Makho Ndlovu is the upbeat, fresh-faced new host of Essence Magazine's weekly Youtube show, Essence Now. Her warm, unpretentious interviewing style has seen Makho extract and serve up some of the year's most piping hot tea from many of our favorite celebrities as well as tackle some of the year's biggest social issues.
We chatted to Makho about her job, her style icons, and about her greatest moments from 2017.
ShineMyCrown: You recently just posted the Africans Diaspora Awards. How did that go?Makho Ndlovu: It was, wow! I don't even know where to start. I'm still soaking in all the Black and African excellence from the awards. It was it was amazing. I co-hosted it with this gentleman called NaMÓ. He's Nigerian. And the theme for this year was really building unity. So the organizers wanted to make it a point to get someone who is Nigerian and get someone who is Zimbabwean. Not specifically from those countries but really to get people from two diverse places to just represent the fact that even though we're from different countries or. Some part you know different parts of the Caribbean, or you know different parts of Africa that we're all united. You know that we're all one people. So it was just great to see all this Black excellence and all this African excellence. And I was really inspired.SMC: Your dress was incredible.MN: Thank you! You know I can't take any credit for that at all. I've been working with this. Stylist named Clarence White. And I just tell him where I'm going. What type of vibe we're going with. And then he just pulls clothes for me, and he makes it happen. I can't take credit at all for it. That's all Clarence.
SMC: How important is it that we have these type of awards shows that we are presenting ourselves?
MN: Extremely important. You know and Pan African culture, generally speaking, were very humble people, right? Like from the time we were little children and brought up were not really told to brag about our accomplishments which sometimes is a detriment to us here when we come to the United States, right? Because it's hard for us to speak about what we're good at. Of what we're talented in, and this what we what we excel in. But events like this are great because it's not about bragging about what people have achieved in certain fields, but it's about celebrating them and showing them that it's possible.
So, for example, like one of the honorees for the night was Ethiopia Habtemariam. But she's from Ethiopia, and she is the president of Motown Records. And just to see an African woman in that powerful role makes it possible to some other young person that "Oh OK. So, there are opportunities in the music industry outside of just traditionally singing and you know being in front of the scenes that there are jobs behind the scenes." So these events are really important and not just in entertaining because they honor people in a number of fields, but they are great in the sense that they give people something to aim to but also they celebrate people that are doing the good work. So it just reinforces how important. African people are to you know the community.
SMC: You were born in Zimbabwe.
MN: I was.
SMC: What was life like growing up as a child in Africa compared to childhood in the United States?
MN: Life was great. I always tell people I had a great childhood like I had an amazing childhood. And it was so crazy to me when we moved from Zimbabwe to the United States, and I moved to Brooklyn. And people would ask me like really silly questions like - "So how do you speak English so well?" or " do you guys wear clothes?" "Do you see lions all around?." I'm like, "What kind of Africa are y'all looking at because I grew up in suburbia. My grandfather drove me to school. I went to private school. And it was by no means a privileged childhood. It was a middle-class childhood. But my mom was just working really hard in America to provide that childhood for me so much so that I just I didn't understand what people were asking me. When they would ask me really random and private you know stupid questions about Africa, I'll be like, "What Africa are you talking about?" So I had a really, really great Childhood. My. Grandparents stepped in and provided for me while my mom was hustling and trying to make a path for us in the United States.
SMC: What some of your favorite countries to travel to?
MN: Gosh! That is a tricky one! I'm from Zimbabwe obviously, right. But. I have a strong identity and tie to South Africa. I love visiting South Africa. And Cape Town has got to be one of my... I think it is definitely my favorite place on earth. I love the vineyards. I'm not even gonna lie. I love my wine. They have some of the best wine in the planet. But more so I just feel at home when I arrive in South Africa and Zimbabwe as well. But I have so many friends in South Africa that the country just feels like my second home. And when I go to them mostly I go to see my grandparents and some of my older relatives that still live there. So it's not the same it's more like someone asking - "Where do you love visiting in the United States?" and you're like "Oh. I love going to New York it's so vibrant. There's so much culture. There's so much there. But my family lives in Arkansas you know." It's that sort of thing... If that makes sense. Does that make sense?
SMC: Yes. That makes sense.
MN: Yeah. So South Africa is that to me. And a Cape Town, Durban, Joburg. I just love just all the elements of it.
SMC: As the host of Essence Now, you've interviewed dozens of celebrities this year. Who have been some of your favorite interviews in 2017 and why?
MN: I would say hands down my favorite interview with the Tamar Braxton.
SMC: I love her. I'm seeing her perform this Friday during the Xscape tour.
MN: Oh you're going to see her? OK. You're in for a treat! She can sing. She can really sing. I know sometimes people get lost in the Tamar Braxton-ness and "dot com" and all that which I love as well, I'm a fan of that experience. But she's like really really talented. The reason why that interview was my favorite was because I found out about the auditions in February. Actually, they contacted me about the audition for Essence Now. And one of my callbacks was to do an interview with Tamar to see how I would handle a celebrity interview and Tamar just came in ready. I mean we spilled all the tea. We talked about everything from her husband to her family to her career. And it just felt like a kee-kee session between two girlfriends. And when they uploaded the video to Essence Now or to the YouTube page, people were like "This is so great." "I love it they're talking, and it doesn't feel like an interview it just feels natural and organic." And this was during the callback process. So it was just great to get that affirmation from our viewers, that they loved our interactions, that they loved me and they received me and for Tamar just to open up to me like that, it was definitely a highlight.
