Nal'ibali: Bassie Khumalo hopes her book will inspire readers

Many congratulations on Bassie: My Journey of Hope. But you're a mum, a businesswoman, a media icon ... When on earth did you find the time to write this book?!

Basetsana Kumalo set aside enough time to write a book.
MOVING PAST NEGATIVITY: Basetsana Kumalo set aside enough time to write a book.
Image: KANDEE PHOTOGRAPHY

Quite simply, I had to make the time! Any entrepreneur who is dealing with daily decisions about their work/life balance will tell you there are not enough hours in the day. The only way is to block out the hours and make it non-negotiable.

Through the simple fact of timing, being crowned Miss SA in our new 1994 democracy, you became an iconic symbol of our democratic journey. Does this tag ever feel strange, or is it something that you've come to own?

When I was younger I grappled with this label quite a bit because it came with so many expectations. It was not just the fact of living a public life, it was the realisation that I was going to be held to some very high standards for the rest of my life. With time however, I’ve come to see it as part of who I am, and realised all I can do is be my most authentic self.

As a role model, it's possible that your memoir encourages more people to talk about their own experiences, both good and challenging. What do you think we could learn from each other's stories in SA?

South Africans are dealing with so much negativity in general. The scourge of femicide for example, affects us all, not just its victims. The economy is struggling and jobs are scarce. We are all facing an uncertain future and many of us are despondent, but hope remains. This is the reason I chose My Journey of Hope as the title for the book, because I wanted to say to each reader, we cannot give into the current negativity. The only way we move forward is by practising tolerance and embracing each other’s stories.

You discuss some deeply personal experiences in this book. Why do you think it's important to dispel the idea that celebrities only lead glamorous lives that aren't relatable to others?

I don’t refer to myself as a celebrity because the term is very loaded. I don’t think it’s realistic for anyone to be celebrated all the time! Life is ever changing and it comes with highs and lows. It has never made sense to me that anyone could be expected to live a perfect life just because they are in the public eye. No-one is immune to tragedy and pain. Being on TV or being successful doesn’t change that fact.

My Journey of Hope also allows us to talk frankly about the realities of being a woman in SA, since you speak frankly about various forms of abuse you suffered. Why is it important for women to reach out and speak up where they possibly can?

The problem with femicide, sexual harassment and domestic abuse is that they are generally shrouded in silence and shame. The victims are so ashamed that they stay silent until it is too late, but the only way to end shame is to shine a light on it. My experience with domestic violence when I was young, successful and well known is proof that none of us is immune. That being the case it is time that we speak up!

What do you hope that your platform will do for South Africans who read your new book?

I hope every person who reads my book finds hope for their own dreams and aspirations. This part of the journey might be difficult, but it is not how the story has to end. By sharing my most intimate moments of my life, I hope I am able to inspire the reader to have the courage to stand in the light of their own truth.

For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign or to access stories in a range of SA languages, visit www.nalibali.org.

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