Kelly Khumalo in control

Kelly Khumalo shares her thoughts about shooting her own reality show before the series returns in late August

Showmax’s new celeb realness show Life With Kelly Khumalo swaps between scenes of Kelly in her casuals at home living her life, and Kelly dressed to slay in full glam during speak-to-camera segments shot later, providing a little context for what’s happening onscreen, which were then intercut between scenes.

Episode 3, for example, cut between scenes of Kelly telling her long-suffering mom, Ntombi, about her plans to appear on The Real Goboza in early 2020 to ambush her sister Zandile, while the interview segments added later give Kelly’s thoughts on what happened the day it all went down on TV – complete with juicy details. Most of the sisters’ Instagram posts from the spectacular resulting fallout have since vanished, so the show’s glimpse into the past definitely makes this show one for the feud museum.

“I’ve always been an open book. I’ve lived half my life under the cameras, being in the public eye and all of that. I’ve always been this type of a person, this is not a show. I will continue to live my truth no matter what the circumstances are, cameras or not. So, I have just allowed myself to be. And with me there is really nothing to hide. What is there to hide?” asks Kelly. “It’s my entire life, every aspect of who I am – me as a mother, me as a musician, me as a friend, me as just a woman who is juggling everything around her to make her life the best that it can possibly be.”

Lockdown life with Kelly

Episode 3 also splashes newspaper headlines, TV and radio broadcasts across the screen to show the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa, effective from the total lockdown on Thursday, 26 March 2020. The show then details how the lockdown affected life in Kelly’s household as a single mom, an entrepreneur, an entertainer and a reality show star, and it shows her adding a new career to her portfolio: teacher to daughter Thingo and son Christian. Let’s just say that this social media savvy mom’s cellphone has never worked so hard in its life, and Kelly admits to her struggles with great humour and honesty.

The series started filming in November 2019 and came to a complete half in March, leaving Kelly with half a season in the bag and half still to be made when they finally got back on track after level 3 of lockdown was declared on Monday, 1 June.

“We have shooting hours, from the morning to the end of the day. Or sometimes we’d start during the day and end in the evening. So, I didn’t really have cameras 24-7. The only remote camera I have is when I am driving. On set I had 2 cameras with a crew of 6 to 7 people. After lockdown, we can’t have all these people around, so when we’re shooting, some of the crew members have to be outside the house, based on social distancing,” Kelly reveals.

Finding family

Kelly’s most delicate negotiations during the process of getting her show onscreen were with her kids. “My children aren’t used to having cameras around them, and they’re not used to this life of being followed by cameras, so the first couple of shoots were quite weird for them. They could not understand why they would constantly have cameras around them. I asked them to relax and just live their normal lives and to understand that their mother is in the public eye. And also, ‘Mummy is busy documenting her life.’ It was revisiting a lot of things that I hadn’t had occasion to deal with,” says Kelly.

Aside from her motherhood being an essential part of her identity now, having her children onscreen allows Kelly to confront her own issues about her paternity, and to show what she is doing to give her children the positive male role models that she would have loved, growing up – like her friend Thami Dish (Thingo’s father is the late Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa, while Christian’s father is Molemo Maarohanye, aka musician and TV presenter Jub Jub).

Seeing those scenes about her search for her father rocked Kelly while she was watching the series herself during the editing phase. Kelly looked at herself onscreen and thought, “Wow, this woman has gone through so much and yet she’s still standing.” She adds, particularly with regard to “the journey of discovery who my father is and just realising that I’ve had quite a rocky childhood, not having a father around. And obviously this mystery around my biological father. Not having a father plays a major role in the kind of men that you choose as a woman, as far as relationships are concerned. Looking at my past relationships, I realise now that they all have been based on the fact that I’ve never really had a real male model in my life,” she explains.

Kelly, now

Kelly is revelling in being both behind and in front of the cameras, shaping her own story in a way that her 21-year-old self could never have imagined. “The younger me was half the woman that I am now,” Kelly laughs. “I see things from a really different perspective. I am older, wiser, and more understanding towards myself and the people around me as well.” It's that acceptance of who she is and what she wants that powers Kelly’s decisions in the editing room. “It’s my responsibility to know what’s going on, how it’s shown and how it looks,” says Kelly. “The first part with 6 episodes is done. So, I had to see all of those and how they looked. It has brought me to a place of comfort and power. For the first time, I actually have the power over what’s going out there and what I want out there.”

Now we’re just counting down to the second half of the season, which launches on Showmax on Thursday, 27 August…

Watch Life With Kelly Khumalo S1B from Thursday, 27 August on Showmax and binge part 1A now, while you wait. 

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