By Busi Lethole
At the 2020 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal on March 6, DJ Zinhle shone in the spotlight, talking about her journey from rock-bottom to record-breaking.
As the woman responsible for South Africa’s My Name Is hit song makes her way onto the stage, there is rapturous applause from a 1,000 strong audience, gathered at Durban’s international convention center for the 2020 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit.
Zinhle Jiyane, popularly known as DJ Zinhle, walks up to the solo stage with her four-year-old daughter, Kairo Forbes, who she calls one of her “biggest achievements”.
South Africa’s award-winning DJ and media personality presents an inspirational speech during the summit’s #SPOTLIGHT session.
“You’re lazy. You’re extremely lazy,” cites Zinhle as the words that shaped her into the woman she is today.
As a child, Zinhle, who hails from KwaZulu-Natal, was heartbroken every time she was called lazy.
“I knew I was a creative at heart. My lack of interest in limited career options and the mundane robotic task of drying the dishes didn’t really appeal to me. That’s the thing that got me the title ‘vila voco’ (meaning an extremely lazy person in English).”
Despite that, Zinhle went on to pursue a BCom in marketing at the University of Johannesburg. Graduating at the top of her class gave her the first dose of confidence.
“It was possible. Although ‘vila voco’ might have been ringing in my head, at least I knew that it was possible to put in the hard work and get good results. That gave me all the confidence I need to take over the world. And that’s exactly what I did.”
Her new found self-assurance propelled her to do more.
“In 2009, I launched Fuse Academy, the first and only DJ female academy in South Africa. Ten years later, the academy has produced working DJs in the industry that have contributed largely to the overall entertainment industry.”
After eight years of resilience in the music industry, she finally scored her big break.
“I had a song called My Name Is featuring Busiswa which became one of the biggest songs in 2012, not only in South Africa, but in most parts of Africa. This song was special to me because for the first time I knew what real success was. It was an exciting time for me as a woman”.
Music has always been the DJ’s first love, so while one hand was on the decks, she tried the other hand at entrepreneurship.
“In 2013, I launched my jewelry business, Era By DJ Zinhle. Seven years later, my pride and joy is the first black female owned business to distribute through American Swiss.”
The hit maker has been vocal about the importance of female empowerment. Her involvement in a project seeking to do just this inspired her to put pen to paper.
“In 2017, I joined a very important project called ‘It Takes A Village’ on SABC1 focusing on 11 young women who needed to deal with the demons of their past. My role was to help them through this process, and help them find a better future for themselves. Spending time with these incredible ladies inspired me to write a book.”
Along with Nokubonga Mbanga, Zinhle published a book called Meeting Your Power that went on to become a best-seller.
Her new hit Umlilo featuring Mvzzle & Rethabile is her latest achievement. The song, which means ‘fire’, was one of the biggest hits to come out of South Africa in 2019.
“I’m very proud of this song. Umlilo was out for three months and had already reached platinum. It had over five million streams in two months. Over and above that, it was crowned the crossover song by Metro FM and many other radio stations. The last time Metro FM had a female-led song as the crossover song of the year was in 1997 when Brenda Fassie took it with Vulindlela.”
On March 6, Zinhle also won the 2020 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Entertainer Award.