From her very first audition at the Playhouse Theatre in Durban, Nonhle Mhlongo (29) impressed the Idols judges with her soulful performances. Her rendition of "On and on" by Erykah Badu earned her four yeses and the always super-critical Randall Abrahams even started to sing along. After wowing them again at Sun City, first as part of the girl group who sang "Creep" and then with her solo performance of "Empire State of Mind", Nonhle was an obvious choice for the Top 16. So why did this fantastic performer decide to end her Idols journey after making it so far? Nonhle answers all our questions:
Q: When did you decide to withdraw and why?
Nonhle: I was ecstatic to be in the Top 16, but thereafter a previous commitment, which I thought I would be able to work around, stood in the way. I signed a recording contract some time ago and wasn't able to negotiate a temporary release for Idols, as I had hoped to. I should have sorted this out earlier or disclosed it to the production team earlier. I take full responsibility for the way this played out. I withdrew a couple of weeks after the Theatre Round ended at Sun City, but because the show was already recorded we could only announce it now.
Q: How did you feel while watching the pre-recorded Theatre Rounds, knowing that you were not going to be part of it?
Nonhle: I have to admit, I was very sad. I entered Idols with the intention to win. I even had visions of what my acceptance speech would sound like.
Q: What has the Idols journey meant to you?
Nonhle: For so many years I was afraid - afraid of my potential and how far I could go, and mostly of being rejected. I had tried to break it in the industry, but nothing was working and I had lost hope. So I needed to overcome my fears by facing the Idols judges and allowing them to have an opinion. After putting myself out there and hearing their comments, I will never be afraid again.
The Idols experience has also taught me many other valuable lessons. It was an eye-opener and a much-needed wake-up call. It taught me to respect time and to take my craft in high regard. Also to respect my voice and the people that I interact with in the industry. Most importantly I learnt that talent alone does not get you far. It's about hard work and staying relevant to sustain a career.
Q: What will you be doing now?
Nonhle: I am currently recording an album with some interesting sounds and features. I'm also part of a developmental programme called Diamonds in the Dirt sponsored by the Department of Arts and Culture. We are doing shows around KZN for the next six months. Then I will also be featuring on Duncan's upcoming album.
Q: Will you encourage singers to enter the competition in future?
I would definetely encourage other vocalists to enter Idols. Theatre Week was the higlight of my life. It felt like bootcamp, separating the boys from the men. The advice, the coaches, the production team, the contestants. Everything about Idols is needed by every vocalist interested in having a long-standing music career.
Q: Do you have a message for your fans?
Nonhle: To my fans, and everyone who has supported me, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I thank you for the love you have shown. I appreciate it so much.
Q: Anything else that's on your mind?
Nonhle: To the Idols production team, the judges and M-Net and Mzansi Magic, thank you so much for believing in me. I'm so grateful. My life will never be the same again. You reminded me that I matter and this restored my self-worth. Thank you.
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