Zimbabwe-born celebrity news correspondent Makhosazana Ndlovu has opened up about her rise to stardom in New York where she is a TV host for Amazon Live, the Wendy Williams Show and Essence Now.
Ndlovu (MN) told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) on the online show In Conversation with Trevor that being hired by top American record executive and film producer Russel Simmons’ firm was a life-changing moment for her.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
TN: Makho Ndlovu, welcome to In Conversation with Trevor, you have no idea how I am excited to have you on this show, welcome to the show.
MN: Thank you so much, I am equally as excited. When I got your email, I was very very excited.
TN: Makho, you are based in New York. You are a TV host for Amazon Live, the Wendy Williams Show, Essence Now and a number of things.
Your career sets off with Russel Simmons, making this break that’s been life-changing for you, describe to us that moment and that opportunity that made this huge breakthrough for you.
MN: Wow, that was truly like you said, a life-changing opportunity.
So, Russel Simmons owned this company and he decided to have his team to have a competition to find the next video celebrity correspondent and at the time, I was working at Sony.
I was project manager, I was so unfulfilled in my job. I was so unhappy, I was just looking for a way out and my co-workers suggested saying: Makho, why don’t you join this competition?
I didn’t think I was going to win and so fast forward to entering the competition just throwing my name out there, throwing my very first demo, interviewing people being very green in the eyes, but just being simply excited to do it and then making it through the rounds and being selected by Russel Simmons and his crew. It was amazing; it was life-changing, probably one of the most amazing moments of my life.
TN: Wow, what a story. You were born in Zimbabwe, you left Zimbabwe when you were nine years old. Do you have any recollections of your formative years in Zimbabwe though?
MN: Absolutely, I remember so much about growing up, probably again, my best memories are from home.
It was amazing for me coming to America, coming to Brooklyn specifically and getting questions like, wow you speak English so well, wow you wear great clothes and I’m like, I’m from Bulawayo, in the 90s, it was perfect.
I went to Coghlan (Primary School), my grandfather dropped me at school every day, on the weekends I went to see my grandmother in Nkulumane.
I was well-rounded and as a matter of fact, my husband and I go to Zimbabwe pretty much every year just to visit friends and family.
Zimbabwe and South Africa are so close to my heart and those memories are really so, so fresh in my mind.
TN: So, where exactly in Bulawayo were you born, which hospital or which clinic, do you remember?
MN: I have to ask my mom, I don’t remember.
TN: Being Zimbabwean, has it helped your career or has it killed your career?
MN: It 100% helped my career, but I discovered that being Zimbabwean, being African is a superpower.
It’s what makes us different. I’m always memorable, but it’s not about being memorable, it’s about delivering, it helps me, it makes me different from everybody else when I come in there, do my thing, sometimes I learn the gig, sometimes I don’t, but well, that’s the nature of the business.
TN: When did you first discover, Makho, that you loved entertainment, that you loved being on the red carpet? When did you first discover your love for entertainment?
MN: To be honest, I have always loved entertainment. I remember growing up in Zimbabwe, watching the Dolly Parton Show, Falcon Crest, as well as Law and Order.
I used to just love watching television, but I never thought that I would work in television and just growing up.
I was obsessed with magazines, with celebrities and just finding out what they are doing.
I think the part was coming to America and just getting lost in the world of celebrities as a form of escapism.
I always thought like it was something that was always there in my entire life but it really wasn’t until I went to college, that I realised you can actually work in the music industry when I saw some of my peers starting to get jobs and I said, well, I can do this as well, which prompted me to move to New York and pursue my passion, but working on the red carpet, that came way later.
Once I got laid off my job at Sony, I said let’s restart, let’s really try it out — you know, the door closes, try something else.
TN: So, tell me, you got laid off at Sony, how was that?
MN: It was amazing. You ever meet somebody who did not want the job they had? That was me.
So, what I learnt at Sony was working through corporate America, holding meetings, giving presentations, being able to talk to senior management; all of that was really really helpful, but it was a boring job.
