Genevieve Vieira
3 minute read
16 Oct 2013
6:00 am

Loathed and loved Unathi

Genevieve Vieira

Fitting into Unathi Msengana's schedule can be challenging. A radio host, Idols SA judge, wife, mother of two and singer, this ambitious young star has more than enough on her plate.

How does she do it? “How do I not, with such incredible opportunities?” she says. “It’s not as overwhelming as it may sound. I’m on air until nine in the morning, so I’m done with that day job and that’s when everybody else usually gets to work. I have the rest of my day to do everything else.

“Idols is only 10 months of the year. So we get busy pockets and then we get months of rest. It’s literally just mapping out my diary and making sure that I’m not neglecting any one thing.”

“Family comes first,” she says. “I pick my son up from school every day. I get to watch his soccer and cricket matches. I really just try to be as normal as possible for him. It’s a lot of planning and organising but it allows me to be more present. I call it organised pandemonium.”

For someone who is always in the public eye, you’d expect Msengana to be dolled up make-up done, stylish outfit,the works. But she arrives in simple cotton dungarees, with herhair tied up, andnot a stitch of make-up, yet still as beautiful as ever.

“I find that when we go out, people are like ‘Oh my gosh, you’re so casual’ and they all dressed up,” Msengana laughs. “I have to explain that for me it’s the reserve. My work demands that I splash out, but I just want to be in shorts and T-shirt. I want a pair of sneakers with no jewellery, no make-up, nothing.”

unathi msengana

She confesses: “When I first got appointed to Idols, I had to learn that there was a lot expected of me in the way I look because of the things that were being said about J-Lo [the American Idols judge at the time]. When I perform, it’s part of the attraction because people aren’t just there to listen to you sing, they want to see you perform as well. I enjoy dressing up and being a lady but it’s not the natural me.”

With three studio albums to her name, Msengana recently released her first live DVD, capturing an intimate concert at the Boardwalk ICC in Port Elizabeth. When asked about the purpose behind the DVD, Msengana says: “I just wanted to show how through the different rights of passages as a women, I’ve evolved as a musician.

“I’m very guarded and private when it comes to my personal life and my family. We don’t do shoots together and we don’t do interviews together but when I’m onstage I talk about my heartache. I talk about all the kind of things that make us vulnerable as women, because I’ve learnt that people find healing through music.

“I know that as musicians that I can articulate emotions that I couldn’t elsewhere. I’ve since come to understand that people expect that of me.

“I also find that when you put yourself on a pedestal, you are going to fall. I’d rather be real and have you judge me for my weaknesses. That way we can relate to each other as people.”

Constantly surrounded by technology and working with sound, Msengana admits, “I love the silence. If I constantly have the radio on I can’t hear that beautiful bird that’s tweeting in the tree next to us. I can’t hear the sound of the cars and the aeroplane above us.

“That’s what intrigues me and that’s what I love.”