Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Correspondent
“UNDERWEAR makes me uncomfortable. I don’t feel sexy when I’m wearing panties. It’s a preference. And people should deal with it,” said Zodwa Wabantu.
It was in September 2016 when she uttered those famous words which at once confirmed the suspicions of those that thought only her famously short dresses stood between her and stark nakedness.
Every video, every social media post seemed to have been leading up to that quote. For weeks Zodwa had been the object of intense speculation on social media.
Like fellow Durban counterpart Babes Wodumo who rose to sudden fame off the back of a chart topping smash hit, Zodwa’s rise was also meteoric. In some ways, it was also a lot simpler. Her videos were after all, except for changes in wardrobe, always the same.
In all the clips, she holds a cider in one hand while the other holds down a dress that is always threatening to rise to dangerously revealing levels as she bends her knees and gyrates closer to earth. With the simple shake of a thigh social media was hooked and a star was born.
Over a year later, her legend has spread beyond Eyadini Lounge in Gauteng, South Africa where her moves first caught the eye. Visits to Canada, the United Kingdom and Mozambique have followed the confession that she found underwear uncomfortable. In Bulawayo where she was due to make her maiden appearance on Saturday, Zodwa is as famous as any current South African star.
The last couple of weeks before her visit has seen excitement for all things Zodwa reach fever pitch. In a year in which celebrity visits to Bulawayo, traditionally Mzansi stars’ productive hunting ground, have been few and far between, Zodwa had managed to create a strong buzz.
Is there talent in showing off flesh?
Last Friday at Club Connect, with money on offer for whoever came closest to impersonating her, a Zodwa Wabantu wannabe was found and crowned.
For most revellers on the night the contest was good, clean fun on a night out. For others however, the contest left a bitter aftertaste.
After all was said and done, some were left questioning why Bulawayo, or any other Zimbabwean city, could not produce a Zodwa of its own. Should Bulawayo always settle for lesser versions of what is made and packaged in Durban or Johannesburg?
By looking for its own version of Zodwa, is Bulawayo not falling into the age old trap of becoming a cultural subsidiary of South Africa? Can’t Bulawayo elevate its own party loving socialites to such quick and easy fame without accepting hand me down versions of what is already popular south of the Limpopo?
The answer to that perhaps lies in how the average person from Bulawayo views an entertainer like Zodwa. Depending on which side of the fence that you sit on, Zodwa is either fascinating or repulsing.
On one side of the coin are those that do not see the value a socialite like Zodwa brings to the table. She is all thighs and no talent, they would argue, luring a salivating audience’s attention with her body.
For those against the rise of a Zodwa like figure on the Bulawayo social scene, her fame shows the folly of social media which is turning even those with minimal or no talent into overnight stars.
From the Kardashians in Hollywood to Zodwa in Durban, many are becoming famous for being famous. All that’s needed is a high definition camera and in a heartbeat one can become a star. With all eyes on them, society might be shutting its ears to the golden voices or guitar riffs of performers with genuine talent.
In addition, what’s there to distinguish a self-confessed party animal like Zodwa from performers like Bev who push their bodies to the limits in their attempt to shock and awe?
On the other side of the argument will be those who believe comparing Zodwa to the likes of Bev is comparing apples to oranges or more aptly, cider to whiskey bottles.
Rather than degrading herself in any way, Zodwa has turned her party lifestyle into a business. She might have never sang a note or know one end of a guitar from another but she has a magnetic pull that is typical of the world’s most sought after socialites.
One minute she is rubbing shoulders with party animals in the United States and the next she is partying up a storm in Bulawayo. In an age where women are fighting for self determination in everything, many are of the view that those men telling women how to dress or conduct themselves are as sexist as those that have exploited their bodies for the cheap thrills of showbiz.
“I stand out by just being myself. I have no weave or make-up. I depend on no man and I don’t sleep with men for money. Confidence makes a woman attractive,” Zodwa said.
Zodwa’s admirers believe that she does what she does for her own benefit and therefore should not be chastised or judged. When the clock ticks towards the wee hours of the morning, she is clearly the sort of person one would like to be partying with. And she has money from her new trade, getting hired for appearances, just like “fellow artistes” do.
With all that in mind one wonders whether Bulawayo could create its own Zodwa, a socialite who possesses her appeal without being a direct copycat.