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Unathi Nkanyi revels in nurturing new talent

Unathi Nkanyi
Image: Instagram/Unathi Nkanyi

Reality TV show Idols SA is staging its best season yet, mainly because it's finally letting the unmatched singing talent shine over gimmicks.

The siren, kinder and magical chemistry of the three judges - Unathi Nkanyi, Randall Abrahams and Somizi Mhlongo - has made the show more bearable and reflective of a woke era.

The hallmark for past seasons with Marah Louw and Gareth Cliff on the judging panel was marred by on-screen banters and snide commentary. As a result, the raw talent and teen spirit of the show got lost and overshadowed by the judges' own insufferable theatrics.

If flamboyant Somizi is the comic relief of the show; then sweet Unathi is the heart while presenter Proverb is the soul and deadpan Randall is the brain. We wait in anticipation for Unathi to open the waterworks when emotionally charged performances grace the stage.

It's always a moment when Somizi gives his signature "woooooo shem" stamp of approval. This is the content we signed up for.

"Every year we all grow. We all respect and trust each other more. The beautiful thing is that when we started we knew each other and respected one another," Unathi shares.

"But it's just wonderful to evolve as human beings within the context of being judges and be able to resonate with South Africans on that level. Our chemistry is very important, that's why we love and appreciate each other."

After nine years on the show it has become her life. Unathi points out that they only get eight weeks off a year from making the show. "The current season speaks to how talented we are as South Africans. We have limitless talent and music to perform. I'm proud of where South Africa has taken Idols because it belongs to them," she observes. "It's a wonderful full-time job. I love watching the evolution of a human being.

"I love watching a young person walk in uncertain, watch them evolve as they start believing in themselves and eventually win it. It's just one or the most beautiful South African stories that could ever be told. I love being part of that."

Unathi has learnt over the years not to pay attention to the feedback she receives from fans of the show - especially the negative. She has been off Twitter for four years now and she doesn't intend to go back any time soon.

"I don't know what they say because Twitter can be vile and toxic. People can just say the most horrible things," she points out.

"So I got off it and I haven't felt the need to get back on it. I love Instagram and Facebook because I like spaces that build and uplift people.

" I'm a child of a psychologist, so mental health is very important for me. For me particularly it's not a good space to be in."

Radio fans still miss Unathi on the airwaves after she ended her 20-year career when she departed Metro FM in 2017.

She says she's at a different time in her life and she is not planning a comeback.

"I don't miss radio. If I did I will be back on radio. I did it for 20 years. I think I had enough time to enjoy and revel in it.

"I did it for 20 years and enjoyed it. Now I'm in a different phase of my life and radio is not necessarily a part of it today."

For the rest of the year, the 40-year-old will embark on a six-city music tour across the country, kicking off on September 28 at Nirox Sculpture Park in Johannesburg. She will then perform in East London, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and the Wild Coast.

Her Brave, True and Strong tour returns following its debut last year. Unathi is going big this year and has been rehearsing once a week since April. There will be surprise appearances by Kabomo and Brenda Mtambo.

Wardrobe and fitness is also a big thing for Unathi as part of the tour. Her body transformation over the last three years has been awe-inspiration.

"I eat healthy and clean. So I avoid dairy, sugar and wheat. My advice is baby steps. People always overwhelm themselves and do too much by running 5km," she advices.

"I don't enjoy pain and I never push myself too much. Just start with putting on your sneakers and taking a walk. Even when you get tired as you run, just walk and don't push yourself too much."

In two weeks, she will return to house music, dropping summer track I See You, featuring Rabs Vhafuwi.

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