Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Viacom Africa adds a new local reality show with a social media influencer, Lasizwe Dambuza, to MTV for early-2019.

Viacom Africa is adding a new local reality show, @Lasizwe: Fake It till You Make It to MTV (DStv 130), starting Monday 21 January at 22:00 following the life of a 20-year old social media influencer Lasizwe Dambuza, known as Babes Wamaleyvels.

Viacom International Media Networks Africa (VIMN Africa) decided to place @Lasizwe: Fake It till You Make It on MTV instead of MTV Base where it will be the first local reality show on that version of the MTV channel seen in South Africa and Africa.

The 6 half hour episodes of @Lasizwe: Fake It till You Make It will show Lasizwe Dambuza, who has close to 1.2 million social media followers, and his life in Soweto, his life in Sandton where he lives and his families' township home in KwaZulu-Natal as he parties with celebrities and seek his traditional Zulu family's acceptance and understanding of his sexuality.

Characters in the show will include radio personality Ayanda MVP; best friend Ofentse Keswa; his brother Lungile Mcunu, and actor Cedric Fourie will be making "cameo" appearances.

"I am tremendously excited to be working with MTV and VIMN Africa for the second time," says Lasizwe Dambuza in a statement.

"The first time I worked with the brand was with You Got Got which was the biggest highlight of my whole career because that is when MTV gave brand 'Lasizwe the internet sensation' a shot. I am grateful again to MTV for choosing me, my show and for giving their viewers an insight on my personal life which will see the audience sharing a lot of laughter, tears and mixed emotions."

Monde Twala, vice-president for youth, music and BET at VIMN Africa says "MTV is all about entertaining the youth and serves as the cultural home of the millennial generation. We are excited to be working with Lasizwe".

"This is in line with our commitment to produce content that appeals to local tastes and popular culture. His story and multiple personalities resonate deeply with many young South Africans online."

BREAKING. Chicken Licken 'Big John' TV commercial banned for 'trivialising' colonialism as Advertising Regulatory Board orders offensive TV ad off the air.

South Africa's Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) has banned a Chicken Licken TV commercial found to be offensive advertising, ordering the company to remove its "Big John" TV advert immediately for trivialising colonialism that is "triggering and upsetting for many South African people".

Chicken Licken did a "Big John" TV advert for one of its meals that the Advertising Regulatory Board - that two months ago replaced the shuttered Advertising Standards Authority - has now found offensive.

In Chicken Licken's "Big John" TV advert, a modern-day Chicken Licken customer relates the story of a young black South African, John Mjohnana or "Big John", who in 1650 undertook a fantastical journey and eventually finding and "colonising" Europe.

After a complaint, in its ruling the Advertising Regulatory Board found that Chicken Licken's "Big John" TV commercial amounts to offensive advertising and banned the TV advert, ordering Chicken Licken to immediately withdraw it from South Africa's TV airwaves, saying it's unsuitable for South African viewers.

"The fact that the commercial is far-fetched and over-the-top does not nullify the potential offense," the ARB ruled.

"Atrocities suffered by Africans under colonialism are well documented and the legacy thereof continues to exist to date. This experience can never be rewritten differently and cannot be trivialised in any manner."

The ARB said colonialism in Africa was traumatic and "not not open for humorous exploitation".

Complainant Sandile Cele said Chicken Licken's TV commercial makes "a mockery of the struggles of the African people against the colonisation by the Europeans in general, and the persecutions suffered at the hands of the Dutch in particular."

Chicken Licken argued that the TV commercial shows how "South Africans can conquer the world".

Chicken Licken said that its Big John commercial "shows South Africans that Chicken Licken believes this country has all the potential to conquer the world and rewrite history from an African perspective".

"Its tongue-in-cheek sense of humour is a tone that consumers have come to expect, but its communication's underlying purpose is to create a sense of pride and patriotism amongst South Africans."

Chicken Licken's offensive Big John TV commercial was produced by Joe Public United and Grant de Sousa of They Shoot Films, with Grant de Sousa as director, Darren Gordon as executive producer and actor Lusindiso Zondani in the lead role.


TV CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK. Outfoxed: How Fox Africa surprised South Africa's TV biz as it surged to first place with the best TV party of the year in mid-December and Empire's Taraji P. Henson.