SMC: Now what have been some of your personal highlights 2017?MN: My personal highlight? Honestly getting the Essence Now job was a major highlight. So, for the past five years, I've been trying to find my way in this business, and I know five years really long time. But there's no such thing as an overnight success. An overnight success takes ten years. For the past five years, I've been trying to do different things and work in different capacities within the entertainment industry. From writing and to doing the red carpet gig to you know trying to start a company to where maybe I can sell my red carpet content that I captured to companies inside Africa or to companies like Getty and maybe even dabbling in PR. I've tried it all. So to finally get like a steady gig and a gig that speaks to who I am. That is celebrating Black women. Celebrates everything that is just fabulous about us but also talks about real issues things that I'm passionate about...That has been a definite highlight. I go to work. Each time we shoot and I'm like, "I get paid for this." It is it is a perfect marriage between me and an Essence. And I just respect everyone who works there. That's been a highlight. Getting to travel has also been a highlight. Being able to go to South Africa for my cousin's wedding and then going for Essence Festival Durban was great. I want to do more traveling next year for sure. Going to New Orleans again was amazing with Essence. And also just really being more in tune with myself. Mentally emotionally. Even just really taking better care of my health. I'm really proud of what I've done although I'm not going to lie, yesterday I had KFC which was really bad. And I didn't just have KFC - I had it delivered to my house which was terrible.SMC: I didn't even know KFC delivered.MN: They deliver I didn't even know I was on scene list and I saw it! But there's been some things that I've just kind of let slide, and I'm like I'll get to that later. But this year I've been very deliberate in saying "OK. I just have to take care of myself. And all aspects I just have to be a better wife a better sister a better friend" and just make sure that all areas of my life are covered.SMC: How is married life?MN: Married life is great. First of all, my husband is my best friend. Without a doubt. Right before I got on the phone with you, I was talking to him, and we talk about everything. We spend a lot of time together. It's not perfect. I don't think any marriage is. But I think we have found a nice rhythm we have we get along great. We respect each other as friends more so than anything, you know? So that really sets the precedent and how we treat each other and our relationship. But yeah, this is having like an inbuilt best friend. Someone that you can talk to all the time and someone who is super supportive. He's a computer programmer. So his world is very different than mine. He's not in entertainment at all, but he's very invested in my career, and he helps me out it gives me pointers, and even as I was auditioning he gave me tips, and he'd like "OK let's go through the script." He's just like really, a bomb friend.SMC: Who are your style goals?MN: So like, I love Zendaya because I think she's a chameleon. Like today she went to some awards show. I think in London, and she has a short pixie cut. And she just he's not afraid to play with hair and style and makeup and clothes. I really look to her in terms of just doing things that are different and out of the box. There's a South African celebrity that I love. Her name is Bonang Matheba. She is a style queen. I love her whole aesthetic. It's very clean. Very polished. She does a lot of gowns and dresses. Her whole look is glam and just you know almost over-the-top decadent glam, but she does really well. In a way that kids all over Southern Africa just identify with her. She's like the one of the biggest celebrities of Africa.I love Kelly Rowland. Yes. Love Kelly Rowland sense of style. She's also another one who's not afraid to try different things. She had on this white, almost ballgown dress but with some red by thigh highs which I thought was different and unique. But she just manages to pull it off. Then the next day you'll see her with some braids and a suit, and then the next day you'll see her with a two piece showing her flat stomach, looking amazing.
SMC: Who are some of your go-to/staple brands for hair care products?
MN: Oh my gosh. Oil! I have 4C hair, and so moisture is key moisture, and I are like Frick and Frack. So olive oil or Jamaican Castor oil. I have to constantly keep my hair moisturized. When I wash my hair, I do what is called the LOC method just to make sure that my hair really soaks and all the moisture. So I'll do my Leave-In. I love Dark and Lovely's Leave-In. They have a spray. A silky kind of Leave-In. It's called Slick Slip. And then I'll do my oil. Either olive oil or coconut oil and a conditioner or a cream and it's just whatever I have lying around at that particular time. So that always helps with my hair. I don't like to do my hair all the time like today; I have my hair pulled back. I love doing a sleek pull back. Either all the way back or up top. There's a gel that I use. It's a coconut gel, and I also use Gorrilla's Snot Gel. I don't think it's good for your hair all the time. So whenever I use it, I'd definitely do a deep mask conditioning. It is so good. It just it slicks your hair all the way back, and it holds and it doesn't move. So it is a staple.
SMC: Which celebs do you hope will pass through the Essence Now studio in 2018?
MN: Oh, Beyonce. Oh my gosh.
SMC: Is that the dream interview?
MN: That is the dream interview. I know she doesn't do that many interviews. And when she does she does a lot of print, and she'll just write them back. You don't even get a phoner with her. She'll be like "OK, send me the questions and then I'll write them out." So. I'm just hoping that. Somehow somewhere in 2018, she could walk or the Essence Now studio. And that would be a dream interview. I would also love to talk with Solange. I love both of them.So, yeah. Beyonce or Solange would be great.
SMC: What is Black Girl Magic to you?
MN: Black girl magic. I think of those three words instantly my momma comes up. And the reason is, Black girl magic represents to me that black women are not celebrated enough. We're we're not really highlighted in the way that we should be but we still maintain, and we do the work, and we do what is necessary. And we still shine. Meaning that whatever is thrown at us whether it's in your face racism or as institutionalized or it's just dealing with men especially in the wake of what's happening and sexual harassment right now we still rise above that. My mom comes to mind because the very reason why I have this job is because she came to America and he did what she had to do. Working these like menial jobs working at McDonald's and you know doing all these things that set the groundwork for me to come and live the life that I'm living right now. So Black Girl Magic means we thrive regardless of what is thrown in front of us. We drive, and we excel. And we're here.
You can catch Makho Ndlovu hosting Essence Now on Tuesdays at 3 pm ET.