Who is Mandlenkosi?

I am a fighter that falls and gets up with a smile each time; a dreamer who’s full of colourful imagination. Above all I love to define myself as the embodiment of the belief that your background or past must not define you.

I believe in hard work. I grew up around my grandparents; my grandfather named me and told me my name holds power and blessings. I grew up in a house full of love and strong women: my mom and grandma who taught me resilience.

As a young writer, how did you fall in love with writing? 

I fell in love with writing when I was in grade 5. I am a person who has always been busy with books either reading or colouring, and so one-day I stumbled across boredom and penned down a short story, and ever since then I’ve been writing. But now my writing has grown into a sacred space where I unleash all the skeletons in my closet and dish the dirty laundry in my mind. It’s become an escape from many things. 

The thing that I value most about writing though is that writing is very powerful; it can shape the view of society; it can spark conversations, and encourage people at their lowest. It also comforts me when I’m at my lowest and gives me a purpose to live.

Let’s talk radio host, how did that come about? What do you enjoy the most about it?

I’ve always wanted to be on radio; all I wanted was to speak and play music while touching someone’s life. I went for an interview at my local station, Hillbrow Radio –  and did a mini radio link and had a tour of the broadcasting booth – I loved it. The following week I was called in to co-host a show for someone who was absent. The station manager loved my voice and she invited me to a radio summit. I got a slot – the rest is history. I now get to play on air every Sunday morning like the world belongs to me. What I enjoy the most is I get to educate people while entertaining them.

As a member of the LGBTQI+ community, how do you use your platform to influence positive change towards the perception of the community?

I make sure to incorporate our stories and struggles as the LGBTQI+ community, so that people are aware of and familiar with us. I want to contribute towards educating people so that the hate and brutal attacks on LGBTQI+ members can end. I write about queer people who go through every struggle in life, as any other person would. This is to show that we’re normal human beings who live life the same way ‘straight’ people do, so that when people see a member of the LGBTQI+ community they see a normal member of society and embrace them. I also use my writing to celebrate queer people that do great things in our communities, for our communities.

You’re a grade 12 learner, writer and radio host, how do you balance everything?

Yoh, balancing things becomes tough at times, but I plan out everything. I do my tasks early and study late at night. I usually write on Friday and Saturday evenings and on Sunday mornings it’s radio. It’s hectic, but I enjoy it. It takes my mind off a lot of things and saves me from unwanted drama and stress.

Being so young and so full of potential, how do you keep yourself grounded?

Honestly, it is difficult to keep myself grounded. I pray about it and try not to view myself as a ‘celebrity’. Also, I protect my personal space to keep the potential there alive.

What is the best part of your life? What would be your message to other young people who would love to be in your position, or are aspiring to something?

The best part of my life is that I’m blessed with talents that I’m able to realise and utilise at a young age. It’s waking up every day and discovering something interesting about myself or the world and the tests that life puts me through; they are moulding me into a fine piece of art. 

My advice to younger people who would love to be in my position or aspire to be something is that they must understand that everything happens for a reason. God’s timing is always perfect. Work hard. Obviously you will fall along the way, but visualise success and keep reaching for it.

If you liked reading this, you may enjoy Meet Thobeka Zulu here

Tell us: Have you heard Mandlenkosi’s show on Sunday mornings?