File photo: Kelly Khumalo.

The Kelly Khumalo Story

By Melinda Ferguson with Sarah Setlaelo

(MF Books Joburg , an imprint of Jacana)

THE KELLY Khumalo Story needed a writer like Melinda Ferguson to give it credibility and the precursor to the book, a cover story in True Love magazine, was a worthy catalyst. Before that, the name Kelly Khumalo carried with it the repellent distaste associated with the socialite Khanyi Mbau’s ilk.

Khumalo and Mbau have been compared because of their publicised rivalry. In fact, The Kelly Khumalo Story comes right after Mbau’s biography, Bitch Please, I’m Khanyi Mbau, signalling a trend in young black celebs releasing books. Bonnie Henna’s Eye Bags and Dimples, about her struggle with depression, is getting a lot of hype. Somizi Mhlongo is said to be releasing a book soon.

But content will determine what is attention-seeking drivel and what’s really good commendable narrative.

The Kelly Khumalo Story is the latter.

Ferguson writes Khumalo’s story with the help of Sarah Setlaelo, who’s been Khumalo’s rock, enemy at some point and the one responsible for bringing her into the spotlight as her manager.

Once a township pop princess, Khumalo commanded attention with her captivating voice. That’s until tabloid scandals, virginity claims, men, fast cars, cocaine and the volatile relationship with convicted murderer, Molemo “Jub Jub” Maarohanye, took her into obscurity.

The details of Khumalo’s journey are an astounding and humbling revelation. Hers is a layered, redemptive, triumphant and relevant story.

What Ferguson does is not only focus on the popular side of Khumalo, but delve into her background, revealing a very South African story characterised by poverty and other ghosts of our history.

Her vivid and conversational style of writing is appealing. She brings to Khumalo’s story an understanding that comes from her own insights and struggle with addiction, documented in her novel Smacked. But her partnership with Khumalo at best symbolises the spirit of ubuntu which also manifests itself as the 12th step in Narcotics Anonymous. So what the book carries is a universal message.