How did this happen? Seriously. How did this happen?

Not a single one of the carefully chosen and invited 143 people who attended Fox Africa's utterly spectacular "A Night with Taraji" dinner event Friday evening inside what looks like an aircraft hangar called "The Shed" at Steyn City in Fourways, Johannesburg can honestly say that they knew that they would be getting a seat at the table of the South African TV industry's best party of the year for 2018.

Only the fantastic media launch dinner events over 2 consecutive nights that M-Net (DStv 101) held in April in Limpopo for The Wedding Bashers and Survivor SA: Philippines rival what Fox Networks Group Africa did on Friday night with its extremely exclusive dinner event for Empire's Taraji P. Henson as a 3-way first place tie.

The mid-December doldrums for South Africa's TV industry and the press covering it, is usually more convincingly dead than the zombie extras in The Walking Dead, with the year that used to end with a last big party and the best annual upfront of the year in South Africa - the one of Discovery Inc. EMEA - until Discovery Networks International abruptly stopped doing an upfront.

Like a team suddenly scoring a last second goal out of left-field before the final whistle, cue the utter surprise and shock when FNG Africa suddenly mounted and executed with awe and perfection a year-ending media event for the FOX (DStv 125 / StarSat 131 / Cell C black 201) channel in South Africa around the press tour of Empire's Taraji P. Henson so bewildering amazing that it wasn't just the last TV party of the year, but also its best.

Only if you've ever had the opportunity to attend a real and proper Hollywood red carpet event for a TV show and how it's done there in the United States, would you have been able to recognise the basically faultless "Hollywood-level" effort and standard that Fox Africa put in and succeeded in "recreating" in Africa for its "A Night with Taraji" event.

It's not easy due to various issues involving money and budget, logistics, availability of people with actual know-how, skills and experience, the availability of event organisers, diaries and talent - and yet Fox Africa managed to successfully pull off a miracle with "A Night with Taraji" - and in mid-December no less.

In a year in which SuperSport could have gone big with something like a proper party for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and its redone Studio 6, a year in which eMedia Investments' news channel eNCA (DStv 403) turned 10 years old and deserved a big celebration but got nothing, and the seemingly passé Isidingo on SABC3 turned 20 in July but couldn't bother, Fox Africa ended outfoxing everyone by making a 2018 last-second splash with "A Night with Taraji" - winning the year for best South African TV industry party.

Honourable mentions must go to M-Net's wonderful party to properly celebrate Carte Blanche's 30th anniversary in August, Turner doing it's first-ever Turner Upfront Africa event in Johannesburg in November, and Mzansi Magic's (DStv 161) terrific 2018 DStv Mzansi Viewers Choice Awards nominees announcement press event.

More honourable mentions for great TV parties this year go to both of BBC Studios Africa's extremely well-done winter and summer upfront events, and MultiChoice Africa's terrific launch event party of its Southern Africa MultiChoice Talent Factory film academy in October in Lusaka, Zambia.

(Who knows where Viacom Africa's BET Global Good Dinner in August would have fit or what happened there since Viacom International Media Networks Africa couldn't bother to invite or give a heads-up to actual working press beforehand about it, nor communicate anything afterwards about it.)

Hopefully the Afrikaans channel kykNET (DStv 144) remembers that it's turning 20 years old in October 2019 and has some kind of proper "opskop" celebration marking this big milestone.

But back to Fox Africa and "A Night with Taraji".

If you want to get a sense of what TV channels are truly blue-chip, premium-positioned offerings - besides simply watching and judging their on-air content - the "activations" and "eventing" they do actually give a very good idea of their market status.

While M-Net and BBC Studios Africa maintain their perennially premium status with high-class, excellent, beautifully done (and constantly evolving) press events, Fox Africa in 2018 definitely joined the premium party brigade.

Is it any wonder that it also happened to also be the exact same three - BBC Studios Africa, M-Net and FOX Africa - who this year intentionally spearheaded getting rid of plastic straws at their media events?

If you're a TV channel or broadcaster planning to do a media event or party in 2019 and want to be considered part of the best, these three TV brands are definitely the ones you have to beat.

