She might be small in stature but HeartFM Breakfast show host Tara Lee is filling up big spaces and dons many hats in Cape Town.
Growing up in Westridge, Mitchells Plain, Lee wormed her way into the hearts and homes of thousands of listeners in Cape Town, who tune in every weekday from 6-9am to join her and her team, Aden Thomas and Julian Cranford.
The 33-year-old is known for her infectious laugh and bubbly personality, coupled with her sports knowledge.
She slowly eased her way into the team shortly after the exit of radio veteran Tapfuma Makina, who held a spot on the popular breakfast show.
Lee told Weekend Argus: “I joined the HeartFM family on July 23, 2022, presenting the Olympic Desk and the Paralympic Desk thereafter. It was around this time that Tapfuma had announced he was leaving, and the breakfast show wasn’t going to replace him immediately.
“He was such a massive part of the show for nine years, they needed to ‘mourn’ him and they had stand-ins for a while. I was introduced on the show as a stand-in after the Olympic Desk and was slowly integrated into the team.
“When I was told they wanted me to take over Tapfuma’s position, I had 1 000 different thoughts. Having the opportunity to work with Aden and Julian, who were household names, was pretty unbelievable.
“I also remember thinking, ‘how can I ever live up to Tapfuma Makina’, who is an incredible presenter, a beautiful person, and so loved by Cape Town – I knew that was impossible. Everyone told me it was massive shoes to fill but I decided I was just going to be me. I still have to remind myself that this is my reality.”
Lee says it was a full-circle moment joining the show after she met Makina those nine years before.
“What many people don’t know is that I actually met Tapfuma nine years ago and he was the one that suggested I get into radio – I was just a random stranger at the time. That conversation changed my life.
“To some extent, it was perhaps divine intervention that many years later I would be where he was. I officially became part of the breakfast show in October 2021 and it’s honestly the best team and our listeners have always been welcoming; it feels like they’re a part of our team as well, even the Man United supporters.”
Lee, who lives in Sea Point, says that she holds many titles. One of them is a dedicated thespian, and she is performing in The Murder of the murder of Roger Ackroyd, a fun adaptation of an Agatha Christie mystery, at The Masque Theatre in Muizenberg.
She says: “I’ve always been in love with acting, the arts and theatre. I set out to study drama at UCT and launch my acting career but it was tough – it wasn’t paying the bills. Living in Mitchell’s Plain means travelling distances to auditions and no guarantees of jobs and acting – unless you’re doing adverts, which don’t pay a lot.
“Ten years ago, there weren’t as many opportunities as there are today with streaming services. And that’s when I shifted into the radio space, which I love.
“Once that radio bug bites there’s no walking away.”
She unpacks her passion for sports reporting and being a sports person herself: “The best part about being on radio is that I can combine all my passions, like my love for sport. It was a dream come true knowing that I could do radio, present sport and make sport more accessible for everyone by sharing my opinion, and making it fun and interesting for those who might never have been interested.
“Sport is something that brings people together in a way that nothing else does, evident by the rugby World Cup that the nation got behind.
“At the beginning of this year I made the decision to go back into acting. I believe it’s never too late to achieve your goals, make changes and chase your dreams. I did the Anthony Meindl actors’ workshop and a few short films.
“I’ve also done some film work, so you’ll be seeing my face on streaming services and TV screens soon.
“And now I’m in this stage production, The Murder of the Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I play Lily Wright who plays Flora Ackroyd. She’s very different from the Tara Lee people know and adds some spice to the work of Agatha Christie. This Flora Ackroyd is a bit more raunchier than what you’re used to. She’s the niece of Roger Ackroyd who gets murdered.”
Her list of accolades are growing though, as she also packs a mean punch as a martial artist.
“I’ve been doing Brazilian jiu jitsu; training and competing for the past seven years. I do Muay Thai and Taekwondo as well. I also Emcee and on occasion am a stadium announcer at sporting events.”
Lee says her favourite time is with family: “Family is important – time with my mom, who always supports me and cheers me on, especially.
“Between all of this I’m always trying to find time to take a nap, not always successful, but I enjoy unwinding with my family, swimming in the ocean or sparring in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu”