Khanyi Dhlomo is anything but ordinary. In 1995, when she was just 20 and a journalism student at the University of Witwatersrand, she made history as the first black newscaster for SABC1, South Africa’s national broadcaster.
To an extent, her appointment at SABC1 was a stroke of good fortune. South Africa was at the earliest stages of its national rebirth and the country was undergoing its post-apartheid liberation. Corporations were being mandated to become more representative of the new ‘rainbow nation,’ and so for the first time, black South Africans were getting jobs that were previously the exclusive preserve of whites. SABC1 was under pressure to adhere to the directive, and so Dhlomo, who formerly did low-paid freelance reporting jobs for the station, was given the position of a news anchor.
During the short time she spent as a newscaster for the station’s evening news bulletin, she quickly became the country’s media sweetheart. “Everyone just loved watching her,” said Justus Sikinya, a 40 year-old investment banker based in Pretoria. “I remember back then, most of us men didn’t watch the 8 O’clock news because we cared about current events. We watched news because we just wanted to see Khanyi Dhlomo on TV. Seeing her on TV made us sleep well at night.”
Sources say during Khanyi’s time at the station, the ratings of the 8 o’clock news hit record highs. And it was all because of the young girl with the cute, innocent face and the natural tan.
But she was not content. She particularly loved the print media and the prospects of editing held a special attraction for her. Even while she was still an anchor at the TV station, she was “still more interested in the editorial side,” as she once said during an interview with the South African newspaper BusinessDay. She was looking for an opportunity to work as an editor, and the opportunity came. An editor at Drum Magazine (one of South Africa’s oldest lifestyle magazines) informed her of an opening for a fashion and beauty assistant at True Love magazine, one of Africa’s most enduring women magazines.
She took the job. It wasn’t as glamorous as she imagined it’d be. She was the errand girl, serving snacks at photo shoots, selecting clothes for models and taping the soles of models’ shoes. But Khanyi had the bigger picture in mind, and while she was playing the errand girl, she was learning the ropes of the magazine business.
Dhlomo has always had good fortune on her side. In 1995, her boss got married and moved to Paris. During that period, the publishers set out to reposition the magazine to the needs of a younger, emerging generation of women. Who better to head the magazine’s operations than a young, sophisticated, upwardly mobile South African lady?