ALSO READ: Taraji P. Henson at Fox Africa's 'A Night with Taraji' dinner event talks embracing change, Hollywood pay disparity, looking for solutions - and playing Cookie on Empire with 'the why'.
ALSO READ: IN PHOTOS: The exclusive, invite-only, golden delicious - and absolutely beautiful - 'A Night with Taraji P. Henson' dinner event of Fox Networks Group Africa. 
ALSO READ: TV CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK. A Tale of Two Press Tours: Taraji P. Henson and Fox Africa, compared with Katherine Kelly Lang and the SABC - and the very striking difference between them.
ALSO READ: THE EMPIRE COMES BACK: Empire's Cookie, Taraji P. Henson is jetting back to South Africa for her second week-long visit.

Monday, December 17, 2018

MultiChoice switches Turner's Cartoon Network and movie channel TNT to high definition from 18 December on DStv.

MultiChoice will switch Turner Broadcasting's Cartoon Network (DStv 301) and its recently-rebranded movie channel TNT (DStv 137) both to high definition (HD) from 18 December 2018 on DStv in South Africa and across sub-Saharan Africa.

MultiChoice says the upgrade of Cartoon Network and TNT to HD "is a direct response to the needs of African audiences, ensuring a truly immersive viewing experience".

Guillaume Coffin, vice-president and head of commercial and business development for Turner France and Africa, says "the addition of our new HD channels speaks to our commitment to provide our viewers with the best available content on the best available platform, highlighting our drive to continuously innovate".

"African fans remain our top priority and we look forward to seeing their response following the shift to HD."

MultiChoice opening up channels like SuperSport 1, Nickelodeon, Nick Junior, CBeebies, Disney Channel and Disney Junior to lower-tiered DStv subscribers over December and January.

MultiChoice is opening some TV channels like SuperSport 1, Nickelodeon, Nick Junior, CBeebies, The Disney Channel and Disney Junior to lower-tiered DStv subscribers during the end-of-year 2018 and beginning of 2019 holiday period.

From Monday 17 December until Friday 4 January 2019, SuperSport 1 (DStv 201) that is for DStv Premium subscribers is being made available to DStv Compact Plus, DStv Compact, DStv Family, and DStv Access subscribers.

From 3 to 21 January 2019 Viacom International Media Networks Africa's (VIMN Africa) Nickelodeon (DStv 305) and Nick Junior (DStv 307), as well as BBC Studios Africa's CBeebies (DStv 306) will be made available to DStv Compact subscribers.

The Walt Disney Company's The Disney Channel (DStv 303) and Disney Junior (DStv 309) will be made available to DStv Family subscribers between 3 and 21 January 2019.

Channing Dungey joins Netflix as vice-president of original content, will work with Shonda Rhimes and the Obamas.

Channing Dungey, the former ABC Entertainment president who left the American broadcast TV network is joining the global video streamer Netflix as vice-president of original content from February 2019 where she will be working with Rhonda Rhimes and former American president Barack Obama on his documentary series.

Channing Dungey will report to Cindy Holland, also Netflix vice-president of original content.

In the newly-created role for Channing Dungey, she and Cindy Holland will create and implement the strategy for Netflix's original series and will oversee a large part of the programming slate, including Netflix's overall production deals with writer-producers ranging from Shonda Rhimes, Barack and Michelle Obama's Higher Ground Productions, as well as Jenji Kohan, Kenya Barris, Steven DeKnight and Marti Noxon.

"Channing is a creative force whose taste and talent have earned her the admiration of her peers across the industry. She's a risk taker and ground-breaker and talent love working with her. I couldn't be happier to welcome her to Netflix," says Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer in a statement.

Cindy Holland says "We're delighted to be adding Channing's expertise, leadership and deep experience to Netflix, and I look forward to partnering with her as we continue to grow and evolve our global network. I have been a fan of her character and approach from our early days as executives".

Channing Dungey says "I'm drawn to the forward-thinking, risk-taking and creative culture at Netflix, and the deeply talented people there, especially Ted and Cindy, with whom I'm excited to partner on setting the strategy for original content".

"Given that ABC, the place I've called home for nearly 15 years, represents the gold standard of traditional broadcast, it feels like the perfect next step for me to join Netflix, the unparalleled leader in streaming."