I felt unfulfilled, so I started my blog and when the whole Russel Simmons thing came through my co-workers that knew I was interested in really pursuing a career in entertainment, but I was afraid of going for it, they came to me with that idea.
TN: So tell us, what does a day look like for you, how does it start and how do you run through it and how does it eventually end?
MN: Are we talking pre-corona or corona times?
TN: What effect has coronavirus had on your work now, what effect has it had on you?
MN: A huge, colossal effect. I remember I was talking to one of my producers and I was telling him I’m not so worried about that I don’t know why everyone is freaking out.
That was when I had returned from Zimbabwe end of January or early February.
I really didn’t think that it was going to have the impact that it did. Let’s fast-forward to March, a month later and things hit the… so all of my jobs have pretty much stopped. I haven’t been in the studio. I haven’t been to Manhattan since end of February. It really impacted my pocket.
TN: But I see, I follow you on Instagram and have noticed from time to time you dress up with nowhere to go, tell me about that.
MN: That’s true. There is this simple thing and that gives me pleasure about dressing up with nowhere to go, yes I have nowhere to go, I can’t leave the parameters of my apartment, but it just makes me feel happy.
You just find something, the little things that makes you happy and try to find the little things that help us pass the time until we resume our normal lives.
TN: Tell me, a lot of people say this has been a moment of reflection, a moment of pressing the rest button; are there any things that have come to you during this moment of reflection that you look and say, for me things are not going to be the same, because I’m going to change things going forward?
Is there anything you have reflected on and have made that kind of impact to you?
MN: Absolutely. I think one of the biggest things of living in New York City, we are all accustomed to living in small tight places, that’s just the nature of the place we live in and these places are expensive.
One of the things I crave now is having a backyard, just having space is so important to me.
From a very practical perspective, having a car, having space is important to me.
From a bigger perspective, one of the things that is really pressing my mind is how do I own my own contacts, how do I sort of build on my legacy, it’s great to work for Wendy, it’s great to work for these corporations, but God forbid if they don’t come back on air.
What does that mean for me, what is it I have that I now can become a form of currency that I can make some money with?
TN: Are you really having a moment to engage and reflect on those big issues in terms of your career and your legacy in this moment?
MN: One-hundred percent and losing many people, when you hear 875 people died, those aren’t numbers that we take lightly.
I want to take every opportunity that I can. And right now I’m in the process of building my own corporation, my own production company.
TN: Let’s go to pre-Covid-19 days. What would be your day like under normal circumstances starting in the morning until evening?
MN: I wake up around 7:30am, I get on the subway, go to work.
It depends on the day, some days we have half-days, sometimes full days and I’m done.
TN: Looking back, of all the things that you have done, Makho, what’s the thing that you are most proud of at this particular moment when you look back? Let’s look at your entire life, let’s go through maybe the top three.
MN: I will start with Essence Now, being the host of Essence Now was incredible.
I really think that helped to catapult my career into a different stratosphere. When they announced that I was going to be the host after auditioning and waiting for many many months, that was truly life-changing.
Being sort of put on as the face of the magazine and interviewing different people, that was a dream come true.
Number two, the Wendy Williams Show , I was nervous…I really look up to her. She is one of my role models. That was definitely a career highlight.
TN: I hear you talking about fear and auditioning, that must be stressful, and your adrenaline is pumping, what makes you go over those levels?
MN: Fear will not win. I will not let fear win, and fear is always a constant thing. I realise it is something that I grapple with.
TN: When you look at your life now, Makho, is this the life that you dreamt of when you were growing up in Bulawayo?
MN: I didn’t know what the world was, my world was my family and grandparents, absolutely;
I tell my husband that I’m so lucky to live the life of my dreams.
But by no means does this mean I have achieved what I want to. There are still auditions that I go to and I’m told, no, or maybe the time is not right, but I am happy to be working.
To be on TV is no small feat, it’s super competitive, it’s very difficult to work in New York City as a host, as a working host, so I realise that I’m so so lucky.