Mabel Mabaso exudes the charisma, elegance and confidence of one who has lived many years, been there, done it all.
The face of Good Morning Africa and director of PR TV, South Africa’s latest sensation, Mabaso appears unfazed by nothing as she sits for the interview with a natural smile on her face.
I marvel at this larger-than-life personality sitting across from me as I learn that she is just 25 years old. The evidence seems to the contrary.
“It took a lot for me to be content with myself. I used to be very conscious of how I look. Take the colour of my skin ÔÇô see my mom is very light, so are my brothers,” she says.
“But I came out looking like my father. He is dark with a big nose. You will notice the shape of head and it looks like I have an Asian head. The back of my head is flat. And the front of my head is flat.”
Mabaso adds: “Black people generally have beautifully shaped heads. Their heads are shaped like their bodies. They are just carved beautifully, so I could never hold a ponytail and I could never do cornrows. And now for the first time I am actually happy with the funny shape of my head and my nose. And I like the shape of my nose and I love the colour of my skin. I love the gap in my teeth. The gap I have always been teased about and now, I know that everybody wants my gap.”
She reveals how she developed such a magnetic persona. “I believe I am really good company to myself. I date myself. I take me out. I take me to the movies. I take me to dinner. And I don’t argue with myself. I laugh at all my jokes. I pull my own chair. I pay for my dinner. I take me home. Am I not a good date? I am a fantastic date, neh?”
Even Psalms 37 encourages us not to fret, she adds. “I am saved and I love Jesus with all my heart. He is my biggest and closest buddy. There is nothing I can hide from him so there is no point in trying. My family is saved. I come from a Christian family.”
Clearly, she is a strong woman more than capable of handling the directorship of an international company like Planet Image, at the same time the duties of being the face of Good Morning Africa.
Trials and tribulations had to be overcome. Mabaso recalls a time when she was going through a rough patch with her husband and the father of her only daughter, four-year-old Onthatile.
So does this mean she’s still married? “No. We separated. I learned a lot and I got a beautiful little girl out of it.”
It was an experience that made her discover a therapeutic method God only carved and created specifically for her, a method that keeps psychiatrists and psychologists at bay.
Mabaso says raising her daughter was really a hard and overwhelming time in her life, given that she was doing it in the absence of the father.
These days, she finds going to movies therapeutic. “So now everyone in my family knows it’s the movies. Even my business partner knows. He hates the movies but offers to take me to the movies when he knows that it’s really bad.”
She says she met her current partner, Wale Akinlabi, after shooting her pilot for Good Morning Africa.
“Afterward, I had to come back on the third day to do voice-overs for all the stuff I had done, and that’s how I met Wale, my partner and the CEO of Planet Image. An extra-ordinary man. He is one person always eager to learn. He is a man, yes, and he has his proud moments but I have never met anyone as open to new experiences. And he was like whatever project you would like to do.”
And that’s how they came up with the second ever Radio/TV channel.
“We were a radio before and had CCTV cameras in the office and when the DJ’s were playing, because no one would see them, except us, they would get up and dance so hard. We thought this would make for fun television. I would watch DJ’s get down to their own little sessions and radio presenters would get down in their pyjamas on their 3 hour shows. We said continue doing that. We thought it’d really be fun to watch. And besides there isn’t really enough reality TV in Africa. So that’s what inspired it.”
She talks animatedly about the media empire she is building.
“I have started to work with the opposite of everything I thought I knew. I mean me on television? I never planned it like that. In my head, you get married, you have children, you do your law and you work at a law firm and life is good. So when we thought of building our media empire, we never thought we’d have a radio station. And we didn’t even think we’d own a TV station. So there are absolutely no limits,” Mabaso says.
“People say the sky is the limit. It is my launch pad. There is a so much beyond the planet earth so how can I say that little blue thing is my limit? It is the beginning for me.”
Touching on her experiences in Botswana, she says this about her night out at Fusion: “I sat a lot of the time because I wanted to see how a lot of Batswana partied. I watched their bodies and I watched the type of music they reacted to. There was a lot of western music, but as soon as the local (African) music came on, the floor was packed. It was music from SA, music from here. I was observing things like that. I also realized that a lot of people are not very tall. They have amazing bodies though. And even though you live in such harsh conditions, everybody is light skinned. Everyone is well-mannered and everyone call each other rre or mme. It was really adorable.”
She laughs and warns me not to steal her idea ÔÇô the idea that when PR TV becomes bigger, they’ll broadcast to the moon.
“I will spray paint the moon and the whole world will see PR TV. I am also going to get a big billboard and put it on the moon and whether you like it or not, you will see it. That’s how big I think.”