Zethembiso Zethe Mdletshe wins the NXT LVL TV reality show. Piture: Supplied

Throughout the Vodacom NXT LVL reality show, Zethembiso “Zethe” Mdletshe’s aim was to be true to herself.

In the end, this is what led the afro-soul singer to win the coveted competition and walk away with R1 million worth of prizes.

She was announced as the winner in December and the 24-year-old has hit the ground running.

“It’s been quite hectic and it’s only now that I get to rest,” she told me.

“After I won, I was just gigging. You know how easy it is to vanish in this industry and for people to forget about you - especially in this industry.”

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She adds: “So I tried to gig as much as possible. I used the time afterwards to keep my fan base.”

Over nine weeks on television, the KwaZulu-Natal-raised singer became a popular face. And she says these days, people treat her a little differently than before.

“You know how you get people who write mean things about you on social media? It’s really fine because not everyone will like you,” she laughed.

“But there’s this strange thing that has started happening where people come up to me and say: ‘I wrote that mean thing about you on social media and I’m sorry’.”

“Weird things like that happen to me now. And of course, there are still people who think I don’t deserve the win but that’s fine.

“I’ve actually found that my fan base has grown a lot.

“There are people who have taken interest in me beyond the music - people who want to know what I’m about and what my values are.”

Although she was often scored poorly by mentors and judges (which included DJ Euphonik, DJ Zinhle, Riky Rick, Danny K and Big Nuz), Zethe said her belief in God and her insistence on being herself is what made her come out tops.

“First of all, I do a genre that is not commercial,” she said.

“But after seeing what people said about me on social media, I realised that people will generally and genuinely love you when you’re being yourself.

“And you should not compromise on that.

“What I learnt the most throughout the competition is that staying true to who you are is just doing what you know. And people could read that from me,” she said.

It’s no surprise then that the single she performed in the competition was titled Zazi - which means know yourself.

“It’s so important - especially in this industry - to be confident in what you know and that’s what that song is about,” Zethe exclaims.

“I do a different genre but does it mean that since it’s gqom season now I should also do gqom?

“No! I’m very sure of what I’m doing and the direction I want to take so I decided to write about it. That’s how I do all my songs - I write from my experiences.”

That song was produced by Surprise Nzimande. “I was introduced to him on the show,” he said.

“He’s worked with the likes of AKA as well as Anatii and gospel artists so he doesn’t just do one genre. That’s what I loved. He understood my music.”

Zethe has already started recording a song with Euphonik and aims to include it in her upcoming EP.

The unfinished song is Ubuhle Bakho.

The EP will also be produced by Nzimande.

She is also excited about shooting a music video for a single from her EP and says: “The one thing we still have a hang of is live music - you can’t exactly pirate live music so I am looking forward to performing even more and collaborating with people.”