It’s difficult to say exactly why we follow Bonang Matheba, since – as a quick thumb through her Instagram feed will tell you – there is a whole lot to like.
In fact, as far as social influencers go, Bonang is one of South Africa’s most powerful, and pretty much the perfect package; her personality translating just as well from real life into pixels, as her talent does from onscreen to the airwaves.
If her glamorous lifestyle won’t claim your double-tap, the presenter’s wardrobe certainly will, with Bonang’s sense of style feeling like the double entendre to her playful personality. Low cut? Quite likely. Thigh high? Thank heavens! Bold colour, mesh panels and body-boasting silhouettes?
Boy, you had better be ready… But despite the growing fashion icon status secured with numerous magazine covers, an ‘SA Style Icon of the Year’ award, her own range of handbags and a Woolworths-stocked lingerie line, we are not to be distracted from Bonang’s success. There is the Glamour ‘Woman of the Year Award’, a Kids Choice Award, and a mention on a Forbes List to remind you of her purpose.
Such accolades make a solid foundation for her pedestal of 1.1million followers and counting – a following so well earned that we would have forgiven any slip of the ‘girl-next-door-dressed-as-a-diva’ persona, even for a second.
But actually, as we caught up with Bonang to talk all things success and social media, we found her lounge-bound and giggly at the airport on the way to host the Uganda Entertainment Awards; the same breezy Bonang heard daily, 10am-12pm on Metro FM, surprisingly suffering with a little pre-event jitters.
“I get nervous with everything; be it every morning when I do my radio show; be it when I prepare for a shoot; or I’m interviewing a celebrity, or I’m being interviewed. I still get butterflies in my stomach, which is lovely because it keeps me on my toes – it means that I really, really want to do my best. [With] Uganda, it’s my very first time there [and] it’s an honour to finally break into other countries besides my own – that was always my dream.”
If you are reading this, you have probably also seen how Bonang hit the event in a Gert-Johan Coetzee gown (killing the red carpet with the same “bang bang, boom boom, pop pop” she captioned the photos with online), and might be wondering exactly where those “butterflies” went. Ms Matheba’s nerves seemed the same as the abs she showed off: made of 100% steel.
For some stars, crafting the look of confidence takes careful curation and a dedicated salary’s worth of work – the snapping, photoshopping, perfect caption-writing job of an entire team even. But this ‘Digital Influencer of the Year’ award-winner does all the uploading herself.
“I run all my social media pages. I have a content development team for my website, but for social media you have to be as authentic and as personal as possible when you interact with people because they can tell if something is staged or not. The more authentic the better, so I prefer to run my own social media, post what I need to post.
I have found that doing it myself means that I have full control over it and I’ve really kind of figured out like a strategy that works for me.” And she’s really not lying when she says it “works” – nor did she hesitate to praise social media’s role in her rise to fame, citing her relationship with brands like Ciroc, REVLON and Distractions down to her digital influence, and crediting social media for her reach across the continent.
“You know what social media has done for me? It has really accelerated my growth in Africa; it’s given me the opportunity to reach audiences that I wouldn’t normally reach outside of my country; it’s introduced me to a new space [and] introduced me to a new market. It’s played a huge role in my career. I’m able to be on the cover of Glam Africa for instance because of social media. I’m slowly on a quest to conquer the African continent via fashion, and social media I think is the best way to do that.”
Followers will have noted that our cover girl was quick to share snippets from the set of our shoot, posing in her Orapeleng Modutle gown and hat, and kicking up a ministorm by leaking the pics online. During the shoot, besides her work ethic and her 10/10 figure, it was her sense of humour that left us fan-girling (did you see the video she posted, pretending to be some sassy widow?).
Ms Matheba’s stylish, sexy, successful – and has a funny bone to flex too. “I’m like that – that is me – that is who I am; I love making fun with people, I love laughing, making sure everyone around me is happy. I’m not an actress at all but I’m very funny; people who listen to my radio show can attest to that. I’m quite a comedian when I choose to be.
You get those rare shoots, like the Glam Africa covershoot, which was absolutely incredible, and you can tell when people are having fun because people want to be there – and that shoot was definitely that for me.
What I’ve learnt over the years is when you work with people, you need to make them comfortable, you need to make them happy, you need to make them laugh, make it memorable – because then the quality of work becomes better, because everybody feels better.”
And Bonang is definitely in the business of making people feel better. If you don’t believe it, just know that when she steps away from photoshoots and off TV sets, she’s busy penning a book that will prove it. “It’s a self-help book; a motivational book. A story about my career, the lessons I’ve learnt [and] how I got to where I am. Because people always want to know my secrets to success, so it’s going to be a book about that and what goes into Brand Bonang – the stuff that people don’t see.”