"I'm invigorated by the challenges ahead and the opportunity to forge new relationships, and excited for the very welcome reunion with incredible talent."

In a bitter court battle, the sagging beams building case drags on as MultiChoice Kenya wants to get rid of (but can't) the defective Nairobi building from its fired concrete contractor that was supposed to be the pay-TV operator's new Kenya headquarters.

MultiChoice Kenya is locked in a bitter court battle as a "sagging beams building" case drags on with a local contractor, Cementers Limited in Nairobi, Kenya, over a defective office block that was built and supposed to become its new Kenya headquarters but that the Naspers-owned pay-TV operator now just wants to get rid of but can't.

The mega-project - a 4-storey, 8 000 square feet building - was supposed to become MultiChoice East Africa's new showpiece building (artist's impression pictured right), incorporating features like water recycling and various smart technology to conserve energy, as well having an underground parking area, and even a restaurant.

But that was before the massive structural building problems with the project emerged, with MultiChoice Kenya now just wanting to get rid of the constructed mess.

In an odd twist, Cementers Limited went to court and sued MultiChoice Kenya, trying to prevent MultiChoice Kenya from selling the defective building of R125.63 million (Sh895 million) that was erected in Oloitoktok Road in Lavington in Kenya's capital before the building dispute is resolved.

Kenya's judge James Makau granted the order preventing "MultiChoice Kenya or its agents from advertising or offering for sale the property".

MultiChoice Kenya has further been ordered to "preserve" the defective building in its current state, pending the outcome of the court case.

Meanwhile MultiChoice Kenya has petition the court to allow it to continue with the planned sale of the defective building where beams started sagging in January 2016, saying it's making a loss of R650 000 (Sh4.6 million) per month having to pay for security, insurance and trying to "maintain" the defective building project.

In August Cementers Limited got a court order allowing it to go into MultiChoice Kenya's head office for the project's structural engineer to find the documents it wants in its court case with MultiChoice Kenya.

Cementers Limited confiscated electronics and documents in 6 August, something that MultiChoice Kenya is challenging in court, saying the "blanket access" of Cementers Limited to its office carries the risk of exposing the confidential information of DStv and GOtv subscribers, like their personal details, including names, addresses, smart card information and addresses.

Eric Odipo, MultiChoice Kenya managing director, says Cementers Limited was dumped in June 2017 and MultiChoice's contract with the contractor terminated after the contractor was given notice.

Cementers Limited blames the structural engineers who worked on the building and is arguing that they should be held liable.

Cementers Limited also claims that a report from Interconsult Limited, commissioned by MultiChoice Kenya and Conapex Consulting Engineers Limited as an independent expert to audit the building after the defects were discovered, had been "doctored" to show that the problems in the building and the sagging beams have been caused by the concrete.

Former Tanzanian ambassador to South Africa, Ami Mpungwe, wants to become the majority shareholder in MultiChoice Tanzania.

Ami Mpungwe
, Tanzania's former ambassador to South Africa, plans to acquire majority shareholding in MultiChoice Tanzania Limited, according to Tanzania's Fair Competition Commission (FCC).

MultiChoice Tanzania that runs DStv Tanzania and GOtv Tanzania is currently a joint venture between Ami Mpungwe as chairperson, Fabio and Marco Tramontano (represented by Franco Tramontano), and MultiChoice Africa.

Tanzania's FCC announced that Ami Mpungwe intends to acquire majority shareholding in MultiChoice Tanzania.

"The FCC is currently investigating the intended acquisitions in line with the provisions of the Fair Competition Act, 2003, No. 8 of 2003, and the Fair Competition Commission procedure rules, 2013," the FCC said in an announcement posted on the commission's website.

TV CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK. A Tale of Two Press Tours: Taraji P. Henson and Fox Africa, compared with Katherine Kelly Lang and the SABC - and the very striking difference between them.

They're both American actresses, known to South African TV viewers, they both portray iconic characters in American dramatic series, both their shows are seen on both pay-TV and on free-to-air television in South Africa and Africa, they both visited South Africa this year, both went on safari - and both did press tours with the media.

