Imagine going to school with the hopes of bettering your life. You eventually graduate after about three-four years, and then come face-to-face with the sad reality of unemployment. This is, unfortunately, what many young South Africans experience after getting their degrees.
In the last couple of years, we’ve seen how a lot of people within the arts have voiced out their frustration about the lack of opportunities available. This has subsequently led to the #OpenUpTheIndustry hashtag, which made its way back to social media this week.
Everybody had something to say about the topic. Celebs like Lerato Kganyago and Thando Thabethe shared their opinions on the subject and were dragged for missing the point.
It seems like these as if these stars feel people aren’t “working hard enough” to open doors for themselves, and they’ve preached about how hard they’ve worked to get to where they are. And trust me, no one is taking that away from them. However, I do feel that they’re missing the point a bit. I think #OpenUpTheIndustry was sparked by the fact that TV and radio shows are sometimes filled with people who’re only hired because of their social media influence and “star power”.
I’m not an actress, nor am I a radio or TV presenter, so I honestly can’t say I’ve seen this happening. However, I’ve seen quite a number of famous faces complaining about this issue. When International Emmy Award-nominated actress Thuso Mbedu was on Kaya FM last year, she touched on the fact that some of the people she went to school with still don’t have jobs.
She said: “Again, I still have varsity friends who are great, who are talented that I went to school with, who are still without work four years later… Our industry isn’t about talent, it really isn’t about talent. Angithi we cast according to followers, according to social media. And again, it’s such a frustration, it’s an ongoing debate because nakhona people talk about opening up the industry, but what are we opening up the industry to?”
Veteran SA actress Lorcia Cooper, who rose to fame after appearing on e.tv’s drama series, Backstage, has also spoken out on the subject. She told Trending SA that she’s lost jobs because of her social media following. The Lockdownstar said on the show:
“Our industry has gotten into this thing where everything is superficial, and 'let's book you 'cause you have a following. I've lost jobs because my following was less than someone else's."
She explained that they'll tell you that your following is not good enough. "And you're like 'but I have skill'. Skill should always be more important than your following.”
See, those that are still trying to get into this cut-throat world aren’t completely off the mark. If people like Lorcia and Thuso – who are very talented, by the way – are still experiencing this, how much more difficult is it for someone who’s still on the outside?
I think these celebs need to realise that this really isn’t an attack on them. It’s about making the industry more accessible to others, and for gatekeepers (whoever they are) to prioritise talent more than social media numbers (and looks).