Growing up I loved The Buggles hit song Video Killed the Radio Star: It seemed like despite its age, I couldn’t go to a party or turn on the radio without hearing it. Little did I know I would not live to see the death of the radio star but the rise of a new kind of star -one who is unashamed, raw and so down to earth it’s scary!
Celebs like Zodwa Wabantu, Skolopad and Buhle Mkhize have dominated local headlines for over a year now with their racy dress and unfiltered views, taking turns to entertain and fascinate us like the acts in a circus many of us enjoyed going to as a kid. And like that circus, many of us can’t keep our eyes away.
Some may see the rise of their fame as a sign of a world that is slowly deteriorating when, in fact, it could be the remedy our society needs. Sure, they may go over the top but the appeal is that they not only question the norm, they turn societies rules upside down.
The truth is we live in a world that is at war with its own ideals. We're in a state of confusion. Our world teaches us to be free and fearless but at the same time is obsessed with “childproofing” everything so nobody is offended.
Because of this, so many of us just try cling to what we think is the right behaviour to find some stability, and then we're really shocked when we discover that not everyone is playing by the rules.
Zodwa, Skolopad and Buhle are challenging societal norms which could be compared to Elvis Presley's hip shake and The Rolling Stones drug-lifestyle. Yup, they too shocked but inspired the popular culture of their time and opened debate. Zodwa herself alluded to this when she explained that her decision to wear revealing clothes sans panties was to inspire woman to be comfortable in their bodies and not hide who they were.
Buhle challenged the boundaries of social media with her topless pics and twerking videos, but very few of us expected to see those kind of "antics" move off Instagram and onto the red carpet at both the Metro FM Music Awards and Durban July this year with the arrival of Skolopad and Zodwa Wabantu.
In conservative South Africa, celebrities were expected to dazzle on the red carpet with their dresses and accessories, not ditch the underwear and pretend to be the star of the show. Fashionistas were supposed to inspire with their outfits, not flaunt their semi-naked bodies on the ‘gram. Nurses like Skolopad were supposed to be caring for people not gatecrashing events and stealing all the limelight. Did they not know their place? Had they not read the memo?
Like an honest, but blunt comment passed by a loud aunty at the dinner table at a family gathering, it made many uncomfortable. But won over many others. Finally, someone we could relate to, even if we didn’t want to admit it. We saw someone who was just like us. Someone we knew. And not what TV had taught us celebs should look and act like.
The father of pop art Andy Warhol once famously declared that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” and these celebs have busting in the door to grab theirs. Making money off notoriety.
Finally, Mzansi had its own pretenders to the Kim Kardashian throne: They were famous but no one really knew why. A celeb famous for fames sake - idolized as a sex symbol. And like ol' Kimmy, they were trying to build an empire off that exposure. Record label boss DJ Tira had always had Zodwa under his wing, but when she blew up in the weeks after Durban July he used that exposure to get her booked across the country and even beyond our borders. Bookings for the star start at R25,000 an appearance.
Prior to this she was known on social media streets as "that girl who always holds Savanna" at a club in Durban. Like, so what? Well, a lot. Zodwa showed the power of the internet in creating and sustaining these “celebs'” careers and has opened the door for a new kind of celebrity fame.
The road to fame doesn't consist of a great voice or the ability to act anymore. It is being able to hold an ngud while still showing up on the dance floor. The power has moved from men in suits making people famous, to people doing it for themselves on social media.
Andy’s 15 minutes of fame comment came in response to a conversation about everyone wanting to be famous and with the advent of social media, which has certainly happened. In a society preaching inclusion, social media has allowed anyone to take a shot at fame.
In the case of Skolopad, showing some skin and getting her 15 minutes of fame, gave her enough exposure (pardon the pun) to pursue a singing career. With the help of a slit in her dress, a naughty bum tat and a few flashing cameras, she went from unknown to sharing a stage with rapper Cassper Nyovest. Not bad for a lady who was, for a time, only known as “the lady in the yellow dress”.
Who knows where these celebs will end up or if their decision to ditch the panties and tell it like it is will start a new craze, but one things is for sure: They have written their names in SA entertainments history books and panties or no panties, they are here to stay.