No doubt, there is a lot we don’t see, despite (as the behind-the-scenes shots from our covershoot should tell you) Bonang being an enthusiastic sharer online. “I have decided not to reveal my personal life [on social media], so things like family gatherings, my best friends, or very intimate moments – those are things I keep to myself. I’m a very private person so […] 93 per cent of the stuff I post is about my work, and I’ve realised that that’s the best way; you need to draw the line in some way. My personal life is mine and mine alone, and those kinds of things I will not put up on Twitter or Instagram.” That is not to say that the presenter won’t defend what’s hers online… Just days before our interview, Queen B was caught coming to her beau, AKA’s defense, after a follower had taken issue with his post about buying his mother a car.
Though Bonang’s clapback was a rare occurrence (she tweeted “why can’t people do what they want with [their] own data and money?!”), we wondered how she survives the digital terrain, which can be a tough place to exist, no matter how tough the girl. “Social media has made it easier for us to access celebrities and people we love and look up to, people we don’t even know. When you’re anonymous you’re able to say whatever you want to whoever, whenever, so obviously social bullying and people being able to give you their thoughts at any time, anywhere – I think that’s the only downside, that it’s quite rough out there. I appreciate the input and I appreciate the comment of criticism. What I do not appreciate is the bullying [and] I don’t think anyone is immune to it. But what social media has done for me, like when I’m on radio – it’s so instant, it’s so personal; the feedback comes to you right away. I’m able to know what people want, what is happening in the streets, what are the hot topics. Every now and then you just have to put a few people in their place. It comes with the territory. But [social media] has more positives for me than negatives.”
Her career is also full of positives and its trajectory leaves Bonang no time for ‘haters’. In fact, “Brand Bonang” is all about positivity. “Online reputation management is so, so important in this day and age because what social media has done, is it has exposed people – racists, people with bad hearts or people in general; we’re now seeing who people genuinely are. But for me, I‘ve enjoyed it. I’ve obviously had some rough patches here and there, but I’ve come up with a formula to not address haters. I never respond to negativity, I don’t start negativity and I don’t participate in negativity, because when you give off love, you get love; when you give off positivity, you get positivity, and I think you can see that with my social media. I vibrate so much love and I vibrate so much positive energy that people give it right back to me.”
The one thing Bonang really wants from her followers though, is support, saying that a move to Los Angeles “is definitely on the cards. It is the dream. But for me, I’d rather move to LA once I’ve captured the African market, because when I move to Los Angeles, I really want the African audience to be on my side, really support me – be my voice. I’m working on some projects with wonderful TV channels and I’ve got a new endorsement coming out at the end of September … so 2016 is looking very good for me.”
The media star has good advice for anyone wishing to follow in her footsteps too, confirming that “In 2016, in the era of digital, it’s about reach, it’s about how many people you interact with, how many people reach your work, how many people you touch. [But] most importantly, it doesn’t happen overnight – your brand and your success is first of all your own responsibility and it really relies on how much work you put in. It really relies on how motivated you are to flourish. It’s about four or five years to become big or successful in whatever field you’re trying to penetrate. It’s about patience, it’s about prayer, it’s about surrounding yourself with people who support and love you; and it’s about keeping focus, silencing out and ignoring the rubbish, ignoring the negativity and just focusing on what it is that you want to do.”
Would she have given the same advice to herself as a young Bonang? No. “I would say, “life has its ups and downs, love has its ups and downs, family has its ups and downs. But the most important thing to remember is that God gives the most difficult struggles to his strongest soldiers.’ I feel for the first time in a very long time that I’m indestructible. I work so hard and I’m glad that my work ethic has really been able to carry me through. ‘If you just keep to your work ethic baby girl, you’re gonna do ok.’“
Well we’d tell young Bonang that actually, that girl’s going to be great – that one day she’ll be a woman with an accurate Instagram bio that reads: “She who reigns supreme.”
Quick fire questions:
One fact most fans don’t know about you?
I’m asthmatic – I don’t know how many people know about that. I was diagnosed when I was five years old and I’ve been living with asthma all my life.
Favourite African city?
Cape Town, because it is beautiful, the culture there is incredible. It’s one of my favourite holiday destinations, because it’s very global, very European, but it’s quintessential South Africa – the markets there and so many things come together beautifully; our fashion, our music, our people. Cape Town really personifies how beautiful South Africa is and what a great nation I think we are.
Favourite far flung holiday destination?
I love Paris, I love London and I love Los Angeles. And I love Mauritius.
5 things always in your handbag?
My cell phone, my power bank to charge my cell phone, a pair of sunglasses, my asthma pump and my Revlon lipgloss.
Who’s your favourite designer at the moment?
Hazra and Guccia – I absolutely love him; I’ve worked with him numerous times over the years and he just gets better and better. Internationally it has to be Balmain; I have huge respect for Olivier.
Who do you stalk the most on Instagram?
I stalk a lot of the Kardashians – I love what they wear, I love their family and I just love their online presence on social media. I get a lot of style inspiration from them.
I stalk FashioBombDaily – their owner, Claire Sulmers, who I have great respect for, and I also stalk Chrissy Teigen who I find really, really, really funny.
In Real Life, who is your favourite person right now?
By Cindy LGH