Top Billing Presenter Search: Top 14

After the news finally started to sink in, I had a new type of anxiety … This dream of mine could actually be a possibility and while it is incredibly exciting, it’s terrifying too. We were told we would be going to the Pilanesburg for a few days and that was that.

I know this is such a girly thing, but one of my first thoughts was: What am I going to wear?

I need to look “Top Billing” … but I’m also going to be in the bush, and need to bear that in mind. My mom, sister and I went shopping and on the night before I was to leave, Lucia and Karolina came over and together with my sister and mom, we decided on what I would pack based on the “mini fashion show” I did for them. I’m lucky to have such an incredible support system!

I didn’t sleep very well that night – excited anticipation was to blame. We had to be at their offices at noon. The other contestants from Cape Town, PE and Durban were being flown up and we would finally be meeting each other. I was wondering if I would know anyone … with so much unknown it really was daunting.

I happened to be the first to arrive. Everyone was so welcoming. Simba Mhere arrived second and my first thought was: What a good guy. Good energy!

Eventually everyone arrived.

The Top 14: 7 girls and 7 boys.

The Girls:

Kalysha Naidoo

Vanessa Tlapu

Kaeone Kario

Lauren Mungur

Tamika Doubell

Sandy Mzolo

Bailey Schneider

The Boys:

Justin Gray

Aidan Whytock

Kenneth Fok

John Paul (JP) Sebastian

Tawanda Chatikobo (TC)

Masinga Rune

Simbarasche (Simba) Mhere

The Top 14

It wasn’t hard to notice how good looking everyone was, but what struck me the most was how friendly everyone was. We all got on instantly well, piled into the cars and were on our way!

Kenneth, Lauren and I were seated next to each other and there wasn’t a minute of silence as we got to know each other.

We arrived at the 5 star Shepherds Tree Lodge. Just so beautiful and modern, but with an African earthy feel to it.

We were taken to our rooms (so lavish) by golf carts and I was rooming with Kalysha… We were told we had 10 minutes to get ready.


We arrived at the pool area where drinks and snacks were being served. Risuna, Alan and Jeannie came through where we were filmed being welcomed and congratulated. It was then onto a game drive into the middle of the Pilanesburg. We watched the sunset, sat by the fire and drank champagne. They had the marimba band playing and drumming. It was quite emotional realizing that we had made it and were all here trying out for our dream.

Kalysha, Sandy, Tamika and Bailey

Everything was being captured on film for the reality TV show, being shown on SABC 3 on Saturday’s at 2pm! None of us actually realized that this would be a reality TV show.

I found that so bizarre. I love reality TV shows…I just never thought I would actually be a part of one.

We were told that we had a Crystal dinner at 8pm. We had a choice, we could either go back and get ready, or we could go on a night game drive and get back in time to get ready for the dinner.

I decided on the Game Drive … I was going to make the most of this experience.

I am so glad we did… we saw Rhino, had a bird fly into the car and then discovered we were in the middle of a herd of 22 elephants. They made the most incredible and haunting sounds. We saw babies, saw the male elephant “Steroid”, saw them mating, playing and knocking over trees with as much effort as we would use to snap a toothpick. I felt like I was in the middle of a National Geographic doccie.

We returned, had about twenty minutes to get ready and went to dinner. The service is really impeccable at Shepherds Tree Lodge and the food melted in our mouths.

We were told to celebrate and have a good time, get to know each other and so on… So we did just that…Hmmm…should have known something was up, but blondie here didn’t catch on. We had celebratory drinks and at about midnight Kalysha and I headed off to bed. We stayed up chatting until 02h30 though and finally decided we’d better get to sleep as we didn’t know what was in store for us.

Well… 3 hours later I woke up to a BRIGHT light attached to the HD Camera and a beautiful Jeannie Dee looking glam as always. They were there to wake us up (camera’s rolling) and told us we had 15 minutes to get camera ready and we’d better not be late.

My heart was pounding -what a way to wake up and we had only had 3 hours of sleep! I rushed around dressing, trying to do something with my birds nest hair and did some make-up. I definitely think that is a record for me.

 Tamika and Bailey at 05h30 in the morning… trying to look awake 🙂

We went on a game drive…

Once we had stopped, one by one we had to walk to the water hole and had 30 seconds to come up with a 15 second link. Camera right up close, capturing our 30 seconds! How daunting…I hadn’t even managed to brush my teeth, so my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth and the nerves didn’t help either. 30 seconds felt like 1 second and before I knew it I heard: “Speed… and Action!”

I did my link and walked back to the hide, where we waited for each other.

After the 14 of us were together, Jeannie came in saying the guys had done really well and Alan came back saying that he would send 6 out of the 7 girls home and that he was really disappointed. The Game was suddenly on. It made this very real for all of us. We needed to prove why we were here and if we have what it takes to be a TB Presenter.

We went back, had breakfast and then had to get ready for another task. We were going to be interviewing a celebrity and we would have 2 minutes once we got inside the room to come up with a few questions. We didn’t know who the celeb would be so lots of speculation was going on… The nerves kicked in again and we all waited in the dining area. One by one people were picked to go through for their interviews and then they went back to their rooms so that they wouldn’t come back to tell the others who the guest was. It was really hot and we waited and waited… 3 hours later, I was eventually 11th to go and by that stage I was feeling nauseous and had developed a mini migraine from the heat. I walked into the room to see a beautiful “studio” set-up of lush chairs, lights and cameras set up… Sitting in one of the chairs was the incredible Basetsana Kumalo. That woman has such a powerful presence. Her elegance and charisma just oozed into the room and it was difficult to not feel intimidated. I sat for the 2 minutes thinking about my questions… blood pounding through my head as I tried to remember everything I had read up about her. Why was I hitting a blank? Oh I hate nerves…I have a love hate relationship with nerves. I love them because I know that I need nerves; I channel them into performing well, but I hate the feeling.

