Idols SA judges Gareth Cliff, Unathi Msengana, Somizi Mhlongo and Randall Abrahams.

Idols SA judges handed out 19 Golden Tickets at the first countrywide auditions.

Idols SA returned to M-Net and Mzansi Magic on Sunday, 12 July, with new judge Somizi Mhlongo taking his seat on the judging panel, alongside Randall Abrahams, Unathi Msengana and Gareth Cliff, and seasoned host ProVerb supporting the wannabe stars in the wings.

From the very first note, this year's first countrywide auditions at the State Theatre in Pretoria signalled the start of yet another smashing season featuring only the best entertainers – whether they wowed the judges or put themselves in the run for the notorious Wooden Mic award. In the end, 19 talented singers received that all-important Golden Ticket to the next round – the Theatre Phase at Sun City

22-year-old Ora Kola from Winterveld, who already boasted credible showbiz experience as a backup singer for Mzansi superstar Zola, was the first contestant to give future stardom a go. The judges were unanimously impressed with Ora’s deep, masculine voice, but his lack of excitement at winning a Golden Ticket was a concern, so Somizi demonstrated how Golden Ticket joy should be expressed

Thereafter, several contestants felt honour-bound to challenge Somizi to a dance-off, which amused the new judge, but finally a contestant turned up who could sing and dance, and also do a one-handed cartwheel with a drink in her hand, without spilling – as 29-year-old Amy Lombard from Cape Town promptly demonstrated. “I’ve been waiting for this all my life!” she gushed when three out of the four judges voted to give her a Golden Ticket.
But there was another long-legged contestant in heels that awaiting the judges: Shenay O’Brian – the first cross-dressing act to win a Golden Ticket in the history of Idols SA. Shenay is the alter ego of 25-year-old Thiart van der Linde from Roodepoort, an actor who studied Drama at the Tshwane University of Technology. “You’ve got a good, strong voice and more than anything I respect you for being you,” said Somizi, and Shenay won the day with three “yes” votes.
Unathi was moved to tears by the powerful performance of the shy, humble Rhema Varrie, who at age 20 is the sole breadwinner of his extended family in Alberton. “You look and sound like an Idol,” Somizi agreed, and Rhema walked away with four Golden Ticket votes. Another male singer who got four nods was Thami Shobebe, 27, who plays the bagpipes and joined the military to secure a better future for his sisters. 

One contestant in particular was under considerable pressure in the long Idols SA audition queue. As the son of South African musical legend Ringo Madlingozi, Phila Madlingozi from Johannesburg is already a seasoned performer and familiar face at age 25, having starred in drama series like Intersexions and Mutual Friends. But now “it is time for Phila to stand on his own to feet and support himself and be his own man,” says his dad. Which he promptly did by winning over three out of the four judges and getting his pass to Theatre Week.

Next week the Idols SA Season 11 auditions move to Cape Town, where the four judges are confronted with another Idols first, and in the weeks thereafter viewers will see all the action from Durban and Carnival City. 

Idols SA Season 11 is screened in HD on M-Net, channel 101, and Mzansi Magic, channel 161 on Dstv. You can also watch all the auditions and some behind the scenes moments on the Idols Extra channel, channel 199. 

You can follow all the Idols SA conversations on the official Idols SA website, the Idols SA Facebook page, on Twitter by following @IdolsSA, or on Instagram by following @IdolsSA. You can also find us on WeChat on the ID “idolssa”, where you can test your knowledge by using the keyword “Quiz”.


The full list of Golden Ticket winners who auditioned in Pretoria:

Amy Elle Lombard (29) from Green Point, Cape Town
Baddy Mohapi (23) from Soshanguve
John Niel (24) from Villeria, Pretoria
Karabo Fume (24) from Midrand
Karabo Mogane (23) from Nelspruit
Kataszinia (Kasha) Zubrzycki (20) from Nelspruit
Leon van Zyl (20) from Wonderboom, Pretoria
Margaret Manaba (20) from Soshanguve
Mengezi (Zee) Dlomo (25) from Kempton Park
Mmatema Moremi (23) from Doornpoort, Pretoria
Nizreen Samodien (28) from Florida, Johannesburg
Orapeleng (“Ora”) Kola (22) from Winterveld, Pretoria
Phila Madlingozi (25) from Buccleuch, Johannesburg
Poseletso Mashoboko (21) from Soshanguve
Rhema Varrie (20) from Alberton
Shenay O' Brien (25) from Constantia Kloof, Johannesburg
Stuart Reece-Miller (26) from Bryanston, Johannesburg
Thami Shobede (27) from Johannesburg
Ron Minor (Wandile Khosa) (23) from Moraletta Park, Pretoria