TV/Radio personality Bonang Matheba will be turning 30 in June. For someone who has achieved so much before reaching this life milestone, has Bonang done enough for us to start talking about her legacy?
Admittedly, it does feel weird to be talking about a legacy when someone is just 30 years old. However, more and more millennials seem to be doing extraordinary things and reaching milestones at ages our parents saw as the foundation of what will be not what is. With that, I feel it is permissible to talk about Bonang's legacy right now.
I consider myself a Bonang fan not a groupie, and she has plenty of both. I look at Bonang's career and am able to be ok with not liking everything she does or agreeing with everything she says. I believe, that has given me a unique vantage point to observe her career and discern fact from fiction and reality from perception.
A lot about brand Bonang rides on perception more than reality. For example; her influence is not as big as the media and pop culture make it out to be. However, it would be unfair and disingenuous to not credit her for being a pioneer and a powerful figure in this business.
For, where many have failed to create a viable business around their name in this industry, this lady has managed to command the attention of an entire nation and the continent. Why? We can find many reasons why there is nothing unique about Bonang Matheba. But she is special. Her genius is in knowing what works for her and packaging it to suit her dreams.
Sure not everyone likes her, and its ok. Bonang Matheba is polarizing, which, in the most basic dictionary sense, means we have “become concentrated around opposing extremes” of fans (who love everything and clamour on every word she says. With them she can do wrong) and others who are equally passionate in their disdain of her and what she represents.
I have had few people say; "Bonang is overrated". Many assert that viewpoint on the fact that she seems to be the only person getting a call to host things and she is "everywhere". Fair enough, I give them that. However, to simply just say that she is overrated just because she is working, is indicative of the perverse proliferation of our black society where you damned if you succeed and damned if you are a failure.
How often have we seen media reports of local stars dying poor? How often do we read about some major star living like a pauper and wonder; why did he/she not use her fame to make extra money?.
Bonang Matheba is using every avenue open to her to make that money and live (to some level, live to your expectations) but somehow that is wrong. To say she is overrated is to say she doesn't deserve the attention but if that comes with the fact that she is working, is that a bad thing?
At 30, what is Bonang's legacy? Is she just someone who got lucky and has amassed power to illicit passionate emotions of love and hate with equal measure from the public? We have Trevor Noah and Pearl Thusi now who have found a footing in Hollywood that she doesn't so why is she still relevant?
In my opinion, Bonang's legacy even if her career ended tomorrow and she never cracks the US market can be seen in many of South African artists' bank accounts. This is an argument that I would gladly bet my entire career on. Before Bonang Matheba, South African black celebrities were not treated as business entities in their own right. Don't shoot me yet I shall explain...
We had celebrities before Bonang. People were making money. But Bonang's stardom changed the game in that suddenly brands paid black people their worth. Managers suddenly had a better negotiating position when they are getting deals for their black celebrity clients — "Bonang did that project and got paid this much so my clients deserves this much."
I know it is a hard pill to swallow if you not a fan but credit should be given where it is due. Yes we had the Basetsana Khumalo, Khanyi Dlomo, etc but these amazing women had to go corporate to get a seat at the table. Bonang has become a force by just being that girl on tv and radio. The rise of Bonang ignited a new interest in black female personalities not just as faces that can be exploited for few rands but as brands that can be used to the benefit of both the personality and the business involved.
Of course Bonang is no messiah and there are many factors contributing to the growth of the black entertainment industry but you can not deny that she has played a significant role in propelling that growth. Her cross-over appeal has invigorated an interest from white media in what black audiences and fan base are interested in. Bonang has no niche market.
She is the bridge across all demographics ... and that, in my opinion, is the crown in her legacy.