Netflix’s Young, Famous and African, which premièred on Friday, March 18, seems to be rubbing people up in all the right places.
Africa’s first reality show of its kind, it is showing the world that this continent is in fact an international competitor when it comes to our extremely fabulous and lucrative entertainment industry.
Among the first season’s cast were musician Diamond Platnumz from Tanzania and his ex, Zarinah Hassan (also known as “the Boss Lady”), as well as Annie Idibia and her husband, 2Baba (2Face, real name Innocent Ujah Idibia, whom we might remember for hit singles such as Nfana Ibaga and We Must Groove). Musician, actress and diva Khanyi Mbau joined the cast, along with her love interest, Zimbabwean millionaire Kudzai Mushonga, rapper Nadia Nakai, Metro FM’s Naked DJ (Quinton Masina) and his partner, model Kayleigh Schwark, TV personality Andile Ncube and fashionisto extraordinaire Swankyjerry (Jeremiah Ogbodo).
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If you haven’t had the chance to feast your eyes on Young, Famous and African, here is what you need to know:
Location and scenery
It is definitely a show that will keep you engaged and entertained. The South African reality show archetype is primarily based on lavish lunches and dinners, where the cast gathers to engage in pointless activities. This can become rather monotonous. Young, Famous and African, however, gives viewers a different kind of treat, including iconic venues and experiences such as the Palazzo Hotel at Montecasino, Summer Place in Hyde Park and the iconic Blue Train trip, a 1 600km journey from Pretoria to Cape Town undertaken by the cast members that included not only safari rides and amazing scenery (some of it shot from bird’s-eye camera angles), but heated arguments. All of this made for very enjoyable viewing.
Dressed to kill
It seems the entire cast got the memo when it came to showing up with unique fashion sense, particularly the inimitable Swankyjerry, who flaunted his good looks and eccentric style, and the Idibias, who stole the show at a very special event.
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Thankfully, the rest of the cast did not disappoint either and finally we have a proudly African show which features some of our continent’s most innovative and futuristic designs – a true measure of where fashion in Africa might be going.
Drama, drama, drama
Before sex, drama is always a drawcard. However, this element of the show felt a little forced. It seemed whichever meetup the cast attended, they tried too hard to be memorable and create over-elaborate scenarios. This made the show occasionally hard to watch and its pace monotonous.
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The drama was fuelled by one cast member who became a clear target for the rest as the season progressed. Every show needs a villain and it seemed that Zarinah “the Boss Lady” Hassan was prepared to take on that role.
Love was in the air
Young, Famous and African did a brilliant job of adding an extra element of romance, which seemed to play a big role in the way the season was curated and threw me for a definite loop. While we often get surface-level information on the inner workings of love and fame, this time audiences had a deeper view of new romances and rivalries flaring up between cast members, causing dynamics of friendships to shift. Of course, we also learnt that Prince Charming Innocent Idibia was not as innocent as his name, when his wife Annie dropped a bombshell bomb by declaring that her first child with him was his fifth, even though the two had never separated throughout their 12-year relationship.
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We also got a more in-depth look into Khanyi Mbau’s relationship with her mystery man Kudzai Mushonga, after the Dubai débâcle, where it was alleged that she had left him boyfriend high and dry during a romantic getaway.
Overall, Young, Famous and African is definitely a step in the right direction and shows African talent from a new and a fresh perspective that is mercifully free of the narratives of Africa which are told internationally. This also means that global audiences have the opportunity to understand Africa for what it is, rather than digesting what the media would have them believe.
This reality show formula is not new to the reality TV circuit, but is definitely a new venture for Africa. Leaving audiences on the ultimate cliff-hanger seemed to be the best way to end the first season and there is no doubt that viewers will be eagerly awaiting the second one.