Yet the stark, big and very visible difference between how bizarrely bad the SABC went about the visit of Katherine Kelly Lang of The Bold and the Beautiful on SABC3, and how excellent FOX Africa went about the visit of Taraji P. Henson of Empire of FOX (DStv 125 / StarSat 131 / Cell C black 201) couldn't be more striking.

The incredibly well-organised South African visit of Taraji P. Henson resulted in great media interaction between Fox Networks Group Africa (FNG Africa) and the local and international press during her time in South Africa.

That however just once again underscored what a shoddy, apparently clueless, botch-job the SABC did with Katherine Kelly Lang and the South African public broadcaster's unwillingness to do what's normal and actually expected (or possibly not knowing what to do) when it comes to an international TV star's visit.

I've remarked in September on the SABC's failure to properly communicate and it's utterly bizarre and inept Katherine Kelly Lang press tour so I won't go into the details again.

However, Taraji P. Henson's visit of the past week just again made it possible to directly compare the two.

The direct comparison - because both tried to do the same thing - underscores just how big the difference is between what is "normal" and "standard" when it comes to TV channels and broadcasters doing press events with international talent, and how far away the SABC is from knowing, doing or adhering to what is actually the international basic standard, and what is expected in and from the industry, as well as from the press.

The SABC's lack of doing proper (in fact, basically any) communication and its failure of working out and following a carefully thought-out strategy of unlocking value and exposure through engaging talent and press is what is the big, big problem standing between the SABC and getting what it wants, and what the press needs.

With Taraji P. Henson's visit to South Africa this week - and experiencing and peeking behind-the-scenes to see the precision, professionalism, speed, always-available, specifically targeted, rational and multi-dimensional approach of how FOX Africa's marketing and publicity machine operates - it was again painfully obvious how the SABC's marketing and publicity didn't do (or doesn't know how to do) any of that.

Because the SABC publicity team couldn't bother to properly communicate with media regarding Katherine Kelly Lang's visit, Fox Africa was so normal and did everything so properly and correct, that FOX seemed far above-average and brilliant in comparison with their Taraji P. Henson media blitz, although they actually just did what goes for normal and what is expected.

Even before Taraji P. Henson jetted to South Africa, and even before any public announcement, or media advisories or invitations to the press conference for general media, or invitations to the "A Night with Taraji" dinner were emailed out, or even before interviews were set up, Fox Africa already reached out to strategic press and media to communicate, to tell them about it, and to keep them in the loop as to what was being planned and what is likely to happen.

The result was that the media was informed. Fox Africa worked with the press as media partners beforehand and throughout the press tour.

In contrast the SABC with Katherine Kelly Lang and BBL did nothing remotely like this.

After Taraji P. Henson's Monday press conference this week, media who didn't attend, it physically immediately got an emailed dropbox with images for download, followed by quickly transcribed Taraji quotables from the media event.

Despite doing similar press events in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg, an Isidingo set visit and on-set appearance on several SABC3 TV shows, the SABC and SABC3 never once bothered to send out even a single photo of any of it, nor any rush-transcript of what happened or quotables, or what Katherine Kelly Lang did on the Isidingo set.

Naturally, photos and information are available of Taraji P. Henson's Friday "A Night with Taraji" media dinner organised by Fox Africa, with national media from outside of Johannesburg who were also invited, knew weeks beforehand that it's being planned, and attended.

Of course the SABC and SABC3 couldn't bother to take or issue a single photo of Katherine Kelly Lang's Johannesburg media dinner or issue any press release about what she said and did at the dinner, that only Johannesburg media were invited to, with no information or anything shared with  national media from outside of Johannesburg.

Fox Africa - being strategic and forward-thinking to maximise value and to create a win-win for everybody, even before setting up and organising interviews - already started asking print media doing one-on-ones and sit-down interviews with Taraji P. Henson if they could please bank and slot in and run interviews only around March 2019.

In this way, when the broadcast of the 2nd half of the 5th season of Empire actually starts, the show gets more exposure when it's on the air, and media get more interaction with media consumers than now during the end-of-year period.

Who knows that the SABC and BBL's plan was with Kelly.

During her South African time, Fox Africa set up a carefully chosen set of phone interviews between Taraji P. Henson with international press for the Africa, Europe and Russia region; as well as specifically picked local radio, TV and print interviews.

