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Singer-actress Kelly Khumalo was well on her way to having it all before her life spiralled out of control. Her tumultuous relationship with Molemo “Jub Jub” Maarohanye soured during his trial for murder, her cocaine addiction left her penniless and her reputation and career were in tatters. Debashine Thangevelo got the real story on how she pulled herself out of her dark hole and why, after all that humiliation, she is exposing her life in e.tv’s reality series, Rolling With… Kelly Khumalo.
IF YOU want the record set straight, bag your own reality show. Dineo Ranaka did so with Dineo’s Diary: A Mogul in the Making on Vuzu. And now entertainer Kelly Khumalo has jumped on the same bandwagon.
Following the scandal that stemmed from “loving the wrong man” – a reference to her alleged physically abusive relationship with fellow singer Molemo “Jub Jub” Maarohanye, who is the father of her baby boy, getting hooked on cocaine, letting her career slide and, as a result, sinking into an abyss of despair, Khumalo has, with the help of her loved ones, bounced back.
Rather than be swayed by the sentiments of her detractors, it was only fair for Khumalo to say her piece, so we met for coffee.
Her guarded disposition attested to her numerous brushes with the media, but Khumalo, after a while, cracked a few smiles and relaxed somewhat.
On bagging her own reality series, she explains: “My manager [Sarah Shongwe] and I were strategising my comeback and repositioning the Kelly Khumalo brand and reintroducing it to the world. And a reality show seemed the perfect place [to start]. We approached e.tv and they were happy to give the go-ahead.”
Shedding light on the mainstay of the show, Khumalo says: “It’s basically to reintroduce Kelly after the negative publicity the brand and I, as a person, have suffered.
“It is to show people the personal side – not the alter ego they know. People have just known me as Maarohanye.”
With the whole-hearted support of her family and friends, Khumalo says she adopted a no-holds barred approach with her show.
“Me, as a person, if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right and to my utmost best. Yes, the reality show was an invasion of my personal space. They were in my bedroom… don’t worry, you won’t see anything salacious (laughs). But I wanted people to see me for who I am. If there are boundaries, it means I have something to hide.”
In the 13-part series, viewers are introduced to Khumalo trying to make a comeback amid various obstacles – one of which is moving out of her mother’s small home in Spruitview into a plush Northcliff home – albeit on a temporary basis – with her carefree younger sister, Zandi, and her stickler-for-details manager, Shongwe.
With the financial coffers dry despite her signing a record deal, Khumalo soldiers on by signing a book deal with Melinda Ferguson, a features editor for True Love, penning her tell-all account in The Kelly Khumalo Story.
I mention the coincidental timing with Khanyi Mbau’s biography, Bitch Please! I’m Khanyi Mbau.
Khumalo fobs off the link, saying: “Khanyi is doing her thing, I’m doing my thing.”
She continues: “Oh my God, it’s been in the works since February. I have been going back to reading the manuscript to make sure everything is represented with integrity and authenticity. It is a book that is there to inspire people. To do that, you have to be real. It is my story as a human being.”
Moving along to her forthcoming album, on which she has worked with the legendary Sibongile Khumalo, she smiles: “To me it is a blessing to have her endorse the album and me as a person.
“It has been quite a journey and amazing having RJ Benjamin as part of the production team and having him collaborate with me on one of the songs. It is going to be a shock to fans – a very different album. It is about my transformation through my life experiences.”
Optimistic about the possibility of a second season for her show, Khumalo is focusing on juggling her various projects – including returning to e.tv’s Rhythm City as Sunay, and steering clear from any temptation that might see her return to her depraved roots.
“I have learnt not to judge anyone based on what I have been through. And I refrain from telling people what to do with their lives.
“If I have no business being at a function, I’m at home with my son, who is two years and three months old now,” she shares.
She maintains: “From the place where I was a year ago, I didn’t see any of this happening. It was really bad – I’d hit rock-bottom. You feel like you are drowning and there is no way out. Yes, I have fallen, but I’ve picked myself up.”
Although her comeback is laden with challenges – notwithstanding the watchful gaze of the media – it is difficult not to want to give Khumalo the benefit of the doubt and wish her well. After all, to err is human and such blunders are part of the celebrity culture!
• Rolling with… Kelly Khumalo debuts on e.tv on September 16 at 6.30pm.