greater scale (in the workplace, home etc) has grown and what do you think the reasons are for this?

I've never been employed, so don't really know the traditional 'workplace' dynamics, but I like to think that there is growing awareness of the value of women both in the workplace and at home.

  • What would you still like to see with regards to the growth of women empowerment?

For a start a woman should never, ever be paid less than her male counterpart for doing the same job. Then of course, there's the matter of respect - I hope that these days women are treated no differently than men and that sexual harassment is becoming a thing of the past.

  • Who is the one woman who played a significant role in your life and why?

I would have to credit my late mother, Jane. When my parents divorced in the late 1970s my father disappeared without paying maintenance or child support. Despite her lack of experience and self confidence, my mum got herself a job to support us and eventually also negotiated a pension plan for women. This was something that did not exist in those days, as it was thought that women were not the primary breadwinners and had a man at home who paid the bills.

My mum believed in me as a performer from when I was a little girl, and this gave me the confidence to believe in myself and follow my dream

  • As a woman, what example are you hoping to set?

I would really like to show young women that being female should not limit you and what you want for yourself; that life is full of joy and that it is vital to surround yourself with good people. Haters begone!!!

  • How would you describe yourself as a woman?

I like to think that I am becoming the person I always wanted to be, or that I am at least striving to. I value wisdom and kindness above pretty much everything else.

  • For you, what’s the best part about being a woman?

I like that I can be feminine and strong at the same time. To me, female strength seems to have a wisdom and a softness to it which only increases with age.

  • What has been your greatest downfall as a woman?

I guess falling into the trap that a lot of young women fall into - that of thinking it's important to be a people pleaser and man pleaser. With age I have learned that this is not the road to happiness and a positive self image.

  • What has been your greatest achievement as a woman?

I'm happy about my career achievements, but I really hope that I am also a good friend who can be trusted.

  • You’re quite an iconic woman in the music industry, how do you feel like your influence has been felt in the industry?

Thank you! I've been told that Mango's music has made people feel positive about their lives, about our country, I've heard that some of our songs have helped people through difficult times in their lives as well as been the soundtrack to some of the best experiences they've had. I feel very lucky to have been part of people's lives in this special way.

  • What are you hoping to see for the future of women?

Women have more choices now, and this is fantastic. But with this comes the burden of making the so called RIGHT choices. Society is tough on us - we are made to feel inadequate if we don't choose what other people want for us and if we don't do everything perfectly. So I guess I would like women to be able to choose what they want for their lives,without letting societal, peer and family pressure get in the way too much.

  • What words of encouragement do you have for other women out there?

Value yourself, take care of yourself. You often have to teach people how to treat you, so don't put up with crap!

  • Does your music speak to women, if so, how?

I like to think that Mango Groove's music has a universal message - respect, tolerance, kindness - and that this makes women feel positive about themselves.

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