Taraji P. Henson, her team and Fox Africa who know that less is often more, deliberately didn't do every media it could foist Taraji on, going for a strategic approach and seeking out interviews and appearances that would reach a cross-over audience and those media consumers who would know of and be interested in Taraji but also potentially already have been watching, or be interested in watching Empire.

In contract the SABC that basically almost completely ignored non-SABC media with Katherine Kelly Lang's visit, went for a seemingly spray-and-play approach, hilariously pushing Katherine onto almost every conceivable SABC regional radio and SABC TV show platform it could, whether Katherine Kelly Lang and The Bold and the Beautiful was an actual fit with that specific listenership like Umhlobo Wenene, and viewership or not.

Fox Africa publicity was constantly available during Taraji P. Henson's visit and communicated, responding to media's emails, calls and whatsapp messages.

During Katherine Kelly Lang's visit the SABC didn't bother to respond to all whatsapp, emails or calls from the press asking about it and wanting to know what is going on and happening.

Fox Africa's top marketing director and communication boss was directly involved in organising, was on the ground, hands-on, and involved with Taraji P. Henson's press tour and knew exactly what was going on.

With Katherine Kelly Lang's visit the SABC's top marketing and communication boss was not.

During Taraji P. Henson's press tour, Fox Africa marketing and publicity people didn't plaster photos and selfies with the star and themselves in public. They were, and kept behind-the-scenes, constantly working to get the star the exposure, which is what the job entails.

With Katherine Kelly Lang the SABC didn't miss opportunities to deliberately publicly push out on social media, by choice, images with the star.

Beforehand Fox Africa and Taraji P. Henson's team worked out in the finest detail the times and schedule of her diary for her whole visit of what she'll do.

When Katherine Kelly Lang got to Cape Town where she only did interviews with SABC radio and a few inserts on SABC3 TV shows, the SABC told the press waiting and wondering what's going on after not hearing back from the SABC, that "Katherine Kelly Lang is now tired".

ALSO READ: Taraji P. Henson at Fox Africa's 'A Night with Taraji' dinner event talks embracing change, Hollywood pay disparity, looking for solutions - and playing Cookie on Empire with 'the why'.
ALSO READ: IN PHOTOS: The exclusive, invite-only, golden delicious - and absolutely beautiful - 'A Night with Taraji P. Henson' dinner event of Fox Networks Group Africa.
ALSO READ: TV CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK. Outfoxed: How Fox Africa surprised South Africa's TV biz as it surged to first place with the best TV party of the year in mid-December and Empire's Taraji P. Henson.
ALSO READ: THE EMPIRE COMES BACK: Empire's Cookie, Taraji P. Henson is jetting back to South Africa for her second week-long visit.

Taraji P. Henson at Fox Africa's 'A Night with Taraji' dinner event talks embracing change, Hollywood pay disparity, looking for solutions - and playing Cookie on Empire with 'the why'.

Capping off her second visit to South Africa and a whirlwind 5-day press tour, Fox Africa on Friday evening held an invite-only, exclusive dinner event for the American actress Taraji P. Henson where she talked about embracing change, Hollywood's gender pay disparity and how she always plays her iconic character of Cookie on Empire with "the why".

During the dazzling 3-course dinner for the star of Empire on FOX (DStv 125 / StarSat 131 / Cell C black 201), the 143 invited guests - mostly women - listened as Taraji P. Henson talked about a wide-range of topics in front of the Fox Networks Group Africa executives and other top TV execs, top press and media celebrities, as well as bright rising South African female media stars.

Due to the high-profile nature of the event, access control was extremely tight - it was invite-only with names extremely carefully curated for the guest list for what was 2018's last South African TV party of the year.

Fox Africa's event dubbed "A Night with Taraji" was held at The Shed at Steyn City in Fourways, Johannesburg, where after red carpet arrivals, guests mingled with appetisers and cocktail drinks, followed by opening remarks from FNG Africa boss Evert van der Veer and FNG Africa marketing boss Khosi Khanyile.

Taraji P. Henson, asked how she go to be where she's now, implored guests to embrace change.

"The only way is to go out and do it. If I was scared to leave Washington D.C., would I be in South Africa? Change is scary because - it is scary. Because change is what you change to. You are not going to be the same. And that's scary."

