October 2017 marks my ten years in the TV industry and I am not only amazed but I am also deeply grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. Looking back, when I started in 2007, I waltzed into this industry with nothing but a diploma and a dream, and today I stand tall, this ten-year journey has helped me to find my true self. I now realize that I am so much more than I ever thought I could be. This industry has taught me so much about identity. When I started, all I really knew or understood about myself was what my parents told me— their truth was mine. But I learnt over the years that I had to find my own truth, I had to do the tough task of discovering for myself who I truly am. I have had the privilege and honor of traveling and fully exploring my beautiful country, South Africa. Oh the amazing adventures we have had on the road! From the sweet sea breeze in KwaZulu-Natal to the scotching hot Limpopo; from the beautiful Mpumalanga to the scenic Western Cape! This work has afforded me opportunities to travel abroad and be exposed to how other young people think, how other nations live and how other countries are run. This job has opened doors for me, a young black female, to stand on platforms and share my story and inspire others. This work has also given me so much joy—I think of times when I watched my ideas come to life and become a full blown show! I mean, TV producers will tell you what an exhilarating feeling it is to see your idea (your brain child) morph into a conversation that millions of people engage in—there’s nothing like it! I also think of times when we told people’s stories and celebrated them while they are still alive—there was a period of 6 years when I produced a show called Mzansi Legends and on a weekly basis we had legends of South African football shedding tears in our studio as we celebrated their contribution to this country. Off air, when we went for a quick ad break, we’d be handing out tissues and just by the aura in the room, each of us would know that we were part of something great! I also think of times when we’d break sports news all the time on Back Pages, a Monday show I also produced for several years, and our tag line then was, “We make the back page, the new front page!” But most importantly, my greatest joy in this work has been the people around me. I have learnt a great deal from every single person throughout this journey.
With that said, this industry has not been all fun and games, it has been tough. I have missed many birthdays, many family occasions and broken many promises because of work commitments (if you know anything about live TV, you’ll know everything is urgent here). I have felt incredibly alone and struggled to find someone who can relate to what this media life is like. I have seen the disappointment on my loved ones’ faces as I worked hard with nothing to show for it. I have slept on the floor, I’ve gone to bed without food, and I’ve and walked 8 kilometers to work. I have left the office after midnight and been in studio early in the morning or made it to the airport on time for the flight to yet another destination. I have known betrayal, and I have seen people take credit for work they didn’t do. I’ve had people whom I thought were friends turn against me, I’ve had people talk down at me, I’ve also felt what it’s like to not be liked, and there’ve been times when I’ve been under-looked and underrated. I have questioned my worth and my contribution. I have had moments when I’ve asked myself if this is really where I should be. I have had a moment when I ran to the bathroom just to have a good cry. I have been asked, “Who do you think you are?” I have been told that this industry has no room for me. I have felt the dirty stares of people who deemed me as unimportant. I have had moments when I have been shocked, embarrassed or simply amused at the rumors I’ve heard about myself. I have experienced what it’s like for someone to refuse to acknowledge my presence in the room. I’ve felt what it’s like to not be “one of the boys” and shocked to discover that I don’t fit it with the girls either. I’ve been accused of being too harsh, too friendly, too confident, too soft or simply “too much”. I have had a taste of what it’s like to be marginalized because of my race, my gender, my age and my personality. I have known what it’s like to hit rock bottom and want to quit. I know what it’s like to want people to see your work while they are stuck on what you look like. But in the midst of it all, I have always believed that my life has meaning. I might not always know for sure where my life is headed, but I do not doubt that my life serves a purpose greater than myself. And even on my worst days, I carry this truth with me, and nobody can take it from me. Everything I have endured has taught me that I have a responsibility to protect my calling, my thoughts and my voice from noise, chaos and confusion.
I have learnt to daily work towards what is true to me, as opposed to trying to prove people wrong about who I am. I have learnt that it’s okay for other people to be wrong about their idea of me, as long as I am true to myself. I have learnt that I don’t have to look at myself through other people’s broken perspectives of me— my role on earth isn’t to right that wrong, and focusing on what they think, what they say and what they see in me drains all the energy I need to run my race. These 10 years have taught me that who I am is beautiful, powerful, strong, and sometimes intimidating (hence we are misunderstood sometimes but I need not apologize for that). I am a young, opinionated and black female, and I am exactly where I need to be, and if that’s “too much” for some people, then they have to deal with it. I am the the right color, right gender and the right age to run my race and I will continue to make strides in the media industry and beyond. I no longer apologize because my voice is too loud, my personality is too bubbly, my smile is too big, my opinions are too frank, my heels are (always) too high and quite frankly, I am too much for anyone who thinks I need to tone down.
I embrace who I am whole-heartedly. I am Nono Cele.
Love and light,
Tweet Me: @Nono_Cele