For most of the past decade she was every tabloid hack’s wet dream, displaying herself naked in front of a slavering public whenever possible. Born in Hillbrow, she wanted it all – and now. The crown princess of gold diggers, Khanyi Mbau held nothing back in her single-focused attempt to promote herself as SA’s ultimate kept woman.
There were the millionaires old enough to be her father, the designer outfits, the limos and the lambo’s and the screaming catfights. A permanent suite at the Michaelangelo and kaalgat photographs leaked by a spurned Afrikaner lover.
Khanyi didn’t seem to care. If it kept her on the front pages, there was no such thing as bad press.
Then the source of money dried up, the creditors were baying and no one admitted to knowing her. End of trashy tale.
Not quite. If the furore surrounding the imminent publication of Mbau’s biography is any indication, she has another shot at fame. This time round, though, she is determined no man will bankroll her.
Mbau learnt the hard way what the price-tag is for a woman owned body and soul by her man. This, she says, is the flipside of her marriage to former “Mister Megabucks”, Mandla Mthembu.
This excerpt taken from the book, details the aftermath of a vicious public beating: “I went back to the Michaelangelo at 3am but Mandla wasn’t back. I remember standing in the shower crying as the water ran over my wounds. Lord, I was tired. I’d had sex with him just a few hours before and now I was black and blue. I gave Mandla a child – maybe not the boy he wanted, but did I really deserve this bloodletting?”
At just 19 Mbau entered into a customary marriage with Mthembu, and soon found herself pregnant.
When the son he wanted didn’t materialise, he left her to give birth alone. When she was ready to be discharged with the baby, they waited six hours for the father to materialise. He’d been out shopping.
Matters deteriorated and Mthembu’s cash flow ran dry. Then PE businessman Theunis Botha stepped in to pick up the tab and dry Mbau’s tears. But their much-publicised liaison ended sordidly.
Mbau says she is determined to make it up to her daughter, Khanukani (“Envy”), whom she has renamed Cannes.
“If I could take back one thing from those crazy years, I would give my daughter a better welcome to the world. I was terribly depressed after her birth and I kept having to feed the monster (greed and fame).
“For the first four years she was with me constantly, but now I have given custodial rights to my mom. In a few years, when I’ve made enough to give my daughter a proper home, I plan to be the kind of mom who takes her to ballet and never misses a single sports day.”
How, one wonders, did her mother handle the revelations in the book?
“I’ve been nude before, so this was no surprise to her. But my mother brought me up to be an individual and learn from my own mistakes. She doesn’t attempt to overrule my decisions, as long as I respect her privacy.”
We talk of the blistering indictment of her written by a rival Sunday newspaper journalist, due to appear today. She is philosophical about it.
“In the crazy days I was always available for her (the writer), but I couldn’t meet her in Cape Town for an interview as she had asked. My life is too hectic with rehearsals and performances right now. I guess she saw it as disrespectful. I’m sad, but I finally learned I can’t please everyone.”
Mbau is currently portraying the late great performer Lebo Mathosa in a Joburg stage show, and has her eyes set on a job in television production. “I call TV 1 ‘welfare television.’ I don’t think there is any reason why people who can’t afford pay television should have to watch that sort of boring stuff. I’ve done my bit as a TV actress and now I want to be on the other side of the camera.”
Mbau says collaborating with author Lesley Mofokeng on the book was “better than psychotherapy”.
“He helped me work through a lot of dark stuff that was swimming around in my subconscious. I can never thank him enough.”
Of the response to the book, she is upbeat: “It’s chilled. People I met in my ‘other life’ are coming up to me and saying: ‘Hey, you’ve got guts.’ I get Twitter comments from a lot of unknown women who identify with what I’ve been through, in terms of the marriage and abuse. They are also trapped in beautiful prisons and would do anything to get out. I tell them to toughen up and walk away. The price is too high.”
Who, then, is the new, improved Khanyi Mbau?
“I’m someone learning to be happy in her own skin, with a simpler life and strong personal goals. I used all the possessions, and all the attention-grabbing tactics as compensation for things I felt I’d missed out on. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Sandton and I’ve got my own Top Billing-style home. I still love Persian carpets but breakfast isn’t brought by a butler; I go to Mugg & Bean. I still like good champagne but when I crack a bottle it’s with a special friend. I drive a second-hand car, but I paid cash for it. It gives me a far bigger kick than the Lamborghini I sold my soul for.”