DJ Zinhle has come full circle. When she was a teenager, she wanted was to be a TV presenter. “I came to Joburg in 1999 and studied TV presenting and when I went back home, I was very popular because I had met a few celebrities - I think Nimrod (Nkosi) was one of them,” she laughs.
“I honestly wanted to be a TV presenter because I saw how the YOTV presenters would get free sneakers. I didn’t realise it was so hard.”
Although she is no stranger to television as she is one of the mentors on Vodacom’s NXT LVL talent show, now the DJ who was born Ntombezinhle Jiyane presents and actively participates in her new reality show, It Takes A Village.
The show debuts on SABC1 at 9pm tonight. On it, DJ Zinhle returns to her home town of Dannhausser (in Kwa-Zulu Natal) to find it is no longer the place that nurtured her into the entrepreneurial powerhouse she is today.
The sought-after DJ, Fuse Academy for Girls founder, Era Watch owner and multi-brand ambassador decided she needed to change this and selected 11 young women from the village to help her do so.
From substance abuse, domestic abuse, teenage pregnancy, unemployment, child-headed households, body issues, education and more, each episode tackles a different social ill.
So why would she take time away from her businesses to do a TV show? In attempts to clear her mind from the busy Jozi life she leads, she returned to Dannhauser to find desolation.
“I took it personally,” she shares. “Just to see how kids have no activities. That shocked me. They have no activity except to just go and stand at the corner the whole day. I didn’t grow up like that.
"My parents kept us busy. Never mind games, just cleaning the house kept us busy so you hardly had time to go and stand around on the street corner because you had chores.
”So she put the 11 girls under one roof, and for three months she travelled from Sunday to Friday - often taking her toddler back to her mother’s home while there - in attempts to help them with their respective problems. The aim here was for each one to teach one.
“We wanted a girl to represent each and every aspect of the social ills that we’re dealing with,” DJ Zinhle explains. “The idea is we’re not just trying to help the one girl on the show.
"We are trying to help the girl at home who has the same issue and show her how you get up and start to make a difference. That was the silver lining to the show. We’re trying to show them that this is how you can move past something like this. Because we have a lot of problems.”
DJ Zinhle also enlisted the help of personal development and leadership coach, Nokubonga Mbatha (who is affectionately known as Sis Bongi) to be the expert on hand.
“I’m just a girl. I don’t know how to deal with the psychological effects of these things,” DJ Zinhle says. “I wanted to bring in someone who would give them direction because Sis Bongi is trained. I can only give you advice and I’m not always sure if I’m giving it at the right time.
These are real lives, these are real people and we had to treat it like that.”
Real is the perfect way to describe It Takes A Village. There’s a particularly goose-bump-inducing episode of the show where Zama, who is struggling with an addiction to glue, has to face her demons.
DJ Zinhle tells her to forget the cameras because that moment is purely about a pact between the pair. A pact that she will support Zama in quitting - if Zama makes the decision to. DJ Zinhle cannot stop the tears from falling down her face in the scene.
“Zama’s story was so heartbreaking for me,” DJ Zinhle tells me. “It was a bit close to home because my father struggled with alcoholism. You’re always waiting to hear a story that they have relapsed. That’s why it was too much for me.”
At this point, she has stopped drinking her green tea and her eyes starts tearing up. I mention that this show has clearly affected her emotionally and she says: “I had a lot of these moments but I just tried to keep all that to myself.”
“After I met Zama’s family, it became too real for me. When you speak to Zama, she wants everything I have in life, she knows she can get it and she’s had it before. She’s worked and had success in her life but something just happens and then she gets like: ‘whatever’.”
Getting the girls to believe they can have a life beyond their past is so important to DJ Zinhle that she has kept up with all the girls since the TV shoot wrapped up.
“We have a WhatsApp group so we talk a lot,” she grins. “I’m planning to go home soon so we can have a get-together. They taught me so much and I don’t want them to think of this as just a TV project. I want them to build their lives from this.”
* It Takes A Village premieres on SABC1 at 9pm tonight.