As a youngster, I loved Nonhle Thema and everything she represented. At the time, I had even convinced myself that we resembled each other lol. Things were very different for us back then, we didn’t have social media, we didn’t have access to celebrities, meeting or engaging your favourite celebrity was a mere dream. Our teen years years were dedicated to music and picture books, and mine had a Nonhle Thema section, right behind the Rihanna and Paris Hilton sections. Nonhle represented something that seemed unattainable at the time. She had the best job as a Channel O VJ, and she had the best hair in the business, way before I even dreamt of wearing weaves.I was filled with elation when she was announced as the channel’s O-Access Host, which marked the beginning of her “global domination”. Channel O’s O-Access was filmed in LA, which meant Nonhle would be based in the city for at least 6 months in a year. I followed everything she did, from interviews, to shoots and campaigns. It was all so fascinating to me how a young lady was living out her wildest dreams and doing so well in representing SA at a global scale. From 50 Cent, Lady Gaga, Pharell, Neyo, Rihanna, Keri Hilson, John Legend and Kelly Rowland, these are just some of the names Nonhle would be rolling with during the filming of her show. O-Access enjoyed resounding success and quickly became the highest rated show across Africa, making Nonhle an African Ambassador.
In 2009, Nonhle was announced as a Global Brand Ambassador and Spokesperson for leading international brand, Dark & Lovely, replacing previous Ambassador, Kelly Rowland. She was the first celebrity to endorse the brand’s Body Lotion and was the first African to represent the brand worldwide. The Dark & Lovely campaign anchored by Nonhle was used as part of a greater worldwide campaign, including Africa, USA, Canada, Europe, Jamaica and the rest of Caribbean, making it the most recognisable “Global” campaign by a South African celebrity. The campaign was everywhere, from the yummy TVC that was shot in NYC to the Billboards, the Print Ads and the in-store.
Unfortunately, Nonhle lost her Dark & Lovely endorsement and was replaced by model and daughter to actor Eddie Murphy and ex Nicole Murphy, Bria Murphy. As a result of her successful run on O-Access, Nonhle was lured by sister company, VuzuTV to join the station as the original VEntertainment host. Shortly after this, Nonhle established her own production company, Nonhle Thema Productions, which was responsible for her first reality TV show, “Nonhle Goes To Hollywood”, alongside Bounce Back Media and VuzuTV, which went on to become Vuzu’s second highest rated show at the time.
Sadly, the show received appalling reviews from TV critics and fans alike. “With Hollywood in the title you don’t really expect highbrow, but Nonhle Thema’s self-titled reality show ‘Nonhle Goes To Hollywood’ on Vuzu is a vapid, self-indulgent and mediocre “starlet in constructed trouble” attempt with production values so laugh-out-loud shoddy that it seems as if it was filmed by a handy cam and people who never went to film school”, wrote renowned TV Critic Thinus Ferreira. Unfortunately for Nonhle and some of us who idolised her, her brand did not survive the ordeal.
A few years later, I coincidentally linked up with the lady that was heading up the channel during the Nonhle fiasco and commissioned the show, working hand-in-hand with Nonhle to deliver the show to Vuzu. My probing self couldn’t resist and I asked her what she thought was the reason behind Nonhle’s “fall” and she replied, “Nonhle was South Africa’s sweetheart! Everything she did was applauded and well received by her country. She took on the Nonhle Goes To Hollywood challenge, after much convincing from the channel, hoping for the same results. She simply could not handle the rejection that came with the backlash one the show premiered, hence her meltdown”. I can relate to this insight in so many ways, especially having had my fair share of “backlash” just this month. Nonhle seems to be in a better space, pushing her acting career and a few appearances here and there. I really wish her all the best in her career. She is a beautiful, talented woman, and it would be an astonishing experience to watch her brand bounce back to the calibre of what it used to be.