The Top Billing, may have come and gone, in successive series, as it should, but presenter Ayanda Thabethe’s star is still on the rise.
Only few moments after, the curtains came down on Top Billing, Ayanda was approached with an offer to host the new show Celebrity Game Night alongside Anele Mdoda and comedian Jason Goliath.
Viewers can catch the show on E! (DStv channel 124) on Monday nights.
She would tell you that ‘when one door closes, another opens.’ When the popular lifestyle show ‘Top Billing' came to an end after 27 years on- air, Ayanda Thabethe was taken by surprise, nor did she had another job lined up as a soft landing cushion.
“The closing of Top Billing came as a surprise to many of us. We had gone on a short break when the news was announced,” Ayanda told DRUM.
As fate may have it, it turned out she had nothing to worry about as she was approached soon after, with a bid to present Celebrity Game Night alongside Jason Goliath and Anele Mdoda.
The show is based on the Emmy award-winning Hollywood Game Night, and each episode witnesses two teams of celebrity guests led by Ayanda and Jason go head to-head in games that test their knowledge of pop culture and acting skills.
“I don’t know what I did to be trusted with such a big show. But I am excited and incredibly grateful,” Ayanda gushed.
This wonderful job didn’t just came to her on a silver platter, though. For two years, she had worked so hard on Top Billing, bringing viewers a taste and glimpse of the good life by showcasing some of South Africa’s finest homes.
“Top Billing was great for me. A lot of my endorsements and hosting work came because of that platform.
When I got on to Top Billing I hadn’t paid off my house and I didn’t have a fancy car but I was inspired to work hard,” she said.
One of her best highlights on the show was when she made her debut travel to Paris to meet supermodel Cara Delevingne and asked her to beatbox. “That was a dream come true,” she recalled.
She further took her career to the next level when she interviewed Afropop singer Amanda Black on a rope bridge.
“Amanda wanted to do the interview swinging from a really high mountain. That was daring. I was incredibly nervous, but I managed to pull through. I will miss those travelling moments dearly,” she recalled nostalgically.
All the credit to her previous job she, which gave her the opportunity to explore many wonderful countries. She managed to link and bring South Africans closer to some of the biggest stars around the world, rubbed shoulders with local celebrities, yet Ayanda had only been in showbiz for just three years.
Upon abandoning her white colar job as a brand manager, she got her breakthrough as a presenter on BET Africa in 2016, before trying her hand at acting.
“I’ve seen myself evolve from being quiet and nervous Ayanda to becoming a brand. My journey has been nothing but upward,” the Rockville actress said.
It has been a good year for her, apart from her new presenting job, she managed to pay off her house, car and bought her mother, Makhosazana Thabethe, a Honda CR-V for her 60th birthday – which she paid for in cash.
“My mom lived her entire life for me and my siblings, and I wanted to make her happy,” she said.
Her mother was a nurse, and managed to put Ayanda and her four siblings through school. The presenter is over the moon, on how much she’s achieved in such a short period time.
She is glad for having had worked hard to achieve her dreams, more so the current trying times; “But I’m most proud about working hard enough to be able to pay off my house and car. In these tough economic times, it means a lot to be debt-free,” she said.
It wasn’t smooth sailing for her either. “I’m going in the right direction. Things haven’t always gone so swimmingly, though. I have made a few mistakes along the way,” Ayanda admitted.
Not a long time ago, she established a hair salon in Illovo, Johannesburg, but had to sell it after realising she didn’t have enough time to run a business. “Being in show business, you need many streams of income. I opened my salon because I wanted to be sure I was covered even when there was no work coming in,” she said.
However, her business encountered some challenges when she spent all her time on her TV jobs.
“I needed to monitor stock, check that the systems work, continuously train staff and be present all the time and I was hardly there.
“I trusted people to run the business, not realising a salon is the kind of business that needs you to be present and hands-on. Luckily, I sold it to someone I trust and who loves what they do,” she said.
She is currently not running any the business, but Ayanda doesn’t view this as a failure.
“Every experience is a lesson for me, I take it as it comes. We don’t plan to fail in life, but when things do not work out, we let them go,” she said.
She uses this philosophy in all scenarios of her life. In 2018, she found herself in the press, after her relationship with rapper and businessman Zulu Mkhathini came to an end. The stylish couple had had been seeing each other for more than two years before calling the relationship off.
“There are no hard feelings at all. Luckily, I’ve dated mature people who know how to manage a breakup respectfully. He and everyone I’ve dated were in my life to teach me something.
“And when the lesson is done, we move on. You don’t need to be friends with an ex, but you can be on good terms,” she said.
She doesn’t like dwelling in the past, Ayanda has found new love which she is not willing to dish out to the public at least for now. “I’m in a happy, non-public relationship. I’ve learnt that putting my relationship out there allows all sorts of negative energy and opinions.
“I want my new guy all to myself and away from the spotlight so we can focus on work and our dreams,” she said.
Her out of public eye lover should count himself lucky; Ayanda isn’t just beautiful, she’s brainy too.
“I graduated with a BCom degree in communication management from the University of Pretoria in 2007 and got my honours in marketing from Unisa. Next year I want to go back to the books – I have applied to study for an MBA in BCom communications,” she said.
She has a tight schedule from hosting corporate gigs, slaying red carpets and travelling as an ambassador of a beauty brand, many would wonder where she’ll get all the time from.
Ayanda told the magazine that she can pull off anything she puts her focus and mind to.
“It’s not easy, but I’m very disciplined,” she assured.