"But if you embrace it, if you embrace the grey areas - I think we're so afraid of the grey areas. You want everything to be black and white and sometimes it's just not that."

"And as much faith as you have - how happy you are when everything is going right - you've got to have that same kind of faith when everything ain't going right because one day everything is going to go right."

"And when you find yourself in that dark tunnel, you've got to turn that light on," said Taraji P. Henson.

"You've got to be that light, and you also have to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You've got to see where you're going. Be the light and see the light."

Showing the 'why'
About why viewers have connected so strongly with Cookie Lyons on Empire on FOX, Taraji P. Henson said it's because she doesn't just play the character as written, one-dimensionally; but she infuses the strong female character with "the why".

"Cookie is just a tricky character. She is crazy and she fights and she will slap. But if you play just that, no-one's going to connect. Then she's just a sassy black woman - a stereotypical, ghetto out-and-out black woman, right? But how you connect is, you have to play the why."

"You always have to play 'the why'. Cookie was in jail. People are not human in jail. They are animals, they fight all the time. There's a reason why Cookie was fighting. There's a reason why she sold drugs."

Explaining from Cookie's perspective, Taraji P. Henson said "She was from the hood. She grew up in the hood. When you're back is up against the wall and you're young; find yourself young parents - I'm not dismissing selling drugs, I'm not saying it's okay - but I can understand it from a human standpoint because we're talking about survival."

"You have three black sons and we live in the hood. What we're trying to do is not have them fall in our footsteps. So we want to take our boys out so these three boys don't become statistics. Was that the best way to do it? No. But it was a way to do it."

"And when it was time to serve her time, Cookie did it. She didn't run. She chose to go to jail. And the writers didn't see this. And this is where it becomes important for the actor to see beyond what they give you. They just give you the bones and you've got to find the meat and the good stuff, right?"

"I said, 'Isn't it interesting that in the flashback you saw her come out the drug house with lots of money, she got in a car - she and Lucious and counting the money - so if it was a bust you know there was surveillance. You know they saw Lucious! So why didn't he go to jail? Because she took the fall," said Taraji P. Henson.

'Get around those who have your solutions'
From the many things her father used to say to her, Taraji P. Henson said the thing that she remembers most is "Get from around those people who have the same problems, and get around those who have your solutions. That's how I pick my friends."

"If you stay around people - especially if no-one is trying to come out of that situation, then all you do all day is complain, complain, complain about the circumstances. It's like crabs in a barrel. Whose going to rise up out of this? It's that simple."

"If you're a F-student and you're hanging around F-students, chances are you're going to fail. But if you're an F-student and you stop hanging out with the clowns in the back of class and go hang out with the A-students in the front of the class, chances are you might not have an F."

Hollywood's gender pay disparity
Taraji P. Henson also shared her insightful experience about doing the film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, for which she got an Oscar nomination as Best supporting actress, and won Best actress at the BET Awards.

"I had to swallow my pride, I had to keep my ego in check. At this point in my career I haven't done a lot of big films, but I was making my way. And all I was asking for was $500 000. Now let me put this into perspective because some might go 'ooh that's a lot of money'."

"I believe if memory serves correctly, Brad Pitt was getting his $20 million quote. And I'm not taking anything away from Brad Pitt. Brad had worked his butt off all his career. He earned that. Cate Blanchett earned her quote - I believe it was $11 million. And again, why is she getting half? But whatever. I was just trying to get my $500 000."

"So it went $20 million, $11 million - to what they offered me: $150 000."

"It sounds like a lot, but 30% goes to my team, and 50% as tax goes to Uncle Sam. You do the math, how much is left? And I have the whole rest of the year to provide food, pay for my son's education, and pay for everything else with the rest of that money - gas, clothes, we have bills."

"But had I not checked my ego, I would have lost the moment. Because we're replaceable. 'Oh, you don't want it? Next.' That's what would have happened. Because the Taraji P. Henson then, is not the Taraji P. Henson now."

"Now I have Empire, I have audience, I have fans. So now I'm in the position where if that ever happens again, I just walk away."

