The GLAMOUR Women’s Month Series is an ode to women who are following the beat of their drum and doing it successfully.
Basetsana Kumalo, affectionately known as “Bassie” is a South African television personality, beauty pageant titleholder, businesswoman, and philanthropist.
Bassie began her career 3 decades ago when she was crowned Miss Soweto and Miss Black South Africa at the age of 16.
At the dawn of democracy, she become the second black South African to be crowned Miss South Africa and in the same year became the first runner-up in Miss World.
“I was a very shy child, but whenever I had to participate in a pageant, I was forced outside of my comfort zone, which I feel is one of the biggest life lessons I learned from my mother. We only grow when we are outside of what is familiar and easy.
“Eventually my mother entered me into the miss Black South Africa pageant which I won, and this is how I was entered into Miss South Africa and found myself on the world stage at the tender age of twenty.
“South Africa had just claimed its freedom and I had become one of the symbols of that transition. Me, the shy little girl from Soweto was now being interviewed by world media, mentored by one of the greatest human beings who ever lived, -Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela,” said the former Miss SA title holder.
She says her greatest callings are to be a teacher and a mother to her three children.
Bassie adds that her urge to be a teacher and to impart knowledge has been present since she was a little girl.
“When I was a small child, I looked up to my mother who taught at a school in Soweto, where we lived. I have always wanted to be the one standing in front of the class with a black board and some chalk in my hand and this is why my first degree was in education.
“The universe had other ideas for me though, and I now believe that my classroom is wherever I am called to speak, write, and add my voice. There are many ways to Impart knowledge, and my passion is to keep learning, so I can teach,” said the renowned media mogul.
In 1996, Bassie formed a partnership with Top Billing producer, Patience Stevens and Tswelopele Productions was born, with her owning a fifty-percent stake.
“After Miss SA, I met my dear friend Patience Stevens who mentored me as I presented a TV show by the name Top Billing. We went on to start Tswelopele Productions and produced the show for 20 years.
“Since my humble beginnings, I have been involved in all kinds of projects and businesses, and I have grown into somewhat of a serial entrepreneur. My passion for TV content continues to excite me and keep me on my toes,” She said.
In 2004, Bassie become the only Miss South Africa - at no 74 - to be voted one of the 100 Greatest South Africans.
Two years later, the Cape Town Fashion Festival gave her the Fashion Icon Award.
Which woman has positively impacted you in your career? And what is the one lesson she taught you?
There are so many wonderful women who have entered my life and brought light and love with them. From Doreen Morris, whose grace continues to leave me in awe, to Mama Graca Machel whose kindness and generosity was something to behold. I was also lucky enough to be in the presence of the indominable mama Winnie Mandela who was strong and defiant till the day she passed away.
What are the three words that spring to mind when you hear Women's Day/Month?
Intention, Change, Difference
To you, what is the most beautiful thing about being a woman?
To be a woman is to be soft and strong all at once, and there is beauty in this duality. We are strong enough to birth children, and nurturing enough to raise them, but we are also fierce enough to be leaders, businesswomen and captains of industry.
In your industry or in general, have you seen any more movement to gender equality in the workplace?
The creative industries, like Television are definitely making strides in the right direction, however there is still a way to go. We need more female directors, cameramen and Directors of Photography.
As a woman who looks to inspire young girls that look like you what are some of the measures you think should be put in place to assure young girls have an equal say in society?
I think mentorship is a key component of sharing knowledge and helping young women to reach their goals. There is really no reason why we should not be sharing our lessons to empower the younger generations.
With Black Lives Matter being at the forefront and black people calling out racism and transformation. What do you think we can teach the next generation about inclusion and representation?
I think it starts with telling them they don’t have to change the way they look to be acceptable or beautiful. Young girls don’t have to have straight hair in order to look “professional”.
Regarding representation, I think we have to use our power as consumers. Do your research and support the brands which are serious about representing you and people who look like you.
Gender Based Violence (GBV) especially women and children abuse has been prevalent in the country for a very long time and there have been various initiatives that speak to this but the scourge of abuse still continues at a large scale, what would you advise as a solution going forward? And who should be involved?
GBV is a huge issue on our continent and in a world where patriarchal power structures still dominate. Male leadership is still seen as the norm, and men hold the majority of power. Patriarchy is a social and political system that treats men as superior to women – where women cannot protect their bodies, meet their basic needs, participate fully in society.
Until this power dynamic is changed, women will continue to fall victim to violence. Our job as leaders is to push back against the oppression of women in all spheres, and to speak loudly about abuse. GBV will not go away if it continues to be cloaked in secrecy and shame.
What does women’s month mean to you and what would you like to see being done to push or commemorate this month?
Women’s month in South Africa is a celebration of the fortitude and fearlessness of women who marched against racial oppression.
It is a day where we can commemorate these amazing women and teach our children about them.
Every Women’s month is an opportunity for me to use my voice to speak about gender issues and to galvanize my platforms in support of this.
As a modern African woman, who is a powerhouse in her own right, how do you manoeuvre the African expectations for what Africa believes a woman should be, particularly in countries that are rooted in patriarchy like ours?
I think patriarchy is an issue all over the world, not just in Africa. Men have been running the world for so long that modern women have no choice but to take back their power.
This doesn’t mean that women have to be disrespectful to their male counterparts, in fact, I have found that most men want to be helpful and they themselves are trying to manoeuvre and find their place in a changing world.
We still respect the customs instilled by our parents. We still respect tradition, but we have to know when to say no, and push back.
What are some of the great possibilities about being a woman in the world right now, that may not be easy to see but you feel women should take full advantage of without being ashamed or afraid?
The modern woman is whoever and whatever she wants to be, because she is fiercely independent but also open with her vulnerabilities.
She’s strong and stands tall but also gentle, loving and compassionate.
The modern woman doesn’t fit into any of the old categories or labels because she is who she chooses to be.
International women’s day is always a celebration of the achievement’s women have made, bringing women closer together and pushing for global equality amongst the genders
There is no shame in being direct, being firm and fighting for what you believe, and it actually doesn’t matter if other people feel uncomfortable with your talents and your prowess.
The imposter syndrome is something a lot of women confess to suffer from or have suffered from. Have you ever had to deal with it? What would you say to another woman reading this about not letting the syndrome run one’s life in anyway?
The concept of imposter syndrome, which is the belief held by successful people, usually women, that they are in fact frauds who have managed to dupe their way to the top. It is often borne of internalised messages that we aren’t good enough, and a sense of our failings can undercut our ability to accept our own achievements and successes.
I think the way we deal with this kind of negative self-talk, is to get better at our internal dialogue. For every thought that says you are actually an imposter, have a list of counter thoughts to remind you how far you have come, and that you are doing your best.
How has self-care contributed to the woman you are in all facets of your life? Why is self-care important, particularly for women, as most of us are raised to believe we put everyone else first before ourselves?
It can be easy to overlook myself in the long days and busy weekends. The fact that one cannot pour from an empty cup. That is the thing about taking care of ourselves as women, we might see it as a choice, but it is actually a necessity.
Whether it is a cup of tea in a silent space, some meditation, time to myself or finding a moment in my busy schedule to exercise. All of these are necessary, not optional if I want to be my best.