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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist

Onezwa Mbola: “It’s not recipes that I’m talking about; it’s a pattern of stealing ideas”

SA chef and content creator Onezwa Mbola has accused US-based content creator Nara Smith of duplicating her ideas.

South African chef and content creator Onezwa Mbola has accused US-based content creator Nara Smith of stealing her ideas, as the former has recreated a handful of dishes that are strangely similar to Mbola’s.

Without naming Smith, last week Mbola posted a video of herself in her Instagram reels explaining how Smith has been stealing her content ideas and posting them as hers and how that has left her heartbroken.

“I specifically mentioned that I’m not the first person to do anything and I understand that. It is not recipes that I’m talking about, it is a pattern of stealing ideas,” Mbola told The Citizen.

“I’m literally making recipes so that people can recreate them. That’s fine. But the issue is not recreating recipes, it’s literally duplicating my content, my content style and then profiting from it without crediting me.”

According to the former MasterChef SA contestant, she first noticed the alleged stealing of her content late last year but didn’t say much but last week’s videos were prompted after she had made her own version of a boba tea which Smith also made a day later.

“When I started content creation it was and has never about the money because I don’t reach out to brands, I’ve only recently started collaborating with brands,” said the former marine navigator.

“It took me a very long time to collaborate with brands because also, I’m very particular about my own brand.”

Smith is a Lesotho-German fashion model who was born in Bloemfontein.

The Citizen reached out to Smith for comment but hadn’t responded in the deadline she was given to respond. Her comment will be added should she respond.

“South Africa’s Nara Smith”

“I wasn’t posting frequently on TikTok until about last year towards the end and a lot of people would come and comment on my videos and would tag Nara or call me ‘South Africa’s Nara Smith’,” Mbola said.

Mbola admits that she used to follow Smith on socials at the time and said she didn’t see the similarities between her content and Smith’s, that people were pointing out.  

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But after some time she started to notice a trend where, whenever she would prepare a dish, a few days later Smith would make a similar dish, but in her own way.

“These were minor things, it wasn’t something significant,” averred Mbola.

The Eastern Cape-based creator spoke to a friend about these ‘insignificant’ similarities who advised her to keep an eye on Smith’s content before accusing her.

“It kind of became a running joke; we’d wait how long she created something similar.”

Mbola then began creating Asian cuisine that she knew Smith isn’t good at making.

“As a result it [duplicating] died down. I then changed my content style to make more Asian food and making more seafood just to do things that I know she’s not going to be able to do.”

For a while the alleged duplication stopped and early this year Mbola went back to experimenting with other foods, outside of Asian.  “And then again, she started doing it again,” Mbola shared.

“I’m like, there is too much of a pattern here, but I’m not going to say anything [to her].”

Mbola posted a video in February where she addressed the numerous people who are always commenting on her posts and refer to her as South Africa’s Nara Smith.

Out of her own will without being tagged by Mbola in the video, the South African-born Smith commented on the said video to sympathise with Mbola.

“At this point I’m thinking she has seen this and she’s going to stop doing it, but she doesn’t.”

Immediately after that Mbola then went to make cream cheese and in less than 48 hours, Smith did her own version of cream cheese.

@onezwambola How to make mozzarella, the easy way #recipe #southafrica #fyp #cooking #rurallife #mozzarella #farmlife ♬ La vie en rose (Cover Edith Piaf) – 田东昱

“I was like no way…so that happened but it was like minor things and I think that was the most challenging thins, it’s such minor things and it’s hard to point them out.”

@naraazizasmith couldn’t stop craving this🫶🏽 #homecooking #lasagne #comfortfood #fypシ #mealideas #recipes ♬ original sound – Nara Smith

The tea copycat

After Mbola shared her version of the boba tea, someone commented on the post and a few minutes later stated: “let’s see how long it will take that one big creator to recreate this.”

Mbola didn’t respond to that comment, but was taken aback that people are also aware of what’s happing with her content in relation to Smith.

@onezwambola • Guava Boba : guava leaf tea, guava infused goats milk • goats cheese, mushroom and spinach galette 💚🤌🏾 #fyp #rurallife #farmlife #ezilalini #southafrica #dayinmylife #viral ♬ original sound – Onezwa Mbola

As predicted, Smith made her own boba tea in less than 24 hours since Mbola’s. “I didn’t even see her video because I don’t follow her; I had her blocked when she started doing this.”

The person who predicted Smith’s copying of the tea came back to quip in the comments section writing: “Oh I’m a prophet, she’s already made a boba tea.”

@naraazizasmith what’s your drink order? #easyrecipes #homecooking #fypツ #drink #boba #cravings ♬ Just Give Me One More Day – Alej

“Lo and behold, she’s made boba. At this point I’m very frustrated to the point where I’m like, you know what, I can’t do this anymore.”

Mbola vented to a friend and decided to take a break from content creation.

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Backlash aimed at Mbola

Mbola has received backlash for standing up for herself.

“If someone was selling your music or making the same exact music as you and passing it off as theirs, everybody would understand why you’re upset. But because it’s content creation everybody it becomes a matter of ‘oh you’re jealous because they’re making money off it.”

Some of the comments aimed at her are that she’s delusional because “why would a rich woman in the States with a husband, a family and beautiful kids be hating on me living in rural South Africa milking goats,” shared Mbola bursting into laughter.

The mother of one believes that since so many people are aware of what’s happening, this will prompt Smith to stop duplicating her content. “I’m hoping shame will stop her,” said Mbola laughing.

“I don’t know if she’s going to stop with other creators because a lot of other people have said that she’s been stealing from so and so. I’m not the only person she’s been doing this too.”

She confirmed that she will continue creating and posting her content on both TikTok and Instagram.

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