Below is the opening remarks of Evert van der Veer, Fox Networks Group Africa vice-president and general manager:

Below is Khosi Khanyile, marketing director of Fox Networks Group Africa, sharing a personal anecdote and story about Taraji P. Henson:

Below is a short clip of Taraji P. Henson talking about embracing change in your life:

Editor's note: TVwithThinus did do a sit-down interview with Taraji P. Henson as well about her life and her character of Cookie and no questions were off limits. FOX asked for that to run around March 2019 in print when the second half of the 5th season of Empire starts on FOX, so check back for that revealing interview in two month's time.

ALSO READ: IN PHOTOS: The exclusive, invite-only, golden delicious - and absolutely beautiful - 'A Night with Taraji P. Henson' dinner event of Fox Networks Group Africa.
ALSO READ: TV CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK. Outfoxed: How Fox Africa surprised South Africa's TV biz as it surged to first place with the best TV party of the year in mid-December and Empire's Taraji P. Henson.
ALSO READ: THE EMPIRE COMES BACK: Empire's Cookie, Taraji P. Henson is jetting back to South Africa for her second week-long visit.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

IN PHOTOS: The exclusive, invite-only, golden delicious - and absolutely beautiful - 'A Night with Taraji P. Henson' dinner event of Fox Networks Group Africa.

On Friday evening, Fox Networks Group Africa held an extremely exclusive, invite-only, and absolutely beautiful media event for the Empire actress Taraji P. Henson.

The dazzling 3-course dinner for the star of Empire on FOX (DStv 125 / StarSat 131 / Cell C black 201) was a brilliant bookend to her whirlwind second 5-day press tour visit to South Africa.

On the uber-exclusive guest list of 143 people - comprising mostly women - who snagged an invite to the top secret location, were FNG Africa executives and other top TV execs, top press and media celebrities, as well as bright rising South African female media stars.

Due to the high-profile nature of the event, access control was extremely tight - it was invite-only with names extremely carefully curated for the guest list for what was 2018's last South African TV party of the year.

Fox Africa's amazing Taraji P. Henson event dubbed "A Night with Taraji" was held at The Shed at Steyn City in Fourways, Johannesburg; inside what looks to be a massive, new aircraft hangar, beautifully decorated and customised for the intimate stage-and-screen and plated dinner evening.

So new is the ultra-exclus location that it doesn't appear on and is impossible to find on even Google Maps - the perfect place for a party with Taraji P. Henson.

After red carpet arrivals where guests mingled with appetisers and cocktail drinks, there followed opening remarks by FNG Africa boss Evert van der Veer and FNG Africa marketing boss Khosi Khanyile.

Then Anele Mdoda did an on-stage interview with Taraji P. Henson, followed by dinner and dessert.

A gleaming black dance floor beckoned where guests danced the night away with the event that was basked in hues of gold, white, black, and a dash of pink.

"A Night with Taraji"was not just mind-blowingly special, it was remarkable how "American Hollywood level" it was - something rarely seen and rarely successfully recreated by South African TV channels.

The whole event was extremely professional and brilliantly executed from beginning to end; very glamorous and very beautiful.

Most of all "A Night with Taraji" got that most elusive of ethereal qualities absolutely spot-on - being and feeling massive in scale, yet simultaneously feeling small, exclusive and intimate.

You saw it in the numerous small, very big, details: The enormous screen functioning as a stage backdrop; the waiter-to-guest ratio (constantly hovering waiters, constantly circulating with appetisers, taking drink orders, and plating food with basically no waiting time or having to look for someone to help); the flowers; the beautiful "American upfront"-like stage design and look; the smooth sound and audio-visual execution especially in a venue like this; and even Taraji P. Henson wearing a half-black, half-white dress mirrored by the table settings that had black chairs on the one side and transparent chairs on the other.

As 2018's South African television parties went, Fox Africa's "A Night with Taraji" in terms of quality, conceptualisation and creativity, execution, look, razzle-dazzle and ambience ranks at absolutely number one as a 3-way tie alongside M-Net's (DStv 101) The Wedding Bashers Give-back season "wedding reception dinner" and the bushveld under-the-trees Survivor SA: Philippines media launch.

Nothing else any other channels, broadcasters or shows did in 2018 came anywhere close to these three events and it was amazing and astounding how Fox Africa pulled off "A Night with Taraji" as a pitch-perfect year-ender media event for the who's who.