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Moneoa on hitting rock bottom: ‘I was overwhelmed by the spotlight’

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She was living the high life as the new “it girl” on the music scene that everyone wanted to know and be friends with. However, with fame and money there often comes a life of excess, and a young artist can quickly find themselves going down the wrong path.

Afro soul singer Moneoa Moshesh is no exception.

As her star continued to rise she found herself living the life of a rock star. But she was losing herself, she realised. She needed to take a break from everything – the music, the parties, the people – and find herself again. Now, two years later, the award-winning singer is back with a new album, Ziphi’ Inkomo, a clear head and a fresh outlook on life.

“Fame came too suddenly,” the 28-year-old afro-soul sensation says. She soared to stardom with her debut single, More than You, in 2012 and followed it up rapidly with hits such as Is’bhanxa and Pretty Disaster. Suddenly everyone wanted a piece of her.

“I was overwhelmed by the spotlight, the industry and the fame,” she admits. “I didn’t like who I was turning into.”

The Mthatha-born star gravitated towards the wrong crowd. “I found myself becoming addicted to things that were not good for me. I’m not talking about drugs, because I’ve never done them in my life, but alcohol can be an addiction, partying can be an addiction.”

“I was addicted to the wrong type of crowds. I wanted to be associated with certain kinds of people not because it brought value to my life, but because it looked good and the money went out as fast as it came in.”

“Wow, I used to go on spending rampages. I used to go mad. I’d lose my mind in shops, clubs and restaurants. I used to be the girl in restaurants who’d say, ‘Guys, I’m making money now, I’ll pay’. I think that’s how I ruined my relationships with some of my friends because they got used to me being their blesser. Some of them expected me to pay for everything.”

Her “aha” moment came after a night of hard partying with some friends. The group went back to her place where they ransacked the place and polished off every scrap of food and drop of drink they could find.

“They had no regard for my home. They opened my fridge, went through my cupboards, and when everything was gone I was left to clean up the mess. They had no respect. They even messed up the beds and just left them like that.”

She realised something needed to change. “I needed a lifestyle audit,” she admits. “That was the last time I saw those groups of people.”

So she decided to step away from the spotlight while she embarked on her journey of self-discovery. Her record label, Bula Music, wasn’t happy at all, she says. Moneoa spent a lot of time praying, reading, writing and exercising, working on herself in the process.

“I uncovered so many things about my life and myself during that hiatus.” Distinguishing between real and fake friends was the first benefit of it all.

“People started calling me less and no one wanted to invite me over and I started seeing people’s true colours.” To make money she did a few live performances and also earned an endorsement deal with beauty brand Lux.

“I wasn’t making as much money as I was used to but it wasn’t bad either. I could still afford what I liked,” she says.

Moneoa’s roots are in Mthatha, where she lived until the age of five with her grandmother, Esni Manini Moshesh, before moving to Durban to be with her mother, Treaty, who was still studying. And this is where she got her first taste of the entertainment industry, she says. She started modelling at the age of six and received her first paycheque.

“I think it was R25 000,” she says. She moved to Johannesburg after school and did various jobs, including promotions. Her singing talent was discovered by chance when she was 23, she says.

“I was partying at a friend’s braai and the police were called because things were getting out of hand. The party ended but instead of going home a group of us got into a car and made our way to a club in Pretoria. “On our way there we were all singing and the person sitting next to me, who eventually became my manager, turned and said: ‘Why does it seem like you’ve got a bit of a voice on you?’”

She laughed it off but the next day her friend asked her to sing again and he later became her manager. Moneoa is dealing with fame differently now. “I’m so laid-back. I’m living the life I did during my hiatus.”

“I’m committed to my career so I will definitely engage whatever I need to engage in terms of work but otherwise I don’t need to go to every event, to be as stylish or to post every other day. I don’t feel the need to live up to people’s expectations of me.”

In June she released her new single, Ziphi’ Inkomo, off the album of the same name. Her new offering is based on all her experiences, she says.

“All the sad songs, all the happy songs, they are based on experience. So if you want to know what a sister has been going through, get the album.”

She’s also become an actress of note, earning admiration for her role on Mzansi Magic’s The Roadas the feisty Dodo Baloyi. She’s due to make her movie debut in the upcoming Back of the Moon. “I’m not chasing fame,” she says. “I’m a smart girl, I know I’ll always be able to make a living but I want to leave a mark. I want to make quality music.”

Moneoa has big plans for her career. “I want my music to reach international status,” she says. “That’s why I stick to a specific kind of genre. I really like African music and I want the world to embrace it. I see myself winning Grammys in the future – I don’t just want to aim for Samas. They are an honour of course, but I’ve got bigger dreams.”

Oh, and now she’s had a taste of acting, she wants more of that too. “I also see myself winning Oscars – because ndiyaphapha, I am a drama queen!”

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