Khanyi Mbau in Young, Famous & African.
Photo: Mosa Hlophe/Netflix
Young, Famous & African
WHERE TO WATCH:
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
This glitzy reality series, aka a real-life soap opera, follows a group of young, affluent and famous A-list media personalities. Hailing from South Africa, Nigeria and East Africa, this aspirational who’s who of music, media, fashion, and Insta stars comes together in Joburg. All friends and connected, they are on a quest to find love, rekindle old flames, reboot struggling relationships as they continue to shine bright.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Since the release of Netflix’s first unscripted African reality series on Friday, 20 March, the show has been trending in the number spot on the streaming service and social media. Having binged the show in one sitting, I get the appeal; while it doesn’t reinvent the genre, it does offer viewers something that we have never seen before a highlight into the lives of African stars from across the continent, including South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.
From the first episode, the series sets up the drama; the would-be feuds and the would-be relationships. It also seduces you into the glamourous lives these celebrities live, the fast supercars, the designer clothing, the beautiful homes and the trendy upscale events they attend as they sip on the ‘tears of Ceasar’ (champagne).
Although unscripted, each cast member has their own storyline followed throughout the seven-episode series.
‘Queen of Bling’ personality and actor Khanyi Mbua leads the cast – we see her juggling motherhood, her relationship and her professional life. Next up is rapper Nadia Nakai whose relationship status takes centre stage – her long-distance relationship with American rapper Vic Mensa and her friendship with Tanzania superstar Diamond Platinum. Diamond Platinum, who early on admits he likes Nadia, describes himself as a playa with commitment phobia and is still pining after the mother of his children, Ugandan businesswoman Zari, who calls herself The Boss Lady.
Then there’s TV personality Andile Ncube, who is close friends with Diamond but trying to start a relationship with Zari (‘bro code’ anyone?). Quinton Masina, aka Naked DJ and his girlfriend Kayleigh Schwark, whose relationship is going through a rough patch. Nigerian celebrity stylist Swanky Jerry (my favourite) is just fabulous and has a heart of gold. Rounding out the cast is Annie Macaulay-Idibia, Nigerian model, actor, presenter and wife of musician 2Baba (Innocent Ujah Idibia), whose tumultuous marriage is the main talking point of the show.
The show has its standard fare of extravagant parties for a lavish ball, an Arabian theme night soiree, to a white party (rolls eyes), and a car shopping stint thrown in for good measure at the obligatory extravagant trip on The Blue Train. One thing I never understand is why people who don’t get along with each other go away on trips in reality shows. Surely you’d want to go on trips with people you actually enjoy spending time with? I digress; the episode aptly titled Murder on the Blue Train, is where all the drama goes down, wigs are unstable, and things go from zero to 100 real fast, even shaking the very calm Swanky Jerry. Social media is divided between Team Khanyi and Team Zari, and no matter which team you are on, we can all agree on one thing Zari telling 2Baba that Annie was insecure did cross the line by a mile or even 20. This move was the catalyst for all the drama between Zari and Annie, with everyone else forced to take sides.
I can commend the cast for laying themselves bare in front of the camera; for example, Naked and Kayleigh go for relationship counselling, which I think is quite a personal thing to share on a show that is on a streaming service available in over 190 countries. I also appreciate Nadia, Andile and Annie’s vulnerability in addressing personal issues – Andile the death of his father, Nadia her issues with her absent father, and for Annie, the infidelity in her marriage.
Each cast member brings something different to the series. They keep you entertained; however, if I had to single one out, Annie really carried the show with her relationship drama. The ‘showstopper’ of the series was the lavish wedding renewal vows between her and 2Baba. Annie was very frank about her troubled marriage, 2Baba’s cheating, and his children with other women from the first episode. Right off the bat, you can see that this woman has been deeply hurt, but she chooses to stay with him.
Another must mention is Khanyi Mbau I particularly liked the bond she and Annie developed throughout the show; it started out rocky, but as they got to know each other better, it blossomed into a genuine, supportive friendship. I love to see women supporting women!
With that said, I did feel that some of the storylines did feel a bit forced, such as the Nadia and Diamond and Andile and Zari; whether there’s a real attraction there, I’m not quite sure, but that cliffhanger ending sets us up for a second season.
For a first season, the show delivers glitz, glamour and drama as promised in the teaser. If reality shows aren’t your thing, Young, Famous and African won’t be your glass of champagne; for those who do, you’ll be sipping everything they are pouring. I just have one question for Netflix, when do we get the reunion episode?
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: