FOR THE rich and famous 2009 was a bad year: Michael Jackson died of drugs, Rihanna got a beating from Chris Brown, Khanyi Mbau’s lies and “fairytale” marriage unravelled, Zola was dethroned, and Bonang Matheba had a couple of bad days at the office. Possibly the highest paid 22- year-old celebrity in the country, Bonang was battling what Mzansi stars fear most in their career – bad publicity. Rumours of being a drug addict, a visit to an abortion clinic, and a romantic link to DJ Euphonik surfaced on social networking site Twitter and in tabloids last year – leaving the young star devastated. After all, the price of bad publicity can be a costly one. Having a clean image pays the bills – it can mean endorsements, Master Of Ceremony jobs (emceeing) and more money for TV and radio gigs. But being a good girl also endears you to the South African public, who look at celebs as role models and not for their scandalous entertainment value.
The Mafikeng-born star has built quite a comfortable empire for herself. Besides being on Live every Friday, she’s a radio show host on YFM and is the face of Kaizer Chiefs TV. In the past she’s scored a deal with clothing store Legit, and rakes up business in emceeing and appearances at functions. She started early (at just 16) and has a reputation in the industry of being a hard worker. At 22 she’s reaping the rewards: living a charmed life of shopping, travelling and drinking her favourite beverage – champagne. But in all of this the high life can end swiftly just by someone tarnishing your name, admits Bonang when she meets with BONA at a Sandton restaurant. “Experiencing the ruthless side of the media industry taught me one lesson, to protect my craft because unfortunately in this country it’s so easy for damaging and untrue stories to go to print, and in an instant ruin what I’ve worked so hard for. Now that I know, I’ve taken action to protect myself by getting a manager, a publicist and a media lawyer on my team.”
This “fight-back” strategy is very different from her reaction when she first read a negative story about herself. Although she can’t quite remember the article, we’re pretty sure it had something to do with the gossip claiming she slept her way into Live. “I cried and cried when I read the lies. At 19 I was a little girl in this sea of sharks and I literally went from being a 19-year-old to feeling like a 25-year-old in one year,” she says of her bitter welcome to the spotlight. But in the world of entertainment the higher you climb, the tougher it is at the top. “Last year was a painful year for me because I experienced the ruthless side of the media but I know I can’t avoid negativity – it’s an unwritten requirement for being in the limelight,” she confides. Besides making sure she has a professional team looking after her interests, Bonang says she is no longer naïve about the company she keeps. “Even though I’ve always loved people, I’ve become weary and very careful about who I trust, which is unfortunate.” But that’s as far as Bonang will go about the past. She’s made it clear she isn’t here to set the rumours straight – she’d much rather talk about the positive things happening in her life. “I have no regrets about my life.
The journey has been unbelievable and the first thing that comes to mind when I think about everything I’ve achieved is that it’s God’s work.” Her spirits are high when she reveals she’ll be launching her own website this year – which is just another way of extending the Bonang brand. Called www. bonangmatheba.com, she hopes it will attract mostly young women. “I’ve been working on it for over a year and I want it to be huge. I want to sell Bonang T-shirts and create a sort of lifestyle club for young women.” She also plans to complete her Marketing And Communication Degree. Juggling several jobs and completing her studies has left her a little behind in the love department. This proves you can’t have it all – or perhaps there’s a time and place for everything. “I’m too young to be thinking about love and kids,” she says confidently. However, Bonang has been previously involved in a serious relationship with the rapper Slikour. “That was the first and only serious relationship I’ve had in my life and I don’t want to go back there. “I got into a serious relationship when my own life was just starting – my dreams were starting to come true. I wasn’t ready,” she says about the relationship that dramatically broke down early last year. But now and again Bonang does get a bit envious of her friends with “great, kind and Godfearing boyfriends”.
“They’re good friends though and never rub their relationships in my face,” she laughs. Despite her bittersweet ride in the fast lane of fame, she believes she’s living the life God designed for her. “A friend of mine once said: ‘Bonang you’re one of those special people that comes by only once in a while’. Maybe that’s why I’m able to handle a load that no other 22-year-old could stand for.” With her new-found maturity and tough girl approach she’s even threatening to make her critics eat their words. “Sadly for all the people who hate me, I’m not about to quit. That’s what they want me to do. It’s going to take more than a knock on the door to get me down.
"They might just have to tear the whole building to the ground first,” she says with the feisty attitude many openly (and others secretly) admire her for. [e]
Story: Ntokozo Maseko Pictures: Lwazi Hlophe Styling: Thato-ya-Ona Lerefolo Assistant: Keletso Modisakeng Hair & make-up: Iko Mash CLOTHING: Cover, Page 22 and 25: pink dress: Olivia Lefore; shoes: Bonang’s own; hat: Accessorize; earrings: Ruby In The Dust. Page 24: Black blazer: Foschini; white T-shirt: Mr Price; sequinned shorts: Foxy; gold necklace: Accessorize; earrings: Ruby In The Dust; shoes: Bonang’s own. With thanks to Plascon Living Concepts showroom who brought a dash of colour to our cover shoot. For interior decorating inspiration visit them at Design Quarter in Fourways, Johannesburg or go to www.plascon. co.za/LivingConcepts/index.html for more info.