Mantsoe answers the phone with the very familiar husky voice and sparkling personality I’d grown used to hearing on radio, “Oh hi there, how’re you doing?”
It’s barely midday and already Mantsoe has done a million and on things, “It’s been pretty hectic, I’m actually tired already,” she laughs. “We were doing something called Truck of Love, just delivering food and some necessities at a shelter.”
Her Instagram profile reads: “I think you’re underestimating how adorable I am” and within the first minute I’m basically smitten — such a strong, infectious, genuine energy.
We get straight into talking about her childhood, and she tells me how she was always the overly talkative cousin, “My gogo always said that I talk 24/7, like a radio.” But radio wasn’t always part of the plan.
Mantsoe went off to the University of Johannesburg to study Psychology. Outside lectures, she found herself quite bored, looking for extracurriculars to occupy her time with, “I’ve always been interested in radio as a consumer but I think it happened by chance. I was at Varsity and I needed something to do.”
I find it hard to believe, but she tells me how her shyness prevented her from joining a lot of the clubs, “There were all these after school curricular activities but I realized everyone already knew each other ‘cause they went to the same school. So I was like, ‘flip I need to find something that I can do alone then, that doesn’t already have too many people, and slowly make friends that way. ‘Cause I feel like at that point I just didn’t know how I was going to make friends.”
She joined UJFM in 2008, and joined YFM in 2010, “I got a call from YFM to join Y Academy, but this was only after I’d hounded their CEO on FB inbox telling them they needed me on YFM,” she laughs cheekily as she recalls how it all began.
I ask if it had all been pretty smooth sailing, from one job into the other, and she pauses before answering, “I was going through a phase in my life where I felt like I needed change [in 2015] and I was tired of the same old thing. I was not getting along with my then boss. We were not seeing eye to eye in terms of the vision that me and my friend had for the show, so I left, quit all my jobs actually, and then I got an email from a lady at Highveld, and that’s how I started here.”
I wonder what it is that drew her to the job in the first place. “Radio really felt natural. To this day it doesn’t feel like it takes a lot, you know what I mean? I mean I really do put in a lot of work to make it good but it doesn’t feel like it. It really just feels like another day of being myself, with the radio people listening.”
Whenever I listen to radio presenters, herself very much included, they have this cool, collectedness about them, and they’re in full control of the conversation, so I ask her if she ever gets nervous. She starts about three different sentences before settling, “Ag, I don’t know, I get nervous about other things and I wish I could be one of those people who say sometimes they get nervous, ‘cause if you don’t get the nerves they say you’ve lost the love but radio doesn’t make me nervous. I’m happier doing radio.”
While radio is her comfort zone, she confesses to getting nervous elsewhere, “I get nervous in places where I am seen, so when I do theatre I get really nervous ‘cause I’m going to be in front of people. When I meet new people and I go to new places, that’s when I get nervous,” she laughs with a mild timidness.
She gets really excited telling me what she loves most about her job, “My favourite thing about my job is the fact that, especially with the show that I do now, you really change people’s lives. I’m really big on paying it forward, and random acts of kindness and the show that I’m doing now, we’re really big on that, you know? Just changing people’s lives — wow man, I could do it forever, just for that.”
Radio is also a platform for her to be her genuine self and to confirm her sanity, “Just on a lighter note, I get to know for sure that I’m not crazy when I say something to someone else, and they go, ‘Oh yeah, me too!’ And then I know I’m not alone, do you know what I mean? And I think that’s the beauty of radio even from a presenter’s perspective. That’s why I talk about everything in my life because someone else is listening and needs representation and needs to feel not alone. That’s what I’m about.”
I imagine that hers is a ridiculously busy life and I wonder when she hits the off switch, “You know what, I really pace myself. Whether it’s a corporate event or an appearance or a show, I work it around my radio show. I prioritize radio and everything else falls around it. I just don’t want to be everywhere doing everything for nothing.”
The more I talk to her, the more she gives me life and I have to ask about her ultimate I-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-this moment. After a moment’s silence it dawns on her, all at once, “Oh my gosh I cannot believe… Okay wait, so my cousins and I started a band, of cousins, and Hansa Pilsener was looking for a band to open for Usher Raymond in South Africa, and we won the competition, so we got to open for Usher Raymond. Also, I can’t believe that I had dinner, a 4-course meal, cooked by Ben Ungerman of MasterChef Australia.”
I marvel at the things this woman has done and achieved in her 11-year career, and she ends off with a very satisfied, “I love my job”.
Check out Part 1 of #BehindTheNoise with Helen Herimbi.