This South African production is currently trending globally on Netflix and on social media for some controversial reasons. I binge watched Season 1 this past Saturday and then scrolled on social media to read how North Americans of African origin are basically hating on Khanyi Mbau. South Africans are currently in a Twitter war with America in defence of Ms Mbau, who despite her notorious behaviour as a singer and socialite, is being defended by South Africans.
The troll takeaways from this show seem to be Khanyi’s wigs and the obvious skin lightening where she has completely changed her skin tone and physical appearance. In my last article I raised issues on colourism in South Africa’s Tamil and Indian community. This is a reality across Africa. In my view, there are bigger things to takeaway from this show. Here are ten reasons why I think people should appreciate Young, Famous and African.
1. Africa, and South Africa has moved so far from the legacy of colonialism that we now have brown people who are breaking ceilings to sit on rooftops of skyscrapers sipping Moet in the richest square mile of the continent, Sandton.
2. Africa was once the place where slaves were taken from or brought to for centuries. This show gives slavery the middle finger as black Africans from Nigeria to Tanzania and South Africa are flying in private jets and buying luxury cars just because they can.
3. The show is all about talented Africans. Khanyi Mbau is a South African musician. Diamond Platnumz is a Tanzanian singer, songwriter and producer. Nadia Nakai has Zimbabwean roots and is a rapper. Annie Macaulay is a Nigerian actress and businesswoman. Zari Hassan is an entrepreneur, and the much-loved Swanky is a talented fashion designer. What is not to love about hard-working people who are building their own brands!
4. Yes, colourism is an issue in African society. In South Africa’s Indian and Tamil communities, we have our own skin lightened celebrities. One that comes to mind is Sorisha Naidoo, a featured personality on the Real Housewives of Durban, and who’s married to the much older and politically connected Vivian Reddy. The bottom line is that people have free will and so choose to do to their bodies what they will. Our opinions and hating will not solve their body image issues. No matter what our opinions are on skin lightening, from Khanyi Mbau to Sorisha Naidoo, they are happy and living their best lives. Who are we to judge?!
5. South Africans will defend our own. We recently defended Trevor Noah and almost cancelled Kanye West for his rants till our beloved Trevor told us that Ye has mental health issues and cancel culture is not going to help him. South Africans will also defend Khanyi – wigs or no wigs.
6. Khanyi is a drama queen who loves a scandal. She has the thickest skin for someone who has been bleached to thinness, and it is very likely that she is loving all the attention from the haters. We need to learn a thing or two from her. She sees what she wants, goes after it, and makes champagne out of muddy water. And she has got one hell of a singing voice.
7. The locations of most of the scenes for Young, Famous and African were filmed Johannesburg’s crème de la crème hotels: The Palazzo Hotel, Sky Hotel Sandton, 54 on Bath, Southern Sun Hyde Park and The Radisson Sandton. The famous Sun City was also featured, and so was the luxurious Blue Train. For North Americans wanting to live the life of luxury, South Africa’s rate of exchange is quite favourable at ZAR14,50 to USD1.00. The time to visit the Motherland is NOW.
8. Regular South Africans do not live in such luxury but even I, as a mere mortal have visited all those hotels and enjoy all that the beautful City of Johannesburg has to offer us. There are no lions roaming on our streets. Our highways are the best on the African continent. Our food is as diverse as our languages and our skin tones.
9. Hair is a sensitive issue for South Africans. During the days of apartheid, there was something called ‘The Pencil Test’ where a person of colour was race classified according to whether the pencil fell through their hair or stayed put. As most of the world knows, those of colour were not provided the same privileges as whites. The wig wearing Africans have their own reasons for adorning themselves that allow for freedom of expression and also to give them a sense of identity that they decide rather than one decided for them. In short, leave Khanyi’s wigs alone.
The jury is out and most who have watched Young, Famous and African are looking forward to Season 2. It is ostentatious but it is also a true reflection of African society. It shows how people of colour are getting closer to uplifting their social class and statuses to the point where the world can stop seeing us as starving and destitute. Despite the complexity of African politics, there is something to be grateful for that people can still enjoy life and enjoy their diversity together. It is also quite humbling to know that rich people also fight, get jealous and experience heartbreak like every other mortal on earth. The only noticeable difference is that the drama comes from African people and not the Kardashians.
Watch it. You will not regret the drama.