A tÍte-ŗ-tÍte with the irrepressible Kuli Roberts
by Naledi Mokgwathi
Kuli Roberts is probably the most controversial entertainment reporter in South Africa. She has been on radio, TV and print and her TV gossip show, Mzansi Headline, is the number one show on TV today. Naledi Mokgwathi recently caught up with her to find out what goes on behind the mind of the most talked about reporter in South Africa---writer of the column Bitch Brew, and to discover how she handles being discriminated against for her controversial opinions. She also talks about the controversial article she wrote about Coloured People. The one that got her fired from Sunday World.
NM: Hello Ms. Roberts. Thank you very much for the interview.
KR: No problem, sweetheart.
NM: So how do you manage to tackle your busy life and Twitter at the same time?
KR: I hate being bored so when I am on twitter I will also be busy writing, taking care of my household duties and taking care of my other things. I never do one thing at a time. I always multi-task.
NM: Do you ever tweet when you are in a meeting?
KR: Yes, when Iím bored in the meeting.
NM: But doesnít that ever get you into trouble?
KR: If a meeting is boring, itís boring so I tweet about the people in the meeting. And the responses keep me entertained. They are funny.
NM: Twitter has done a lot for people like Kelly Oxford and Justin Halpern. Do you think climbing the ladder would have been easier had Twitter been around back when you started?
KR: Twitter has helped a lot of people. Like the other day, there was a young girl who needed help with getting books and I helped her get two hundred books from someone I know. Even though I donít think Twitter would have helped me, I think itís great because itís helping me help other people right now. And people donít like negative people. If you are on Twitter and you are negative, people will not respond well to that.
NM: When you did you start your journalism career? And how hard was it to break into the industry?
KR: I started in 1995. It wasnít hard at all because I always had a big mouth. And I studied Politics and History so that helped me a lot.
NM: Does the struggle ever stop?
KR: It doesnít stop because I am always working. My work is my life. I am always on my iPad or cellphone and laptop. I am always watching something on my iPad or phone. I was at my friendís house the other day and I took some antique pictures. So I am always working, and the great thing is that you donít need an office in 2012.
NM: Letís talk about your career in print, where it all started. When you started was there ever a time you were afraid to write an article for fear of being hated?
KR: No, because I have always been hated and discriminated against so I never hesitated to write anything. I get hate-mail every single day.
NM: How do you deal with the hate?
KR: I ignore. But sometimes the hate helps me because it gives me ideas for more columns.
NM: When you are a reporter you can make a lot of enemies who will be quick to close the door in your face and blacklist you. How did you make sure that never happens?
KR: I canít make sure. I just have to make sure that when I deal with someone I do it as politely as possible.
NM: When you approach people about an idea for a show/an event or anything donít they just want to throw you out because of the column you wrote about Coloured People?
KR: They donít say anything to my face.
NM: A lot of people would have never thought youíd get into trouble for the column since your children are coloured. Did you imagine you would get into trouble when you wrote the article?
KR: I always get into trouble for all my columns. Itís just that this one was a national issue.
NM: Did the controversial column affect your career? If so how?
KR: It hasnít affected me in anyway. Iím too fabulous.
NM: Moving on to radio. You once worked with Botswanaís hero, Dj Fresh, on radio. How was it working with the big man himself?
KR: Heís a puppy. He is fine. He is very sweet and very passionate. Heís also very big. He loves his wife, thatís all he ever talks about.
NM: Youíve been on print, radio and TV. How did you manage to move from one to the other and then the other?
KR: I have never moved from one to the other. I always do them all at the same time.
NM: Which one is more orgasmic? Radio or Print or Television?
KR: Each one of them has its audience. Itís always great to have different forms of media. Each one of them has a way of communicating with the audience. I love them all equally.
NM: Since we have already started talking about television. You have a television career, Angelina Jolie, Keira Knightly and Natalie Portman--you know all the Hollywood-ians would kill foróhow did you get that far?
KR: Iíve always been celebrity oriented. It is the relationships I have with these people that helps. Iíve known them a long time. People always think I am in trouble with celebrities but thatís not the case.
NM: Please tell us what running a weekly show, like Mzansi Headline, entails.
KR: It entails knowing what happens in celebritiesí life. Always getting the facts right and you must make sure that you can always prove your facts.
NM: How do you manage to keep it fresh? You know, every line is a punch line on that show.
KR: I was raised by my grandmother so I guess I took it from her. And you know when you are growing up with many cousins and they bully you, you learn to defend yourself. I am small so I had to learn to speak up for myself.
NM: Do you ever want to quit it all?
KR: No, itís my life. Itís what I am.
NM: What advice can you give some of the aspiring journalists out there?
KR: Get out there, be yourself, and donít try to befriend celebrities. They are not your friends. If you are writing about them it will be hard to do so when you are friends. You have to keep the relationship professional. Just because you see a comedian on TV does not mean that comedian is your friend. And they must not accept bribes.
NM: How harder is it for females to be in the industry? Do you ever get a pat or two on the a$$?
KR: I have never been sexually harassed because Iíd bite someoneís head off. I have a big-mouth thatís why people hate me. I set the boundaries.
NM: Before you made it, what are some of the things you told yourself to keep on going?
KR: I just had to go out there and do it. I just had to.
NM: Botswanaís media and entertainment is still in its infancy. What do you think Batswana can do to make/help it grow?
KR: I think artists need to be paid accordingly. Firms should let local artists endorse products and they should localize their brands. They should use more black faces on international brands. And the celebrities must be groomed.
NM: You have the means to have your children raised by nannies. How do you make sure that never happens?
KR: I work from home. I just had to adjust my lifestyle.
NM: Every mother has big dreams for their children. What do you want for your childrenís future?
KR: Happiness and kindness.
NM: Roberts or Rant?
KR: Itís Roberts. They made a mistake when we went on air. The rant meant the rant as in Kuli rants.
NM: Please tell us more about your charity, Sparrow Orphanage.
KR: Itís in Johannesburg. I have been supporting them for a couple of years now.
NM: What inspired you to start it?
I wanted to have a baby but I couldnít. I already have two children though.
NM: What projects are you currently working on?
KR: My jewellery range. I have also been taking some acting lessons and I want to get into that---acting. I am also working on other big projects with my friends. But the one thing I want to be the best at, is being the best mom.