I went to sit down next to Basetsana and she asked me to sit down on the other chair.

Oh. my. gosh.


See why I hate nerves?

I moved to the other chair and started my questions. I even managed to get a few laughs from her and I felt that it went alright…I walked out into a diary moment (we were often called to speak about our experience, what was happening, what our thoughts were and so forth.)

I had such a migraine at that stage, I could hardly see straight. We went to our rooms and I lay on the bed with a cold face cloth on my forehead and 2 painkillers. We were then collected again and Alan Ford spoke to us, saying that we really needed to up our games, that today had been a shock to show us that we needed to be on our toes all the time and that we really need to prepare and we need to prepare for the unexpected. It was a great lesson.

Tamika and I went to swim and then we all went to have dinner together. Early nights for all of us… I think we certainly learnt some great lessons.

Blue steel at dinner

The following day, Ursula Chikane (Stapelfeldt) had arrived … another powerful presence! She is so little and has this larger than life personality. Incredibly elegant and she knows exactly what she is talking about. She trained us for an hour and a half and by the end of it, I had finger cramps from writing down almost every single thing she said.

I had said I was coming into the experience (besides for the obvious title) but also to become a sponge and learn as much as possible. You couldn’t put a price tag on the value of that hour and half of knowledge. Ursula is incredible and I learned so much it was phenomenal.

In the middle of the training, Basetsana walked into the room. She called Masinga Rune up and told him that they had to make a very difficult decision… As he was in Matric, it was important that education always come first and that he could no longer continue in the competition. It was a social responsibility decision. It was so emotional. Masinga is a young, talented, colourful character, he loves his 3D glasses and he is the guy you WANT on your game drive… he spotted the most unbelievable animals from far away! I know that he definitely has a bright future in the entertainment industry. There were lots of tears and it was another reality check that people would be leaving. We have all bonded and become friends…it’s hard when people need to leave.

After the training, names were picked out of the Top Billing Hat. 13 of us were split up into 2 teams, where we needed to work together, completing a crossword puzzle and then unscrambling the letters in the coloured blocks, to find the place where we needed to be. The first team to get to the destination would win a Spa Treatment. Bliss…exactly what we needed!

My team was: Aidan, Sandy, Justin, Lauren and JP. Alan Ford was there to overlook our team work.

We certainly worked well together and while we driving around, we managed to complete the crossword puzzle and unscramble the letters. We were off the Ivory Tree Lodge and we had to tell our game ranger where he needed to take us. “Go go go!!” we were all shouting and hi-fiving each other.

3 letters made us very happy. S.P.A. Hopefuly we would be first.

We arrived and Ursula was waiting for us at the entrance with some excellent news. We had arrived first and that meant we won a spa treatment! YAY!!!!

We ate lunch and waited for the second team to arrive. After lunch, the winners would be going Quad Biking and the other team would be doing Archery.

I LOVE Quad Biking, so I was super excited. Justin was in front and he loved going fast, so that meant I had to keep up with him or literally be covered in his dust! Ha ha! It was such fun!

We did links, we often had to slow down so the cameras could film us, there were times when we had to go back and ride down the path a few times for different takes. I just loved being a part of the quad biking.

We eventually headed back and came across the same herd of elephants we had seen on our night game drive. There was a 2 week old baby elephant -too adorable. We had a male come right up to the car, putting his trunk out to smell what was happening. He was very curious and while it was incredible to be up close and personal, there is also that respect for a huge wild animal that could crush you like a bug. I don’t think any of us said a word while we trying to calm any anxiety – we didn’t want him to pick up on any nerves.

We headed back to the lodge where we were told we had 15 minutes to get ready. I was starting to get used to these record sessions of getting ready.

 Kalysha, Aidan, JP, Kaeone, Simba, Justin, Bailey, Tamika, Lauren, TC

 Simba, Bailey and Justin

 Aidan and Bailey

Kaeone, Simba, Bailey, Aidan and Lauren “Surfing”

We weren’t sure what we in store for, so we all sat around waiting. We could see a huge bonfire, 13 chairs in a semi circle with drums in front of the chairs and 3 chairs facing the semi circle. It was only when we were lined up, that we heard Dennis (part of the crew) with the clapper board shout out: “Elimination Take 1.”


My heart was in my throat. Had I done enough? Was I going home? I didn’t want to go home, but everyone is really talented and at this stage it could be anyone.

We sat on our chairs and drummed a bit. Eventually the judges: Alan Ford, Risuna Mayimele and Ursula Chikane sat down. They were eliminating 2 people instead of 3, as Masinga had already been asked to leave. This would mean that Top 14 would become the Top 11.

They eliminated Aidan Whytock and Sandy Mzolo. Very emotional again. Sandy is such a sweetheart and Aidan is charming and funny. It was hard to see them go.

We had a delicious braai and went off to bed.

In the morning, we had breakfast and then the winners from the crossword challenge had their Spa Treatment – a well needed back and neck massage. It was filmed but I didn’t really realize until I saw the camera underneath me through the hole of the massage table. That was funny and I tried my best to keep my face relaxed and still.

Afterwards, we packed up and left in the impressive VW Touaregs for the new adventures in Johanneburg.

Make sure you watch Top Billing at 19h30 on Thursday night to see what we got up to in Johanneburg and who makes the Top 8.

For the reality show, watch Top Billing Presenter Search on Saturday’s 2pm, SABC3.

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