Radio presenter, MC and podcaster, Keabetswe Boya, shares candid details about her broadcasting journey and her new gig on popular station 5FM.
By: Gift Musa Mqwashu
Keabetswe Boya went from Soshanguve, Pretoria, to shattering the ceiling and climbing the infamously inaccessible radio broadcasting ladder. After building a name for herself on campus radio, Tuks FM, where she won a SA Radio Award for a drivetime show, she now hosts weekend shows on 5FM, Saturday and Sunday (14h00 – 17h00).
“Joining 5FM is a new reality that I am still trying to settle into,” she tells Blacklight. “I have great respect for radio as a medium, and I realise the big difference between campus radio and commercial radio. I believe the ‘real’ work has just begun.”
She continues: “Being on a platform like 5FM comes with a lot of responsibility. It’s not just about being a household name or being mentioned in a line-up with famous DJs; it’s about being a voice for young people. This comes with a lot of responsibility, and I am ready for the challenge.”
Kea graduated from the University of Pretoria with a BA in Psychology and is currently studying towards an Honours Degree.
Campus radio, Tuks FM, is where her career as a broadcaster first took shape. She reveals that she never thought about a radio career because she was raised to follow the traditional career paths and to seek stability. However, radio has always been part of the fabric of her life.
“I grew up with my family listening to the radio and I’d always listen to the radio on Sunday afternoons. When I got to varsity, I was doing radio as an extracurricular activity.”
Kea was still at Tuks FM doing her shows when she continued to send her demos to various commercial radio stations.
January 2021, she received a life-changing WhatsApp from 5FM‘s station manager, saying they would like to meet with her.
“I met him, and he said to me, ‘We would like to offer you a show,’’ she beams.
The DJ says her five-year experience building her brand paid off and taught her invaluable lessons.
“You won’t always love what you do, but your commitment to the work is what makes you show up. I am very grateful for that experience because it enabled me to learn what committing to something is, even when you don’t see the benefits as soon as you would like,” she adds.
Kea believes the best ingredient of a good broadcaster is understanding that media plays a big role in society, and they always put the needs of the audiences first.
“The understanding that you are firstly there to serve people is important. You must not get into this industry thinking that you want to be a celebrity. Maybe that may come, but it’s mostly about serving.
“We live in a society where many people are in groups, but there is still so much loneliness lurking in the background. Radio is a medium where you can connect with people through storytelling and helping them understand that their experiences matter.”
She adds: “The youth of today is very different from the youth of twenty years ago. They need people that understand them and can relate to the challenges that they face.”
Over the years, commercial radio stations have been panned by audiences for recycling old talent and for hiring celebrities and influencers, instead of scouting for new talent.
Kea thinks it’s important to have more young and up-and-coming voices on prime radio to connect with young listeners.
“People always speak about opening up the industry and what 5FM did [hiring many young and unknown DJs] was to show that the whole idea of gatekeepers is not a thing anymore,” she explains.
“Give young people opportunities, even if it’s just for a year, to prove themselves.
“However, we (as young people) also need to understand that when we get into these spaces we don’t instantly peak. We need to serve our time. Be willing to be a freelancer or a volunteer for as long as you can.”
The DJ also says that the current taking over of influencers is not so much of a threat to the industry, as talent will always override popularity.“It sucks that extremely talented DJs who work on campus or community radio are overlooked because they don’t have the right amount of numbers [followers].”
When she is not on the radio, Kea spends time curating her podcast called Inside Out, which she started last year.
“I believe that when you change within, what is around you changes as well. Inside Out is a podcast aimed at helping individuals develop from within so that the world around you can be better.
“Even though we live in a hustle culture, we should never forget ourselves in the process. Take moments in your daily life to connect to yourself.”
Kea shares that she was diagnosed with clinical depression when she was 17 years old and has since been deliberate with taking care of herself.
“I learnt a lot and was empowered with tools on how to take care of myself from an early age. In hindsight, you may view it as a sad story, but I am grateful because it meant that my emotional intelligence had to be more than that of my peers, and I also had to be intentional with taking care of myself.”
“I still need to learn how to talk to myself nicely – self-talk is important. Even now, I am still in that process of encouraging myself and talking to myself in this transitioning period; moving from campus radio to being in a [more] public and commercial platform.”