Meeting a celebrity or simply someone in the public light that you respect and are inspired by is always a big thing. Having a lengthy conversation with that person, witnessing their depth of wit and intellect first hand is mind-blowing. And dare I say I was blown away when I met Lebo Mashile, renowned South African poet, performer, actress and presenter, when the Poetry Africa Tour brought her and other poetry greats to Malawi.
Before I met her, I was a bundle of nerves because this was someone whose column in True Love called In Her Shoes I had practically eaten up and was probably the main reason I even bothered buying the magazine in the first place. This was a woman whose first anthology, In A Ribbon Of Rhythm has inspired my own writing so much and whose words of wisdom I have quoted in my EdÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s note more than a few times.Ã‚Â Sometimes, when I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t write, or when I am feeling really low, I go through poems and old articles written by Lebo for a pick-me-up of sorts, so that should tell you just how much her play of words inspires me. And you probably understand how the prospect of meeting her was both nerve-wrecking and exciting. I knew that if something went wrong, it would break down the respect that I have for her work and for her skill. That probably sounds unfair, but I guess it comes with the territory when someone is a celebrity.
Right until I stepped into Shire Highlands Hotel for the interview the same questions were playing over and over in my head like a song on repeat.Ã‚Â Would she be courteous and down to earth? Would she be humble and kind? Or would she turn out to be the ultimate diva, complete with a killer attitude and incessant demands? After all, she is the recipient of many literary awards and actually makes a lot of money through her work as an artist.
I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised to find out that she really is your down-to-earth African sister who radiates warmth and friendliness; one of those (rare breeds among women, dare I say) that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t come across as if they have Ã¢â‚¬Ëœissues.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
Through the course of the interview, I learnt a few valuable things from Lebo; the first one being that she lives and breathes her work. She is passionate about poetry and art and it shows. Listening to her speak is like watching a private performance. Not only did she speak with so much passion and intellect on almost every topic that I brought up, each word she used helped paint a beautiful picture. I figured it is this passion, coupled with a few other things, which make Lebo such a talented and successful artist. I strongly believe that being truly passionate about our income-generating activities would help us yield success too. If, for example, we are going into business, we should pick something that we are truly passionate about, not just a venture that Ã¢â‚¬Å“is working for everyone else.Ã¢â‚¬Â LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not be afraid to think outside the box ladies!
The other thing I noticed about her is a dedicated work ethic, which she says she learnt from her mother Prudence, who is also her manager. Though she is eight months pregnant and should be taking it easy, Lebo was on tour with the Poetry Africa crew, travelling, rehearsing and giving out lively performances each night. How many of us would set aside our exhaustion and put so much into our work?
In our interview, Lebo also mentioned that being versatile as an artist is probably one of the reasons she has gained so much recognition and is making a considerable amount of money. Though her primary skill is writing poetry, she dabbles in a lot of other things within the entertainment industry. Because we lack proper guidance, we sometimes dwell on one thing and expect success to roll in. The truth is, we need to spread our wings as widely as we can. Alternatively, we can apply our natural aptitudes to make meaningful contributions in fields that we did not initially consider.
One other thing I admired about Lebo is her ability to connect with different people and her humble spirit. She seeks to learn something from interaction irrespective of who the person is or in what rank they are, which I think is admirable.