A few weeks ago, I took my family for a weekend getaway cabin stay in a coastal community called Brenton-On-Sea. The tiny enclave drips with opulence, generally, but not in such a way that is gaudy or ostentatious. It whispers old, confident money. New money screeches and yelps to make itself heard by any means necessary, which may explain what my family witnessed on the beach upon our arrival.
The parking lot was teeming with life: camera crews, dune buggies lined up in neat rows, floppy sun hats and sun glasses stretched from one end of the asphalt to the next. After we’d checked in, my son and I decided to go for a beach walk where I saw a slender man with generous lips dragging an enormous tripod through the sand.
“Hi there!” I said cheerily. “Are you shooting something?”
He told me that he and his team were filming a reality TV series about a group of people doing the popular Garden Route tour starting from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, staying in swanky locations like Knysna. He wondered if I’d seen all the folk in the parking lot. I had, and soon learned that they’d flown in all the way from India to shoot the series. I was instantly impressed.
“Oh wow! They must be very rich then.”
“Ha! They are not, but the producer is spending a lot of time and money to make it look as if they are,” he chuckled and then offered this bit of advice: “Don’t ever feel any envy for anyone you see on TV on social media. It’s all made up.”
It was with this conversation still fresh in my mind that I walked into Young, Famous & African, something I am grateful for…because whew! Where do we even begin? Let’s begin at the middle and make a series of sharp U-turns similar to the way the show is structured, shall we?
Young, Famous & African stars a cast of 9 movers and shakers from all over the African continent. I believe the show title borrows its name from Nina Simone’s “young, gifted and Black”, but only Peace Hyde who executive produces the show can confirm that. There is no doubt that everyone on the show is successful and famous in their own right (and now made even more so given the success and general embracing of the series), but it’s the “drama” and certain “realities” that are unconvincing for me. It feels manufactured – most likely because it is, as my cameraman friend advised – but that’s why I love it.
Let’s take Naked DJ, for instance. The South African well known radio personality and DJ…and is 40 years old. The show is called YOUNG… There are no other circumstances beyond the magic of this particular show that 40 is considered youthful. For this alone, I thank the producers. Naked DJ’s whole shtick on the series is about how to get his 28 year old girl friend Kayleigh to provide sex on a regular basis, while her complaint is that a) is not romantic and b) falls asleep just before the action can commence. People on Twitter have said Kayleigh is irrelevant to the show, but I think she serves as an important cautionary tale about the perils of dating a man whose favorite TV show could be the news at 6.
Khanyi Mbau is the Gorilla Glue that holds the whole plot together. She stirs mess and then evaporates when everything goes to hell. I will never say a bad word about Khanyi because she changed my life when she uttered this confession about her relationship with money:
Still, it’s a pity she couldn’t secure her wig with the same strength she secures The Bag.
Swanky is literally everyone’s favorite. All he does is dress well and show up late for every event. But it’s because he is SO unproblematic that I feel that the producers forced him to unleash a caricature of an angry Nigerian man. If you watch the moments leading up to this moment, nothing makes senzzz. I mearn…at all…
And then there’s Nadia: rapper and Zari hater. Seriously. That’s all we glean from her appearance on the show is that she developed secondhand hatred for Zari, The Boss and mother to two of Diamond’s (possibly 6) children. The whole dynamic in this love triangle, which eventually morphs into a quartet with the insertion of Andile is just…I can’t explain it. You wouldn’t believe me if I tried. The point is, Andile is a whore and this is important to remember because of Annie.
Annie Indibia is a Nigerian actress and TV personality who introduces herself as a strong, accomplished woman in her own right. She bucks at the idea of anyone who dares to simply refer to her as “the wife of 2Baba Idibia of African Queen fame. However by the conclusion of the series, that’s the only conclusion the viewer can justifiably reach because really, Annie’s identity is completely cellophane wrapped up as 2Baba’s inconsequential half. But Malaka, don’t you mean “better half”? Nope…because as the Internet has rightly diagnosed, 2Baba hates his wife. The pair met when she was 16 and he was 24, so that in itself…anyways.
By Annie’s own admission, the couple’s first child together was his fifth. She is open and raw about her anguish resulting from his serial cheating. After enduring scene after scene of her fretting about being away from her children, the audience is treated to a surprise appearance by 2Baba and to Annie extending her tongue and licking his face in a manner not dissimilar to a hunting komodo dragon. Why has he come to SA? Ah, e talk say e wan do 10 year anniversary renewal vows. Annie is ecstatic.
“You have been careless with me,” she says, her mourning bubbling beneath the surface of her smile. She playfully warns him not to be careless with her heart going forward. Annie invites Andile – the man whore – to officiate their renewals and bless their union…which may explain why 2Baba is expecting an 8th child with another woman this year.
There is a lot more to say about this incredible series. It has all the elements of mindless TV viewing – which is a welcome distraction from all of this. *waves hands at wars, the pandemic and fuel prices* If you can get through the first two episodes, I promise it’s worth the effort. If nothing else, come for the views of Johannesburg and its environs.
Have you watched Young, Famous & African? Talk to me about which part had you screaming at the TV the most. I know mine: