Lunga Shabalala may be one of the sexiest men in Mzansi and is well-known for his boundless charisma as a television presenter, but behind that infectious smile lies a tale of loss, love and mystery.
Last week Lunga Shabalala (28) said a tearful goodbye to the show that launched him into stardom, Selimathunzi. In an emotional closer he thanked South Africans for their support.
“Thank you so much guys for six and a half years of welcoming me into your homes. Ngibonge wonke umuntu who voted me into this job, my first job on TV, thank you so much. I will miss all of you, I will miss every single moment of being on your screens but the show does go on,” he said.
This marks a new chapter for the popular star who boasts over 170k followers on Twitter, 100k on Instagram and 82 000 on Facebook.
It is without doubt that he has evolved into an easily recognisable television personality, years after he made his mark on the entertainment scene by winning the Calvin Klein Model Search, in 2010 and becoming the face of the underwear range.
His allure reeled in thousands of followers as the presenter of the popular variety show, Selimathunzi, and he went on to cement his status by hosting other popular shows on the SABC such as “The Man Cave” and “That other Soccer Show”.
But his journey hasn’t always been as well-stitched as a pair of Calvin Klein’s. With all his success as a television personality and the challenges that come with it, Lunga has had to learn the art of keeping his personal life private and as a result tries to maintain a certain level of enigma.
After his relationship with model Naomi K saw him embroiled in a cheating scandal, Lunga took a step back after appearing on Touch Central and owned up to his mistakes.
On the day of the shoot with Blacklight Magazine, Lunga is seemingly more focused than ever. He instantly submerges himself into the business of the day and when the camera starts rolling he is magnetic and strikes a pose with the ease of a man who knows what he’s doing.
BL: Where would say you are right now in your life?
Lunga: That’s a tough question to answer. I would say everything is going according to plan. I am a believer that if you have a plan and follow it through, there is no limit. Hard work also plays a huge role because, now, I am entering a new stage in my career and I am excited about these new possibilities.
BL: What would say has been the key ingredient to your success?
Lunga: I would say being authentic and also having a plan. Resilience is important because the South African entertainment industry is very unpredictable. Not many people get to enjoy long careers and that’s why a plan is vital. Getting into the industry is hard but staying in and maintaining certain levels of success, is even harder.
BL: You got into the business through a modelling competition and then you went on to win the Selimathunzi Presenter Search. Some may brand that as “overnight success”. Do you believe in such a thing?
Lunga: That doesn’t exist. I think it’s important that people know, especially the youth that overnight success comes after a lot of sweat. I was an underwear model for Calvin Klein before I won the Selimathunzi Presenter Search and that’s when everyone started to know me but there was a lot of work and preparation before that gig. I think because of all the hard work I had put in before, I was then ready for that challenge. Also I wanted a long career and not something that will come today and be gone tomorrow. I believe I have achieved that because even after joining Selimathunzi, I still continued to put in the work and to also challenge myself…People should not wait for something to happen overnight but should plan. Put in the work and when opportunities come, you will be ready.
“I don’t think of myself as a brand, in fact I don’t like the term.”
BL: Speaking of longevity, how were you able to attain such in a rather brutal entertainment industry?
Lunga: If you are yourself then you are able to focus on you and work on improving yourself, without being concerned about the next person. It’s a tough industry but many people who have had long and successful careers are always the people who have stayed true to themselves, no matter what.
BL: Who would you say your brand represents?
Lunga: I don’t think of myself as a brand, in fact I don’t like the term, I think it is quite emotionless and I don’t see myself as that. I am an entertainer and I want people to see me as a person. Everyone wants to be a brand but for me it just has a way of separating you from the people because it makes you appear as if you have no emotions.
BL: You live a life that many dream of but what makes you happy?
Lunga: Being with family and friends truly makes me happy because I know I can just be. Also when I say friends, I mean true friends who are also not afraid to call me out. It’s the same thing as family – it’s relationships that are based on truth. I am also a very sporty person and so I have a deep love for sports. Recently I have been traveling quite a lot and it’s something that I have always loved to do but now I am doing it more. It’s a great experience to be around people and not feel watched and when I go to other countries, no one knows me. I can just blend in and sometimes when everyone knows you, it’s hard to experience life freely.
BL: Doesn’t that force you into isolation, sometimes?
Lunga: Not really, because this is what I have wanted since I can remember. Part of knowing that is also knowing what it comes with. I don’t feel like I’m isolating myself but sometimes like any other person you do want some of those moments alone.
BL: Despite many perceptions that some have about you, you believe in love. Is that true?
Lunga: I do, even with everything that it comes with. One of the reasons I believe in it so much is because it was displayed to me from a very young age. My grandfather showed a great deal of love for my grandmother and as a man to see that influenced me in a big way. I also want that for myself and I realise now that it’s not easy to get but I am glad I have that as a reference because I know it is possible.
BL: You are quite private with your relationships but your previous relationship made headlines. What did you learn from that experience?
Lunga: It was never my intention to have a public relationship because I try to keep my private life private. It happened and I am not proud of what came out of that situation. The main thing for me now is to focus on the work and keep my private life separate. It’s hard because everyone wants to know [about my private life] but what happened taught me the importance of keeping my personal life to myself.
BL: You have had some downs in your life and I believe one of them was your grandmother and grandfather dying in such short space of time from one another. How did that affect you?
Lunga: It was a terrible loss because they were very important people in my life and I didn’t take it so well. I grieved in my own my way because I didn’t know how to handle the pain and the loss, but while in that situation I forgot about my mother. She also needed support because she was grieving too and that made me not look at it as just my loss. It really changed me.
BL: How exactly did it change you?
Lunga: Anyone who has ever experienced that sort of loss or death gets to see life in a different way. It changes how we view life and in a sense then we appreciate it more and we live a bit more because you never know. You want to do good with the time you have and also you want to appreciate those that you love more because anything can happen.
BL: The year is coming to an end, do you get anxieties about whether or not you have achieved all your goals for the year?
Lunga: Not at all! I don’t do that to myself and that’s probably also because in the entertainment business this is the season when we get the busiest. It’s like the year is about to start for us and therefore there is no room for anxieties. I also set realistic goals for myself and therefore there isn’t too much pressure, which is what creates anxieties. As I said, I am a man with a plan.
BL: So what is the plan going forward for Lunga?
Lunga: Well If I told you the plan then I would have to…you know ([laughs]. I am growing and my career is going on a bigger direction. I am happy with where I am going and I have a lot of stuff planned for next year. There is something that’s coming up early next year but I don’t like to talk too much until the time is right. Lunga has a plan and people are going to see it unfold with time. I am excited.