From 2004 to 2012, the Women in the Media Awards annually honoured a rising star, a young woman who showed obvious promise in her career. After winning, none of the nine women rested on their laurels, and all have risen rapidly in a fast changing industry.
The first Rising Star, in 2004, was broadcast personality and pop music diva Unathi Nkayi.
She got her first break in 2001 as presenter and later producer of SABC’s hit show ‘Castle Loud’.
At the time of winning Rising Star, she was co-presenting YFM’s drive time show and had won a Sama Award for her music. In 2003, The Star voted her one of the 10 most influential South Africans in the media.
Nkayi says she was especially honoured to win Rising Star – and to share the cover of The Media in August 2004 with lifetime achiever and newspaper icon Gwen Gill.
Nkayi is still a musician and her career highlights include twice supporting US singer John Legend, and receiving a standing ovation from the legendary Quincy Jones. She has recently been working on a live music DVD. She is also a partner in Lucky Bean Media, which produced both ‘MasterChef South Africa’. Nkayi was a judge on M-Net’s ‘Idols’ and a presenter on SABC’s ‘Popstars’. She is co-presenter with Glen Lewis on Metro FM’s morning drive. Together, they have boosted the show’s listenership.
Tembisa Gebeda-Marele was a SABC Africa business journalist when she was honoured by the 2005 Rising Star award. “This made the people I was working with sit up and take notice,” she says. “It gave me impetus to go for things I would not otherwise have gone for.” She has hosted current affairs programmes, interviewed visiting heads of state and hosted parliamentary budget speeches.
In 2011, Gebeda-Marele went into consulting, which led to her current job as head of communications for the Financial Services Board. She got a Masters in Business Management in 2011 and is planning to study further. Now Gebeda-Marele presents ‘Interface’, a current affairs show on SABC3. “We feature the biggest newsmakers in the country,” she says. “It can get hairy!”
What are her plans for the future? “When I was first interviewed as Rising Star”, she said, “my interviewer said ‘Wow you have achieved so much already, what more can you possibly do?’ And I thought, really? I’ve only just got started! I didn’t think I’d even scratched the surface. I still feel that way now…”
When Nikiwe Bikitsha won Rising Star, she was 28 but had already had an impressive career as a radio journalist on Cape Talk and Talk Radio 702, and then as co-host of SAfm’s AM Live, with John Perlman. At the time of winning the award, she was also hosting SABC3’s ‘Interface’.
Now a senior anchor for eNCA, where she was co-anchor of flagship programme ‘News Night’, Bikitsha has been on special leave for a year in order to take up a fellowship in the United States. She recently returned from New York where, as part of the fellowship, she worked at the International Monetary Fund and the UN Development Programme. “The diversity in professional experiences has stretched my mind enormously,” she says of the experience.
“I’ve reflected a great deal about [South Africa] and what each of us as citizens can do to make our country the success it should be.” Bikitsha is planning a brand new show to be launched on eNCA, and wants to go into business and contribute to community service programmes. 2007
These days you can catch Siki Mgabadeli on Power FM, where she is an anchor and business editor. Back in 2007, she was editor of SABC TV’s business and economics desk, and the anchor of five TV and radio programmes. She was already an award-winning journalist, walking off with the Sanlam Financial Journalist of the Year and Telkom ICT journalist of the year in 2005.
A few months after becoming Rising Star, Mgabadeli joined CNBC as a senior anchor, where she got to travel widely to CNBC bureaux in Africa and to conferences in India and Norway, which sparked her interest in conference facilitation.
She left CNBC after a year to go freelance and organise conferences, a decision she calls “possibly one of the dumbest and of the best things I did for myself”. As a freelancer, she worked with Bikitsha producing and presenting ‘Africa Inc’ on SABC3, which won a Sanlam Business award in 2010.
And then one day SAfm programme manager Mike Roberts called her and offered her a place on ‘Morning Talk’. Reluctant at first, Mgabadeli took on the challenge. She says, “It was the biggest, scariest, most fulfilling and most frustrating thing I have done. Plus, every nutter in South Africa had my number and called me every morning.” She left the programme in December last year and is concentrating on organising global conferences, as well as on Power FM and anchoring ‘The Big Debate’ on SABC2.
