You may know Lesego Tlhabi from her scathingly hilarious alter-ego Coconut Kelz. Coconut Kelz is the parody of a bad and bougie Jo’burg gal with one finger on the pulse of South African culture, and the other on a spiced chai latte.
You may also recognise Lesego’s work as a scriptwriter, producer, performer and DJ who’s gone from Columbia University to winning Loerie Awards.
Lesego’s vlogging subverts the usual narrative spun around South African current affairs and puts a fresh, satirical spin on discussions around race dynamics.
We caught up with the YouTube vlogger to chat about microagressions, Issa Rae and the role of social media in elevating the voices of black girls.
‘I think Kelz is who my mom feared I’d turn into after going to a [privileged school]’
‘Kelz was kind of born in high school without realising it. I was at majority-white schools my whole life and was always very aware of the microaggressions the white girls displayed towards black girls (even unintentionally). I always thought it was quite bizarre that only the black girls seemed concerned with the difficult conversations around race, and that they appeared to be the only ones who seemed to have been taught since birth about white privilege.
‘I wanted to sort of play these sentiments back to them [white girls] in a funny way so they’d actually listen and not get defensive. I didn’t think it would grow like this.’
‘The only thing Kelz and I have in common is that we grew up in Sandton. But I’m not as obnoxious or asleep (the opposite of woke) as she is! I think Kelz is who my mom feared I’d turn into after going to a [privileged school].’
‘Satire is a great way to appeal to people who ordinarily might not want to engage… Sometimes it’s better to share a laugh than to lecture.’
‘With so recent a violent, politically intense landscape, everyone is on edge all the time. Tensions seem to be coming to a head because no real lessons were learnt.
‘Also, people are defensive first, before they engage or listen. Satire is a great way to appeal to people who ordinarily might not want to engage. They usually catch the truth even if it’s later. Sometimes it’s better to share a laugh,than to lecture.’
‘Without me even trying, social media (specifically Coconut Kelz) has been amazing in creating career opportunities for me. It’s kind of an amazing virtual CV. People can see my work and decide there and then if they’d like to work with me. So far, the wave has been cool and I am using it to do the kind of work and create the content I’ve always dreamed of.
‘I am first and foremost a performer’
I actually don’t write scripts for Coconut Kelz – I prefer to hear something and just react in her way; that makes it more authentic. But being a scriptwriter and producer means I soak up the news differently. I read to be informed but I also read to create content..’
‘We need more diverse voices in the SA vlogging scene’
‘I am such a fan of sketch comedy so I’d really like to see more of that type of content on YouTube. What I’d also change is the copycat nature of some vloggers. When one thing seems to work, suddenly there is an over-saturation of one type of vlogger. We need more diversity of topics, genres, styles and people.’
‘Issa Rae’s channel is such an inspiration. I love her. I aspire to create and entertain and perform and produce and write and school people like she does.’
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