Adriaan Roets
2 minute read
11 Feb 2015
6:55 pm

On a roll at Idols

Adriaan Roets

The 11th season of Idols South Africa might feature a drag queen, but the show is not dragging on.

FILE PICTURE: Vincent Bones performs during the finale of Idols SA on November 23, 2014 at Carnival City in Johannesburg, South Africa. Vincent Bones was crowned Idols SA season 10's winner. (Photo by Gallo Images / Daily Sun / Trevor Kunene)

The Citizen got an exclusive behind-the-scenes peek at the first audition round of the new season in Pretoria. It also happened to be new judge Somizi’s first day judging. If anybody was under the impression the singing competition was getting stale and dated, he’s the guy who will silence the naysayers.

Somizi seemed extremely fair, and one of the people who noticed how new show hopefuls portrayed themselves on the spot and complementing nervous dreamers aiming to win a golden ticket to the next round every time he opens his mouth.

But he brings his over-the-top humour and smug observation too, which, will have people on the edge of their seats. He’s sassy and sweet – and the choreography diva seems to have a terrific dynamic going with Unathi Msengana, returning Idols judge.

They counterbalance the corporate gloom of Randall Abrahams and the usual repertoire of Gareth Cliff, who often jumps between nice and rude.

The contestants have also changed. In a South African first, a drag queen won a golden ticket. Shenay O’Brien is the statuesque creation of actor Thiart Li.

Li said he had auditioned for two consecutive years as himself and couldn’t crack the top 100.

As a result this year, he decided to audition as his alter ego, Shenay.

Dressed in a Meghan Trainor-ish pastel blue empire waist skirt, Shenay bared all in front of the judges with a big voice. Gareth, Somizi and Unathi were impressed and voted for O’Brien to go to the next round. Randall was unimpressed.

O’Brien’s not surprised she got through to the next round. “I can definitely give the girls a run for their money,” she chirped.

Li said he was doing it for the disenfranchised, and said Shenay’s inclusion showed definite steps toward more tolerance of different sexual orientations.

On the morning of her audition, Shenay took all of 30 minutes to get ready, including make-up and her coif.

“She knows when it’s time to go and sparkle,” Li says.

Perhaps it also helps that larger-than-life representations of South Africa are included in the show. From diva-ish Somizi to ruthless Randall, season 11 is building up to be exciting.

In total, the capital city earned 19 golden tickets at the first auditions for the new Idols SA – meaning there are 81 tickets left up for grabs in the next round of the competition.