Unathi Nkayi Biography: Age, Education, Family, Marriage, Career, Awards & Nominations, Business, Philanthropy, Controversy, Net Worth

Unathi is exploring ultimate spheres of creativity as a journalist, presenter and host.

By  | May 11, 2020, 10:15 AM

Unathi Nkayi is a well-known judge for the South African reality show, Idols. She is known for expressing herself without fail as well as her moments where she usually bursts into tears with laughter as she seats on the judging panel for Idols.

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As a journalist, a writer and a single parent, Unathi is always at the top of her game ready to deliver the best content as a producer and a host. 

Here's Unathi's biography.

Unathi Nkayi Age


Unathi Nkayi was born on 6th of  November in 1978. She is 41 years old.

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Unathi Nkayi Education


Unathi had her secondary education at Victoria Girls High School, located in Grahamstown where she grew up. The media mogul furthered her studies at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, where she graduated with a degree in International Media Studies.

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When she returned to South Africa, Unathi enrolled at Rhodes University where she graduated with a degree in Journalism. 

Unathi Nkayi Family


Unathi was raised by both her parents in Grahamstown. Growing up, she used to be fascinated by the wildest dream of being a television host and being in the media space.

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As someone who grew up with the support system of her household, Unathi had the courage to follow through with her dream, and today she is one of the most celebrated media personalities in the country. 

Unathi Nkayi Marriage


Unathi was married to the popular Disk Jockey, Thomas Msengana - who is popularly known as Bad Boy T.  The couple had their wedding in 2009 and were blessed with two children, Sinako Msengana and Imbo Msengana.

The couple separated in 2017 following Thomas' infidelity.  According to the media mogul, she found texts and images in her husband's phone and that led to the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage.

The media personality admitted to City Press that the separation was hard. "He was my best friend. Once you are married it's not a decision you make overnight, to separate from your partner. It's always something you've considered for years," 

Unathi Nkayi Career


Unathi started her career in 2004 after completing her studies. She was a co-host of the television series, Popstars alongside the legendary Rowan Cloete

The media mogul continued her journey as a presenter when she landed the role in 2011 to be on the judging panel of the singing competition show, Idols.

Unathi is the longest-serving judge on Idols having been there for eight seasons and counting.

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Unathi has shared joyous moments and has had controversial times as a judge on idols. She has judged and created several music stars in the country such as, Karabo Mogane, Vincent Bones, Musa Sukwene and many more artists who are thriving in the industry. 

Unathi auditioned for the Castle Loud, a music show that aired on SABC1. She landed the role and was later the co-producer of the show. This paved her way into broadcasting and she then joined YFM (2004 - 2020), Pop Stars, Metro FM (2014 - 2017) and Kaya FM (2020).

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She earned her international status as an actress when she was called to do voice-overs for a character in the ‘Doc McStuffins’ series, where she played as Rita The Cheetah. The series is a hit edutainment series by Disney. 

Staunch viewers of the sizzling talk show, Show Me Love were saddened when they learnt that they would no longer be able to catch a glimpse of one of their favourite panelists, Unathi Nkayi on their screens.

The husky voiced entertainer, Unathi, announced on her Instagram page that her interview with Brenda Mntambo was her second last sit down interview on the show.

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Unathi Nkayi Awards & Nominations


As an artist, Unathi has received a number of awards in different categories w including MTN Media Awards (hosted by Media Magazine) for the Most Promising Woman in Media 2005.

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Unathi received a Metro FM Music Award for the Best Dressed Artist and Song of The Year award both in 2003. 

The Star newspaper reported that Unathi was among the top ten personalities in media in 2004 and 2005. At the Media Star in 2014, she won Glamour woman of the year award.

Unathi Nkayi Business


Unathi is a prominent businesswoman who ensures that she works twice as hard to secure the future of her children.

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Unathi is a shareholder of Lucky Bean, a company that is focused on the production of various shows including MasterChef SA, Survivor and Girl Eat World. The shows are seen to be gaining new airplay figures monthly and as time goes, the legacy and her shares in the company will keep growing to new heights. 

She is a writer of note and utilized her prowess to gift herself on her birthday, by releasing a memoir as a birthday gift. Her book is titled, I keep Learning.

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Unathi Nkayi Philanthropy


Unathi is a firm believer of uplifting girls in different societies. She was featured by Cell C when they had the, Take A Girl Child To Work campaign.

Unathi had a session with the girls and taught them how to work on vision boards, compiling an email, and creating a CV. She gave a speech and the girls were also involved in conversations with different directors and staff members of the Cell C corporation.

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Unathi Nkayi Controversy


Unathi’s divorce is said to have followed after she found explicit images and texts on her husband's phone with another woman who is said to be Thando Dlalisa. 

According to Unathi, she stumbled upon the explicit images and texts from Dlalisa on her ex-husband's phone. Unathi took the matter to social media where she shared her experiences, this wasn't long until Thando Dlalisa took the matter to the court to settle it legally. 

Dlalisa applied for an interim restraining order from Unathi, which she was granted. As time went by, she wanted the interim restraining order to be made permanent, but the court dismissed her application after Unathi defended her posts on social media, saying they did not amount to harassment.


Unathi shared her views on the matter after the inquiry about the restraining order.


Dlalisa took the matter to court to apply for an interim restraining which was approved. She then returned to the court to apply for the restraining order but the motion was dismissed.

According to Unathi, she sought a subpoena of the phone records of her ex-husband and Dlalisa. 

After Unathi divorced her husband, she turned to alcohol consumption in order to cope with the reality of her circumstances.


In her memoir, Unathi reveals the horrors she went through at the moment of the divorce and shares the drinking pattern that she was suffering from.
 
“I had to time it very well. My kids’ bedtime was 8:30 pm, so I would drink from that time and make sure I was sober by 5 am when they woke up. I needed to be sober for them and the listeners on Metro FM. I didn’t want my children to see me at my lowest. Through my experience, I’ve learnt that it’s OK to be not OK,”.


Unathi revealed that therapy helped her cope in 2017, “I started seeing a therapist in 2017 and to this day I still consult every two weeks. It has been my journey of healing. I am encouraging everyone to see a therapist, it’s the best thing one can do for oneself.”

In 2019, Unathi was dragged for the comment she made to Luyolo on the show, Idols. As she congratulated Luyolo, Unathi said, “Xhosa people are tired of holding up the Nation”. The comment raised eyebrows as many South Africans felt that her comments were tribalistic. 

Unathi apologised for the comments and even tried to explain that her intent was to joke around, but it wasn't well-received. 

"It saddens me that I have broken so many hearts with what I said tonight. What I saw was a beautiful joke being passed around this past week by so many South Africans not necessarily Xhosa and wanted to share."

Also read - [WATCH]: Unathi Nkayi Opens Up About Her Struggle With Depression

Unathi Nkayi Net Worth


Unathi is estimated to be worth over R8 million throughout her journey as an artist, songwriter, presenter and a journalist. As she continues her journey, according to Unathi - she has had her own definition of success and aims to continue as an influential figure.

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“Success for me is holistic. You can’t enjoy success if you are alone, nor can you enjoy money when you are unhealthy. You can’t be creative when you are tired. I think people define success according to each phase in their lives. I am turning 40 this year and am excited about that. I am happy with what I have done so far, but I know I have much to achieve as well.”


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