Khanyi Mbau toasts growing career with birth of new gin

Khanyi Mbau
Image: Instagram

Last time I checked Khanyi Mbau didn't touch alcohol. What a difference does a few two years make.

This week, the indomitable Mbau revealed her newest venture, her own pretty-in-pink gin brand I Am Khanyi.

"You've missed out, with all the growth and all the celebrations, alcohol found me," she tells me over a lunch time break telephone chat.

"I don't drink to get drunk, but I have acquired a taste and appreciation for alcohol. I think it's a great thing to have when you're around people, it strips them of all the pretense and you get to see the real them," she said.

At 33, Mbau says she had also yearned for a big alcohol brand endorsement or ambassadorship like many of her celebrity peers.

"...somehow, how my brand is perceived I was never top of mind for brand managers. I don't know, maybe they thought I was too much of a risk or I won't make them money," she says.

What followed is typical Mbau chutzpah and never-say-die attitude. She set out to investigate how she could get her own brand.

"It cost a lot of money but it was worth it. After I put my wish to the universe, I met up with a woman named Nicole Warden who introduced me to the world of craft gin. They brew their own right here in Johannesburg, in Maboneng.

"So, in the last eight months I was involved in every step of the creation from the flavour, alcohol content, colouring, the medallion and everything in between," she shares.

Next Saturday Mbau will have a big bash to celebrate I Am Khanyi.

But today she faces fierce movie critics, detractors, admirers and fans of Leon Schuster in his latest blockbuster Frank and Fearless. He serves his trademark pranks, gags and slapstick that either sends movie goers into a spin of howling laughter or rubs them up the wrong way with dollops of eye rolling and irritation.

Mbau is unmoved and is determined to enjoy the crest of the Schuster wave.

"I was head-hunted by Leon and it was awesome to shoot with him. He's strict and a perfectionist. He will make you redo a scene 90 times until you hate him, but the end product is amazing," Mbau says.

"There is a storyline about rhino poaching, taking care of our animals and the environment."

On Schuster's brand of comedy, Mbau says: "Every comedian chooses a genre, and he found something to take the mickey out of people, the only difference is that he's a white man.

"Yes, it would seem like it's black people made fun of most of the time, but we need to realise that we are actually colourful, not clowns. Whites don't have much range."

In March 2019 Mbau will bring Red Room to the big screen, the psychological thriller that she produced and stars in.

It's about a woman who learns about her husband's underworld dealings as a human trafficker. While she investigates him, he dies, leaving her with unanswered questions, anger and pain. She loses everything from his debts and, as things unravel further, she discovers that she's pregnant.

"I've done so many things in my career, but two things have made me feel appreciated - my book and the gin. There is a relation there, they are both
I am Khanyi and pink, a colour I love. It's who I am.

"It symbolises love and harmony. I'm in love and at peace with who I am," she emphasises

I ask if this applies in the romance department with her boyfriend Tebogo Lerole.

"Romantically, we get along. We we will always be a work in progress, but it's peaceful," she says

If 2018 was her year to blossom, next year will put her in a new league as a power player.

"This has been a year of affirmation. People understand who I am. I'm still in awe. I now understand when they say your time will come."

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