Talk Radio 702/CapeTalk host Redi Tlhabi (then Direko) was a Rising Star winner in 2008. Her broadcasting career has seen her as afternoon drive show host on Kaya FM, current affairs anchor and producer at SABC, where presented various programmes including ‘Today in Africa’, ‘News Hour’ and ‘Interface’, and co-host of ‘News Night’ on e.tv. She also produced a documentary on Thabo Mbeki and anchored for international broadcasters like the BBC.
Currently she hosts and produces ‘South to North’, an African current affairs show on Al Jazeera, and has written a book, ’Endings and Beginnings‘, which won the 2013 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award. Tlhabi also has a weekly column in the Sunday Times. She has completed several ultra-marathons and is pregnant with her first child.
Sbu Mpungose told The Media in 2009 that she hated studying journalism and never thought she would have a magazine career. But by 24, she was editor of Move! and was later headhunted to edit Bona in 2008. The circulation of both magazines rose under her editorship, earning her a Rising Star award in 2009.
She was then headhunted, again, to edit TRUE LOVE, where she overhauled the brand, of which she is very proud. “I think I did excellent work there. I gave TRUE LOVE a new life,” she says.
Mpungose was headhunted again in 2011, this time by COSMOPOLITAN, becoming its first black editor. She left just nine months later under a cloud. Working at COSMO, she says was traumatic because she wasn’t involved enough editorially. “I couldn’t look at a magazine for months,” she says.
Since then, Mpungose has spent time travelling and taking stock. There is “a lot of pressure” on her to start her own magazine. “But there are so many magazines out there and you have to have a chunk of capital,” she says. “I am pitching ideas to investors.” Mpungose says she is passionate about indigenous language development and empowering young people.
Natasha Joseph was Rising Star in 2010, when she was news editor of the Cape Argus. She says the award boosted her profile. “News editors aren’t the rock stars of newsrooms… I think winning the award got my name out to some people beyond the world of Cape Town newspapers.”
She continued to impress, featuring in the Mail&Guardian‘s 200 Young South Africans list in 2011. Joseph joined City Press in February 2012 as news editor, where she is today. She has a book deal with Jacana, for a non-fiction work; she describes the writing process as “terrifying, frankly, very different to the daily discipline of news editing”. “If the book does even modestly well, I may just pack it all in and become a full-time writer and dog walker, for a real change of pace.” she jokes.
If Mandy Wiener wasn’t a household name when she won the 2011 Rising Star award, she is now. Wiener has been at the forefront of reporting some of the last few years’ biggest stories as a journalist for Eyewitness News (EWN).
In 2011, she released her bestseller, ‘Killing Kebble’, and is now working on two more books, one on Vusi Pikoli and the other, to be “an objective, journalistic, non-smutty account” of the Pistorius case with EWN colleague Barry Bateman. She’d like to establish herself more as an author without stopping her radio career. “It’s about looking for the next thing,” she says.
Wiener is also editor of a series of Pan Macmillan books called ‘The Youngsters’. These are written by media personalities to help make young South Africans make sense of their world.
One of Pan Macmillan’s Youngsters last year was Anele Mdoda, who was also 2012’s Rising Star. Mdoda says of winning, “Ah man, it was massive! My peers and people I have looked up to for so long were basically saying the milk I had been churning was turning into butter because I had been churning so hard at it.”
Mdoda is still Highveld Stereo’s drive time host and was a judge on Mzansi Magic’s ‘Clash of the Choirs’. She is also working on something with the BBC, but can’t disclose anything yet.
She finds time to indulge her passion for travel, and has done Madrid in Spain and Beyoncé in Montpelier, France.
Mdoda says the comedy bug bit after she hosted the ‘Steve Hofmeyer Comedy Central Roast’. She then hosted the first all-female comedy night ‘BITCHES’, which sold out at the Lyric Theatre.
What does the future hold? “I would like to make my radio show the best drive show in the country and’ zero down on getting a breakfast slot in the next five years,” Mdoda says. And then of course that TV talk show… everything I do is really in preparation for that, which I feel when it comes, will be my greatest love in the broadcasting game yet.”