There’s no doubt that Lerato Kganyago is a fierce talent. She speaks to us about following her passion and swapping her life in the sky for the cameras and filling dance floors.

Lerato arrives for her shoot at Randlords in Braamfontein stylishly garbed in denim on denim. She has come straight from her Metro FM weekday radio show, The Bridge, which she co-hosts with Dineo Ranaka. Besides being a radio DJ, the powerhouse is also a club DJ and TV presenter.

‘Sometimes I look at my schedule and wonder how I manage,’ she laughs, ‘but I have an amazing team of people who run my life. They make sure that I am where I need to be and that I take care of myself. Fortunately, they are there for me.’

When she’s not on The Bridge, Lerato is either on a TV set or travelling around the country filling dance floors. She recently finished shooting the first season of the reality fashion competition Project Runway SA. When she gets a rare free Sunday, she uses it to catch up with her friends, family and partner.

Originally from Soweto, Lerato is an only child who was raised by her protective grandmother, mother and uncle. Like most kids in townships, she had dreams of being a doctor or a lawyer but instead, after matriculating at Boksburg High School, she studied towards a diploma in Public Relations and Travel and Tourism at Damelin College. At the age of 20, however, midway through her studies, she found herself working as a flight attendant for Qatar Airways and living in Doha. She had been independent from an early age, having worked weekend jobs to earn extra pocket money.

“I worked for about four years without a salary, because I 
had a vision, I didn’t want to quit”

On her return from the Middle East, Lerato was employed by SA Express airlines, where she worked for more than four years. As fate would have it, she was later crowned Miss Soweto in 2005 and the title changed the direction of her life completely, opening a host of other opportunities including a presenting gig for Soweto TV. Juggling the show and her flight attendant job proved challenging, however. ‘I would finish shooting at nine in the evening, then start my shift at the airline at 4am,’ she recalls.

Something had to give. ‘It was either I stay a flight attendant or follow my passion and quit,’ she says. So she threw caution to the winds and made the bold decision to resign from her paying job in favour of her non-paying role as a presenter at the TV station.

‘I worked for about four years without a salary, because I had a vision I didn’t want to quit,’ she says. ‘I went through a lot of financial problems. I hid the fact that I wasn’t getting paid from my family, and my car was nearly repossessed at one point.’ She says she survived by the grace of God – and odd part-time jobs also helped her get by.

Within just a couple of years her show, The LKG Show, had become the most-watched talk show in the country. ‘I broke barriers,’ she smiles. ‘I was focused and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.’ Before long she was approached by the SABC to host another talk show, The Link, followed by other hosting opportunities such as on the popular music show LIVE AMP, and more recently Project Runway SA.

When she isn’t at the SABC studios in Auckland Park, Lerato is getting people on their feet at clubs and music festivals. ‘Just Music With LKG on Soweto TV – that’s where I fell in love with DJing,’ she smiles. Following stints as an entertainment news updater on Jozi FM community radio station, she sent demos to various commercial stations in the hope of securing a spot as a DJ. When the time was right, Metro FM offered her a Saturday slot along with William Lehong. ‘My DJ career was definitely boosted after joining Metro FM,’ she says. ‘Everything just fell into place.’

Climbing the male-dominated club DJ ladder was not easy, ‘In the beginning, I was bullied by male DJs,’ she says, adding that a lot of DJs still believe that the space is for men – but there are other female DJs, like DJ Zinhle, who proved that women can do it too.

‘I fought to be where I am now,’ says Lerato, ‘and I am trying to make other women and girls who are coming into the industry believe that they can make it. As long as they put their heart into it, anything is possible! 

Get rid of the fear, write out your goals, have a vision and be patient. What you want might not come to you right now, but you’ll get there eventually.’ Pearls of wisdom from a woman who knows what it takes to get there – today Lerato is one of the most-booked DJs in the country.

Lerato’s private life is just that – private. ‘I learnt the hard way when I was engaged to a footballer,’ she says of her relationship with Katlego Mashego. ‘The two most important things I keep to myself are my family and my relationship.’ She is careful not to post pictures on social media about those closest to her. ‘I speak about them, but don’t expose them to the industry. They are my treasures.’ One such treasure is the man who captured her heart. Lerato is careful not to reveal his name and they have managed to keep their relationship away from prying eyes. All she reveals is that he is an ethical and cultured man who keeps her grounded. ‘I am very blessed to have a very understanding, mature and loving partner,’ she says as she smiles.

In 2015 Lerato revealed that she suffered a miscarriage due to fibroids. She says therapy has helped her work through the pain and loss over the years. ‘The beautiful thing about life is that we have options,’ she says. ‘My goal last year was to adopt, but then I realised that there were other options to consider, which I am doing.’

Her struggle to conceive propelled her towards projects close to her heart, including sanitary pad drives and donations to her favourite children’s homes. She hopes to play a part in educating women and making crucial female health checks, such as Pap smears, more accessible.

‘Women need to have themselves checked from a young age,’ she says. ‘We need to know what’s going on with our bodies.’ She is hoping that her project with the Department of Health takes off this year. ‘I also do a lot of work on my own. Next week I am donating food to an infants’ home. It is something very close to my heart; it is my happy place,’ she says as she smiles.

She remains tight-lipped about her other plans and projects as she does not want to jinx them. If her past record is anything to go by, they will be resoundingly successful. 

* Collecting gadgets
* Spending hours on the net, looking at properties for inspiration
* The Kruger National Park
* Mary J. Blige and Zonke Dikana
* Snoek – I often drive to the south of Joburg to buy at my favourite place!

* She is a homebody who enjoys quiet time at home.
* She is street smart and fluent in township lingo!
* She is obsessed with documentaries.
* She enjoys travelling around the country, especially to remote lodges.

Instagram: @leratokganyago
Twitter: @leratokganyago

By Koketso Mashika

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