How has your life changed since you joined Carte Blanche?
My life has become busier but definitely more fulfilling. I’m fortunate enough to say that I have never worked a day in my life and all credit is due to the fact that I chose to work in journalism; and when you do something you love, it never feels like work. Even when I’m chasing crooks!
You are the face of the brand; do you find you are constantly on the job?
Yes. Doing the grocery shopping or buying school uniforms often turns into long chats with fans of the show. I really don’t mind, except on days when I’m in a hurry and my children are crabby!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a rural village called Umzinto which is on the south coast of KZN.
What were you like as a child?
Extremely talkative and very inquisitive – I grew up in a Hindu home and attended a Catholic primary school before going to a state-aided Indian high school.
While growing up, what was your fantasy job?
I was an Enid Blyton fan, so initially I wanted to be a writer, then a PI (just like Magnum). LA Law convinced me to choose law but when I was 16, I watched the very first episode of Carte Blanche and it was love at first sight.
Let’s go back a bit. How did you get started in media?
In my final year of a BA degree, I was invited into the Drama and Performance Studies Honours degree programme at the University of Natal. I was at such a crossroads at the time. I didn’t want to pursue drama if I didn’t get work in the media. I didn’t want to be a struggling actress. So, I gave myself a few months to find a job with the promise that if I landed a job, I would accept the invitation. If I didn’t, I would register for a Higher Diploma in Education and qualify as a teacher. After knocking on many doors, I landed a freelance position at SABC Radio in Durban. I happily registered the following year for the Honours degree and worked freelance for Lotus FM.
How did you get from radio to television?
With great difficulty! I ran my own talk show on Lotus FM for ten years but during that time, I also wrote a column and worked as Feature’s Editor for the Sunday Times, based in Durban. I also did some continuity presenting for Eastern Mosaic on SABC 2. With the radio, television and print experience, I finally had the courage to send off a show-reel and CV to Carte Blanche in 2001. I haven’t looked back.
You’re a qualified teacher?
Yes. I taught high school. I was still freelancing at the SABC and I didn’t want to take any chances, so I did the relevant diploma through UNISA and taught for a year. I loved it and still have great respect for teachers who give it their all. I resigned when I landed a full-time position at the SABC.
You seem to be academically insecure though? Why did you also complete an MBA?
Before I tell you why, I have to tell you this joke. How do you know if somebody has an MBA?
They tell you!
You didn’t tell me.
I know. You did the research. It’s just a joke.
So why did you do an MBA?
I’m an arts graduate and for years I felt I didn’t understand finance. I wanted to be able to look at a company’s financial statements and see the gaps.
So you did an MBA?
Yes. If you need a skill, then go and get the best you can.
Do you really enjoy your job on Carte Blanche?
Look, I do think you must be a bit crazy to want to chase crooks for a living. But, I love my job. Every day is different and I get to meet interesting people every single day while listening to different opinions. This job fires up my soul. I still don’t feel as if I have worked a single day in my life.
Do you ever get scared before a confrontation?
Yes. Every time. This is not something you get used to. You just learn to trust your instinct and go in with a crack team.
You have been assaulted before and have found yourself in very dangerous situations. Why you do this? Surely there are other ways to earn a living?
It’s difficult to explain. I don’t crave the danger. But, I had to accept that if I wanted to work as a journalist then that meant I had to ask the tough questions. You can’t hold back because you’re concerned about how somebody may react.
Do you ever feel intimidated in interviews? You have interviewed everybody from Government Ministers and diamond smugglers to rapists and Nobel laureates.
I don’t feel intimidated. What for? They’re also doing a job, just like me.
But your job isn’t “just a job?
You’re on TV.
So what? I still have to go home and pack lunch for my kids.
After 22 years in the business, are you still in love with what you do?
Yes. It’s hard not to love this job. I’m a walking idiot’s guide to most things, which can be irritating when you’re at a braai. I come across as a Professor of Everything. Not good. I still haven’t learnt that if somebody is wrong about a fact, I don’t have to correct them in a relaxed social setting. I still need to work on that!
Let’s move onto lighter issues, who is your celebrity crush?
State Prosecutor, Gerrie Nel. He represents all the other South Africans who chose to stay in government and bring sheer brilliance to what they do.
What do you like to watch on TV?
I’m a series fanatic – Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey and House of Cards.
Do you have any hobbies?
I started cycling recently. Love it. I also read a lot.
What’s the side of you that the public never sees?
People don’t realize how funny I actually am! If this investigative television thing doesn’t work out in the future, I think I would be a great stand-up comedienne. Now there’s something you would never have guessed about me. Ask my friends. I do have friends, by the way, despite the reputation!