Unapologetically Anele

GLAMOUR South Africa|December 2019

Unapologetically Anele
If the phrase ‘bloom wherever you’re planted’ were a person, it would be TV and radio personality, Anele Mdoda. The queen of radio has captured the hearts of generations of South Africans with her infectious personality.
Thobeka Phanyeko

Fresh off a two-hour flight from the Mother City to Joburg, I’m pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a bubbly Anele in the lobby of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Sandton. On my way to the venue, I’d imagined her showing up with an entourage, all glammed up, but she’s in her gym gear, sans makeup: solo. I extend my hand to introduce myself; she goes in for a hug. There are no airs and graces with Anele, which makes me feel at ease as we make our way to a more intimate space. We arrive at a cosy room, overlooking the Gautrain station. Cognisant I’ll be flying back to Cape Town in a few hours, we get straight to it.

The A in team

Anele’s husky voice is a regular feature in the lives of 94.7 listeners who wake up to her fun conversations, laughs and playful banter. “I have the best radio team in the world, and I say this because I listen to a lot of radio,” she says. Anele’s quick wit and humour add a refreshing dynamic to the Breakfast Club, also hosted by Thembekile Mrototo, Frankie du Toit, Alex Caige and Cindy Poluta. With their vibrant personalities combined, they’re known for causing pandemonium, as motorists tuned into the frequency can be seen jamming to their favourite tunes, nodding and laughing hysterically. “One thing I love about radio is that it doesn’t have superstars, but it can make you a superstar. So you have to be ordinary; once you stop being every day, you’ve lost your audience.” Perhaps it’s her easy-going nature that often encourages fans to approach her on the streets as if she’s an old friend. “That always happens to me. I suppose it’s because my demeanour is friendly. I don’t think a fan would approach Naomi Campbell like that, but they would approach Ellen like that because that’s what we give off.”

The makings of a Queen

Anele has a candid nature that gives off an older-sister vibe, except she’s the third-born of four girls. I try to imagine what it was like growing up in an all-girl family. Was there drama? “Not at all because we’re all so different: Unathi was a tomboy, Thembisa has always been dainty, and Zama is more bohemian. I’m a hybrid of tomboy and lady-like.” I’m surprised to learn that Anele also has a younger brother, Lulo. “He’s 12, and people don’t know about him because he’s not from my mom, but we’re all close.”

I’m in awe of how she moves so seamlessly between different roles, and I’m wondering what this speaks to. “I grew up in a house where there were boundaries when it came to safety and no boundaries when it came to growth. My parents encouraged us to try everything.” Some of Anele’s fondest childhood memories growing up in Umtata are of the music of Brooke Benton, Aretha Franklin, Hugh Masekela and Letta Mbulu, “and my parents were obsessed with TKZee”. Her love for music can be traced back to her roots, and she recalls the scent of home with nostalgia. “It was baked bread, fried eggs, Viennas and chicken innards.”

Anele, who lost her mom to pancreatic cancer 12 years ago, says she misses her a lot since becoming a mom herself to Alakhe, who is now four. “Motherhood has altered my perspective on life, and a lot of things make sense in retrospect. I understand why my mom was so protective and why she insisted on cooking for us. It was her way of showing love, and as a result, it’s how I express my love.” She also attributes her wit and humour to the relationship she shared with her mom, “I was scared of her because she kept us in check, but I was mouthy with her, which she loved because she knew she was shaping my character.”

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December 2019