‘Young, Famous & African’ never quite shakes off Bonang Matheba’s star power

A scene from ‘Young Famous & African’ Season 2, from left, Diamond Platnumz, Khanyi Mbau, Rosette Ncwana, and Luis Munana. Picture: Courtesy of Netflix

A scene from ‘Young Famous & African’ Season 2, from left, Diamond Platnumz, Khanyi Mbau, Rosette Ncwana, and Luis Munana. Picture: Courtesy of Netflix

Published Jun 10, 2023


On the fifth episode of the new season of Netflix’s “Young, Famous & African” reality show, Bonang Matheba’s temper suddenly erupted during a seemingly innocuous and light-hearted conversation over dinner.

“You think men are the only people with (hit lists)?” she snapped after former Big Brother contestant Luis Munana earnestly suggested that he didn’t want Ghanaian dancehall artist Fantana to be Tanzanian superstar Diamond Platnumz’s side chick.

Matheba’s qualm with Munana appeared to centre on her annoyance at the perceived hypocrisy and bias against women when it comes to promiscuity. “Ah, darling, I have a hit list,” she continued.

“I have men I will sleep with and leave. Don’t ever depreciate a woman like that.”

After Munana tried to defend himself by arguing that he was merely trying to look after Fantana, Matheba fired back.

“Hey, don’t talk s***,” she snapped. The pair continued to go back and forth throughout the evening, Matheba the clear aggressor as the mild-mannered Munana tried (and failed) to diffuse the situation.

Eventually, an incensed Matheba declared, “This is bulls***,” and stormed off. It’s an astonishing sequence packed with drama, sexual innuendo and heightened emotions – all the things viewers look for in a hit reality television show.

One glaring issue: this entire interaction felt decidedly unnatural. Almost as if Matheba had worked herself into a rage for no apparent reason but to cause a scene and grab the spotlight.

Following the controversial ending to the episode, Swanky, the renowned Nigerian fashion designer who’d invited Matheba on to the show, announced in the very next episode that Matheba had abruptly decided to leave the show because she felt everyone was “ganging up against her”, which sparked yet another heated exchange between the cast members.

That Matheba’s short-lived cameo on the show ended this way shouldn’t be much of a surprise. It was evident that the vibes were amiss from the very first episode of the show.

Matheba’s initial arrival and involvement seemed to have caught everyone off guard.

As the cast, many of whom knew each other from the first season, sat around a lounge enjoying drinks towards the end of the first episode, Swanky stood announced that he had a big surprise. “My friend, and I’m talking the biggest television queen, is joining us tonight.”

In the next shot, a Bentley is seen pulling up to the lobby before none other than Matheba dramatically hops out of the back looking as glamorous as ever in a stunning green ensemble. “I’m Bonang Matheba and I’m what you call an on-air personality – so I’m a TV presenter, a radio broadcaster, just turned businesswoman and just an all-round bad-ass Tswana girl,” she said during a diary session during this sequence.

As Matheba walked in, rapper Nadia Nakai and actress Khanyi Mbau quickly stood up and slipped off camera and on to the balcony. Awkwardly, Nakai was at the time in a high-profile romantic relationship with Matheba’s ex, the late rapper AKA.

It was immediately apparent that her entrance was a deliberately tasteless move designed to bamboozle Nakai, who didn’t say word to Matheba throughout the evening. Speaking in a diary session shortly afterwards, Mbau vented, “I don’t know how she got there but there’s now Bonang in this weird ass party. Swanky, you cannot bring your friend’s boyfriend’s ex to a party without telling your friend that that’s what you’re gonna do.”

Later, Matheba revealed how uncomfortable this entire experience was, “I feel very awkward. Because just how people welcomed me, I think, was very awkward and cold.”

This awkwardness lingered throughout much of the show as the cast continued to discuss and debate the drama around Matheba’s appearance.

When the show premiered in late May, the main conversation on social media was centred on what seemed like a general consensus that Matheba was too big for the show.

While this may not necessarily be true, the producers clearly angled the show in a way that gave Matheba the most prominent role, which she duly milked.

And, despite the narrative that she left the show because of the politics, Matheba herself claimed in a comment on her Instagram that she was never meant to be a recurring character and was instead just a guest on the show.

Strange. There’s even an episode (Episode 4), which is dubbed “The Queen B”, that’s almost entirely dedicated to her. Ironically, she’s the only cast member with an episode dedicated to her.

Matheba’s persona and success put her in a precarious position when joining the show.

She has built a brand centred on a superstar aura that requires her to be the centre of attention in any setting. She is not a team player, which is a trait she embraces and even boasts about. In her very first diary session, Matheba confidently declared, “I’m very stubborn, I’m very selfish, very self-centred.

“Most people call me very bossy, very mean, quite intimidating.” It’s an apt analysis.

In many ways, it’s also one that forecasts exactly why she wasn’t a good fit for the show.