COSMO cover star DJ Zinhle is a DJ, entrepreneur, businesswoman and mother is here to remind you she can have it all, and she has no intentions of slowing down. Oh, and by the way, she’s not here for a pity party – she’s here’s to f*ck it up, so turn up the volume.
It’s 2.15 pm on a Wednesday afternoon and we are sitting in the restaurant at one of Mauritius’s most luxurious, eco-friendly and Instagrammable resorts, SALT of Palmar. Ntombezinhle Jiyane, popularly known as DJ Zinhle, sits across from me, wearing a royal-blue bikini with black denim shorts and Fendi shades.
She sips on her vodka and lemonade and leans back in her chair. Her daughter Kairo is playing in the pool with her Disney’s Frozen water wings on. Lynn Forbes, AKA’s mom, grandmom (or ‘glammy’) to Kairo, and a supportive mother-in-law-type figure to Zinhle, is sitting on a pool lounger watching her granddaughter, who has been in the pool for almost an hour. The four-year-old is sloshing about and laughing in the water. She looks happy and at times I catch her looking over at her mother adoringly.
Zinhle is a household name on the South African music scene. She entered the business in 2004 and kicked off her career with her first big gig as the resident DJ for local music and dance TV show Jika Majika in 2006. ‘This year, I celebrate 15 years of DJ Zinhle,’ she says.
‘I didn’t think I could make a career out of this. I didn’t realise how far this opportunity could take me.’
‘Kiernan [AKA] is so impressed with the healthy food here; Kairo, not so much. She keeps saying, “Mommy, there are no sweets here!”’ She chuckles and orders French fries. Zinhle (along with the rest of the country) seems completely besotted with the Insta star that is Kairo.
Her daughter has 587k followers on Instagram, she is verified, and she has a few brand collaborations under her belt – and she is only four years old. Zinhle has mixed emotions about her little girl being in the spotlight. ‘Sometimes, I’m not 100% convinced. We know she could be a child star – she’s cute and both of her parents are popular. But sometimes, as her mom, I really do worry about it. I need to keep reminding myself that she is safe.’
Zinhle does share a story, however, about a stranger who tried to pick up Kairo in Sandton City once, and she totally freaked out. ‘Everyone knows what she looks like. This is what I worry about.’
Zinhle can also add furniture designer to her ever-extending CV, having started her very own furniture brand, Jiyane Atelier (JA) earlier this year. I ask if this is something she has always been interested in. ‘I’ve always been a neat person,’ she says. ‘I like clean spaces.’ She shares the success stories of selling her old furniture on Twitter when moving into her new house and decorating for a few friends.
‘Someone asked me, “Why don’t you formalise this?”’ I ask her how involved she was in the process of creating JA, and I shouldn’t have been surprised when she said, ‘Babe, I designed the website myself. I do everything. I’m that person.’
In what seems like as good a time as any to tread into relationship territory, I ask Zinhle about her feelings after the interview with Enhle Mbali on Sincerely Yours, where Zinhle and Enhle shared their stories about being cheated on. The interview received a mixed bag of responses on Twitter – mainly about fans claiming that Zinhle’s interviews only revolve around her relationship with AKA instead of her noteworthy career. She takes a while to answer, which makes me wonder if I’ve overstepped.
‘I don’t know,’ she says. ‘I still don’t know.’ She explains that she made the decision not to do interviews about her relationship with AKA, especially with regards to the heartbreak. She makes a surprising statement that she didn’t know that the interview with Enhle was even going to be about her relationship with him. ‘Babe, I had no clue.’
She is very diplomatic and explains that she can’t say she felt ambushed. She says she could’ve insisted on them sending the questions beforehand but didn’t. Right on beat, as if making a surprise appearance in one of her music videos, AKA walks past the pool, and Zinhle stops talking and waves to him. She continues, ‘I’m happy if my experience helps whoever it helps, but personally I would not have liked to talk about it.’
There’s no doubt her experience and relationship with AKA has sparked conversations about building and rebuilding trust with your partner. ‘I wish people could take out whatever they need as a lesson, but also, don’t feel sorry for me,’ she says. ‘I’m okay.’
Looking back now, Zinhle feels braver than she’s ever felt. ‘I’ve seen the world; I understand what is possible for me. I’m the right age in numbers and the right age in mentality. At the start of my career, I could have described myself as shy, but there is no time for being shy – being shy is childish. I found my inner power when I decided to be braver. I grew up very dependent on people. I’m the third child, and was used to being taken care of.’
Her focus now is as much on deejaying as it has been over the last decade, but now it is shared with being a good mother and role model for Kairo and figuring out her relationship with Kiernan. ‘I want to build an international career as a DJ, grow JA, expand ERA by DJ Zinhle, and create a stable environment for my child. I’m okay, I’m happy.’
She picks up a fry and confidently says, ‘These 15 years in the industry have represented growth, immaturity, struggles and victories. It’s only recently that I feel I’ve created a solid foundation. Now, I start building.
To read the full interview and for more on DJ Zinhle, pick up our October/November 2019 issue, on newsstands on 14 October, or click here to subscribe.
Photographer: Katinka Bester. Creative Direction: Juan Geel. Fashion: Cleopatra Marcopulos. Bikini: Foschini. Jewellery: American Swiss. Sunglasses: Vogue Eyewear. Beauty: Zipho Ntloko, Hair & Makeup: Xola Madube. Interview: Jaime Waddington. Location: SALT of Palmar, Lux Resorts.
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