She and her husband seemed like they had it all: successful careers, two beautiful children, glamorous friends, invitations to all the best events on the entertainment calendar, a lovely home…
But if the coronavirus pandemic has proved one thing, it’s that it’s the great leveller. It spares no one – and even if you’re lucky enough to escape the virus, it will nail you in other ways.
Just ask Jennifer Bala (43). She and husband Loyiso (41) have been on a rollercoaster since Covid-19 came crashing onto South African shores – and although she knows she has a lot to grateful for, there have been some tough times. The couple had to manoeuvre their way around many obstacles before they found a ray of light at the end of the tunnel, she tells us.
Before the pandemic, Jennifer was helping Loyiso manage his successful music career and helping him grow his Loyiso Music company. She would promote him on social media, organise gigs and arrange for interviews. Then it all came crumbling down. Gigs were cancelled, interviews all but dried up and people had precious little money to spend on any kind of luxuries.
“We lost a lot of income, just like many others in the entertainment industry,” she says.
Jennifer started helping people with digital content for marketing purposes and Loyiso is still the head of TBN Africa on DStv, but their cash flow really suffered, she says. The Balas, who are parents to seven-year-old Kenzie and two-year-old Tori, had just found a new house in the northern suburbs of Joburg and were looking forward to moving in. But because their bank balances suffered, their landlord was no longer interested in renting it to them.
“We tried to come to an arrangement where we would pay later but the landlord wasn’t having it.” It was a distressing time – little income, no home. Then actress Pearl Thusi came to the rescue. “Pearl and I are really good friends,” Jennifer says.
She had just moved into a new house in Johannesburg and the one she had just vacated in Morningside was empty. So she said we could live there while we tried to find another house.
"We stayed there for four months. We were blessed to be in that situation – blessed that Pearl is such a good friend.”
The Balas eventually found a home that suited them and their pockets in Morningside and have been living there since December.
“The place is close to the kids’ schools so for now we’re fine, yeah,” Jennifer says. “We didn’t know how long the pandemic was going to last so we had to re-evaluate. People sometimes don’t realise that people in this business are just normal regular people. We’re all affected by the pandemic, we’re all the same. It’s really not easy.”
But a new home isn’t the only reason she’s smiling again. After suffering a heartbreaking miscarriage in 2019, Jennifer is expecting again and the family is looking forward to welcoming the new little Bala in July.
“Our miracle baby,” she announced on Facebook. “The fact that God blessed us with new life in the midst of devastation where people around the world are losing loved ones by the dozen is not lost on me. I am extremely grateful.”
Conceiving the new baby was all the more special as Jennifer has battled to get pregnant in the past. She went on to document her list of health problems, including adrenal failure, a vitamin D3 deficiency, internal inflammation “also around my heart” and “extreme hormonal imbalances”.
She has needed fertility treatment before, including progesterone injections, to conceive but this time, she says, it happened naturally.
“It’s an absolute miracle – and at my age!” Her miscarriage, which happened at eight weeks, was devastating, Jennifer says, but she wanted to speak about it to help break the taboo around the issue. “Sometimes just by sharing what you are going through, you help to heal someone else.”
After the miscarriage she and Loyiso didn’t realise how badly they wanted another child, she tells us. They were delighted to find out she was expecting again – and the fact the new baby is due on the day they lost their little one makes it all the more special. They have grieved their loss and found peace, Jennifer adds.
“We pray about everything. We have to trust that a lot of what happens in life is beyond us and we have to put our faith in God. We know we are blessed.”