AFTER several e-mails (by SABC2’s PR) to schedule an interview and a bit of phone tag on my part, I was finally able to chat to Melinda Bam.
I guess this is life when you are on a popular streak.
Interestingly, my first encounter with Bam was during the workshop process for Miss South Africa 2011, which was documented in The Road to Miss South Africa for Mzansi Magic.
Of the bevy of beautiful but, sadly, not the brightest young contestants, her hunger for the title was unmistakable.
It is this tenacious spirit that seeps through during our chat about her joining SABC2’s Pasella.
She explains, “I was with Pasella back in 2012. Then Amor (Engelbrecht), the producer, asked if I would like to come aboard. I told her that I couldn’t be Miss SA and do a TV gig. After my reign, I called her. She said Pasella was taking a break for a bit. Then I got the call at the end of 2013. I was incredibly excited. I started filming my first episode in January.”
Although she has found her feet in presenting, she has not entirely relinquished her link to Miss SA – Bam is the national executive for the Miss South Africa pageant.
“After my year of reign, I thought there were a few things I would like to have changed/revised. Usually, they have a feedback session. I sent through my proposal to the chief executive and, shortly after that, they appointed me. But it is more a team effort bringing about the change.”
Just to expand, there was a suggestion to drop the Top 16 and Top 12 finals as “it is a rather heartbreaking experience for the girls to know they just missed out”.
These days, she imparts knowledge on wardrobe, beauty tips and how to approach international competitions to whoever wears the crown. And she is well-versed in the politics around the international competitions, especially after the public uproar when she decided against entering Miss World 2012 in favour of Donald Trump’s Miss Universe.
Like SABC3’s Top Billing, Pasella has been a great platform for launching the careers of personalities. Jo-Ann Strauss and Cindy Nell honed their presenting skills on the show – the camera already loved them.
That she is joining the same bandwagon is something Bam is chuffed about. After all, she is putting her BCom marketing degree (cum laude) from TUT to great use and gaining exposure at the same time.
Happily engaged to former Mr South Africa Adriaan Bergh – they will be tying the knot on November 8 – she says, “Going through the switch to TV presenting was quite interesting. You have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and question them.
“Because I have been on both ends of the seat, it has been easy. I know people like to communicate about their brand and projects.
“The great change (with the show) this year is that it is a lot more conversational. Finding a mid-way about what they would like to talk about and we want to talk about is key.”
Bam says she didn’t have to undergo coaching when she joined Pasella.
She smiles, “Amor made a round-up of all the footage I have done in the past. TV has always come naturally to me. I believe if you enjoy what you do, people will buy into it. And it doesn’t matter if you make a blooper every now and again.”
Spoken like a true beauty pageant queen.
Recalling a few highlights for her since joining Pasella, Bam says, “The first episode we shot was with DonnaLee Roberts and Ivan Botha for Pad na jou Hart. And we took them on a road trip. It was so nice to interview people who are so friendly and welcoming.
“I had to, in that episode, also drive a vintage car. If anything, it taught me to multitask. You have got to do everything: the interview, drive, look good and still keep your composure. I have to say, very funny things happen on set.”
She also had another learning curve chatting to Mannie Jackson, a country and Afrikaans singer.
“Being on stage, he is quite comfortable. But in a one-on-one, he is quite shy. You have to ask the right questions and keep the interview flowing.
“Nothing can really prepare you for that – you have to think on your feet. I learned that with being Miss SA,” she adds.
On her latest career undertaking, she says, “I have learned to trust my intuition. I think any door that opens and falls within my brand is an opportunity worth taking. “You’re only young once and if you have this much free space and energy, you might as well go after as many opportunities as you can.” Grounded by her family and fiancé, Bam says, in being true to herself, whether in a silly, glamorous or tomboy way, that is something that will never change. Right now, it is working for her.
• Pasella airs on SABC2 on Wednesdays at 7.30pm.