The phrase, which refers to a person who is simply dedicated to doing their job whether they like it or not, was made popular in early Nineties sitcom Sgudi Snaysi.
In that show, a debt collector named Laqasha used to break people’s knees if they did not pay what they owed, even if he was related to them. When they pleaded with him not to take such action because they were family, he would say, “I’m just doing my job.”
In present-day South Africa, the phrase refers to discontentment in one’s job when circumstances force you to stay there.
For Yolwa, television presenting is, in many ways, an extension of her character, as it feeds into her chatty nature. She has recently landed a job on SABC1’s Real Goboza (RGB) replacing Pearl Thusi and adding to her status as South Africa’s new “it girl” an expression that baffles her despite her appreciation of the allure that comes from being in the spotlight.
“I don’t even know what an ‘it girl’ is. I just smile and nod,” Yolwa says.
“Isn’t everybody an ‘it girl’? If there is a young girl on our screens, suddenly they are an ‘it girl’, Bonang Matheba, Minnie Dlamini, Pearl Thusi, Boity Thulo, Nomzamo Mbatha they have all been called by that title. It seems to me that being a young woman in this industry will automatically earn you that reference.
I don’t take it to heart, because at the end of the day we are pedalling for our lives as freelancers and tomorrow people can decide that you are no longer ‘it’. It is a very fickle industry and I admire people who are still in it after a long time. I have been here for two or three years and am still trying to leave a mark.”
The realities of the industry are two-pronged and while Yolwa is conscious of her hype, she embraces it with downbeat perspective. She has been in the “vanity industry” for a while, plying her trade as a model before venturing into presenting. Her first television opportunity was with lifestyle and entertainment show The A-List while she was pursuing a qualification in accounting.
“After doing the The A-List, I realised that this is what I wanted to do and I didn’t even know I was looking for it until it came and found me,” recalls Yolwa.
“It was different from my day-to-day life as an accounting student and my modelling work because television was really exciting. After doing the show, normal life could not cut it anymore and I was bitten by the spotlight bug.”
Yolwa also has a So You Think You Can Dance credit under her belt and is a co-host/voice over artist on The Link with Lerato Kganyago. She writes her own script on The Link, which gives viewers more insight into her personality and sense of humour when dissecting celebrity news.
She seems a genuine soul in an industry which easily bestows the term “celebrity” on anyone who appears on a television screen. Yolwa is astute enough not to have an exaggerated sense of self importance, yet believes that the “celebrity” tag should remain intact and is worth celebrating.
“When I’m in studio shooting RGB, I’m an employee. When I’m invited to a launch, I’m a guest, and I’m networking. But this celebrity thing is not my life; it’s just something that comes with being in the spotlight,” she reasons.
“People used to celebrate Hollywood actors or musicians, but now people are celebrating reality stars and socialites. These days, we are celebrating beautiful people, and that’s not such a bad thing – it’s just that we’ve changed who we choose to celebrate.”
Originally from Cape Town, Yolwa has found Johannesburg to be the perfect tonic. She has kept busy and in keeping with the nature of Jozi, ventured into business as well. She owns a clothing label called Purfect 8 that specialises in leggings, tops and accessories for the modern young woman.
“I realised that if I am to have more than one mortgage one day, I have to be my own boss,” she says.
“I hope to have a production company one day and be an executive producer in addition to my fashion venture. Cape Town is dear to me because it is the place where I came into my own and became the person that I am today there, but Joburg feels like a lot is possible and that a lot can be done in terms of business. Joburg is exciting: it is like a new love affair, because you don’t know what to expect on each passing day.”