Even though I’ve been a journalist for years, taking a ‘Wizard of Oz’ type look behind the curtain of some of SA’s most popular TV shows and movies never gets old. My latest set visit took me to Steyn City to spend a day behind the scenes of Real Talk with Anele and I am honestly still dazzled.
The Cheeky Media production segwayed into a new 5pm timeslot for their third season hoping to translate their positive reception and highly interactive social media presence into an increase in ratings. This move seems to be working as they recently clocked their most watched episode in July with 479 698 viewers.
These numbers are pretty good when compared with the ratings for some of SABC 3’s other shows for the month of July. In fact, that puts Real Talk With Anele just after the English TV news bulletin (608 162), Survivor San Juan Del Sur (561 416) and Survivor: Worlds Apart (514 452) but before Top Billing (422 400), The Big Bang Theory (448 329) and The Bold and The Beautiful which didn’t even make it into the channel’s list for their 20 most-watched shows last month.
Tuesday’s live show (which I got to sit in on) centered on a holistic approach to achieving a summer body with Anele speaking to a range of guests on what to eat and how to work out in the lead up to Summer 2017.
This focus provided the perfect opportunity to ask Mdoda about her own weight loss which, surprisingly, has come about solely from a change in her diet.
Considering the fact that her days starts at 4am because of her radio show and she has a packed day after that, Mdoda says she would rather spend her free time with her son as opposed to toughing it out in the gym.
One would think that keeping up with a toddler is enough of a workout but unlike his mom, Alakhe is a chilled little human being.
“You know, Alakhe is like my dad. He’s very measured and he takes his time. He doesn’t run all that much. He moves at a glacial pace. He’s a Leo, he plans his moves,” she explains.
In fact, yesterday (10 August) was his birthday and Alakhe turned two. Mdoda doubts that he will become all that more active as his own father is also a very relaxed man.
Speaking of Alakhe, Mdoda somewhat trended the other day for calling followers out for sexualizing her son on social media. Mdoda says she has every intention of making a show out of the topic of sexualization of children.
“South Africa suffers from a very big sexual molestation culture and it starts very young and we get our children used to it very young. By the time you’re in varsity and a guy is touching you funny and making comments, because you’ve been like acclimatised to it, you think it’s normal...” begins Mdoda.
Before adding, “it starts in a harmless manner but it breeds the worst behaviour. That’s why I’m like ‘you DON’T flipping tell me that you are my son’s wife because the fact that you can talk and he can’t is telling that you are not.’ And it’s not to say that Alakhe can’t be 20 and fall in love with a 40-year-old woman, I’m just saying, let him choose his sexual path. Let him choose when he becomes a sexual creature. I’m not backing down on any of that and I don’t care what people say.”
She also feels very strongly about healing patriarchy because she believes that it hurts boys too which is why she’s getting an early start on that with her son.
In addition to her weight loss, this season has also ushered in a more style conscious version of Mdoda. When asked if her smaller frame has attributed to the style shift, she merely says, “what I know for certain is that something that is a size 8 can look better in a 14 than a size 8 so you just need to find those things. It’s not about size, it’s about shapes and fit. So I don’t even try on clothes at shops because I KNOW what cuts fit my body.”
One only has to take a look at her recent Instagram posts to see just how true this is.
“When it comes to style, I like to wear clothes that, when I see my photos in 10 years, I won’t cringe. I’m all about easy lines and timeless lines and that is why my partnership with Woolworths works because those are the clothes that they make.”
Her newfound sense of style is also deliberately modest so as to keep the spotlight on her guests while giving the viewer the sense that Mdoda is accessible.
In fact, Mdoda and the production team make every decision with the viewer in mind as explained by the show’s head of content, Shelomi Augustine.
“Drawing on that celebrity factor, what we’ve done is also reach out to broader issues that resonate with people that anyone from age 15 to 50 can relate to. Things like love, finance, social media… All of these topics have a small element of the celebrity factor because they themselves have lent their voices to campaigns against woman abuse and unfortunately everyone in South Africa has to be mindful of that or issues that a broader industry can relate to,” said Augustine.
In addition to the celebrity factor, one of the show’s biggest draw-cards is the fact that their research department is unparalleled and Augustine was understandably tight lipped about what goes into gathering such in depth info on each of their guests.
“The essence of television (or any media for that matter) is storytelling so I think that no matter whether it is a person in the celebrity eye or an everyday person, we approach it with a fresh understanding to find out what we need. It is your approach to everything that makes the difference.”
Augustine explained that a number of factors contribute to how they put together a show. In addition to taking public opinion into account, they also have to consider what the SABC audience would want to see, what the trending topics and burning issues of the day are as well as what excites the team - be it a person or a topic.
Anele’s ideal show would be a season 6 special, shot at an external location where she invites 500 of the show’s most loyal viewers or social activists/social entrepreneurs to be audience members.
She would then feature people that the public loves who have learned vital lessons in their lives and careers to share those lessons with the audience. Each guest would also have to bring along something that they love which the show would then giveaway in a hamper to each audience member.
She would also want it to be a 2-hour-special focusing on topics such as love, physical health, mental health - a topic which she feels is often ignored.
“We’re not in an age where you can just be a presenter anymore. You have to be a creator. You have to be everything…”
Anele attributes her strong work ethic to her time at Tuks FM where she says she was surrounded by like-minded people so being a hard and consistent worker was the order of the day. She says this environment carried on when she made her move to Highveld (now known as 947).
“People will respect you when they see how you respect whatever it is they respect about you”
And it is for that reason that I finally understand why her guests always commend her for coming this far.
Main image credit: sabc3.co.za