In the words of Nikiwe Bikitsha, she has “chutzpah, spunk and savvy. She is hell of a funny, loud and abrasive” and you can’t miss her because her big personality simply radiates out from her in waves.
Bikitsha, who is a past recipient of the Women in The Media Rising Star award, was paying homage to this year’s winner, Anele Mdoda, at the 1st for Women Insurance Company Women of the Decade in The Media awards.
The 94.7 Highveld Stereo DJ, says Bikitsha, has “worked hard to become an overnight success” and is one of the few women in South Africa at the helm of a drivetime slot, as well as being a writer and television presenter too.
Mdoda, in sky-high heels and a block colour dress, immediately had the room in stitches as she shrieked that she has a skirt in the same fabric as Summer Place’s lavish drapes. “Thank the Lord I didn’t wear it.” Seriously, though, Mdoda said the award was close to her heart. “It means I’m sitting in a room of my peers and you’re telling me I’m not losing it.”
As convener and CEO of Wag the Dog Publishers, Sandra Gordon, said, “this is the woman with the most famous gap in the land” earning one of Mdoda’s large gap-toothed grins.
Mdoda and long-term on air partner, Grant Nash, recently “broke up”, leaving their 5FM afternoon show. Nash went off to explore Buddhism and Mdoda took over the prized Highveld slot. But she’s handling being on her own. “I started in campus radio by myself. What I didn’t realise was how tired I’d be in the beginning, physically tired, from being the main centre of attention.”
But it’s clearly a place she relishes, and is comfortable in.
When we met after the event, Mdoda ran up. Yes, ran up, in those sky-high heels. “I can dance in them too,” she says. “They give me the gas to break glass ceilings,” she laughs. And while she might have at least 50 pairs of shoes stashed in her home, she has 100 handbags, her big weakness.
Despite the high heels and big bag collection, there’s not doubt Mdoda has a serious side too. It’s doubtful there’s a ceiling in South Africa that she couldn’t crack. With her humour, her heels and her greatest weapon, she says, which is “kindness”.
“I think that’s the kind of leader I am,” she says. “When I’m a boss, I will lead with kindness.” Ah, so you want to be a boss? “Of course I want to be a boss! A boss in broadcasting. I’d like to have a talk show one day, but I think I need a bit more life experience before I tackle that.”
Mdoda is 28. “I think the secret is to be authentic. I’m not presenting, I’m communicating. It’s a conversation I’m having with listeners.” And followers. Mdoda is Twitter queen (@Anele), and she does it all herself, even when she’s live on air.
“I love Twitter. I love it because it’s the way I hear from the people I’m talking to. Only so many can call in, but many many more talk to me via Twitter.”
In terms of business, it has been a boon too. “If I hadn’t been for the fact that I talk to the US Embassy on Twitter, I wouldn’t have been chosen to be one of the young African leaders chosen to meet with Michelle Obama last year.
And of course, she couldn’t let that one by without a laugh either. After hours of waiting for the US First Lady, Mdoda asked her how she “gets Barack to believe he’s in charge”.
As Gordon said in her introduction to the Rising Star award, previous winners of this honour have all moved onwards and upwards. It’s a precursor to great things. “The rising stars inspire everyone,” she said.
There’s no doubt Mdoda will continue in the tradition and personally, I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.