HULISANI RAVELE: FROM CHILD STAR TO A-LISTER


Hulisani Ravele is a young woman of many talents, we find out more about how she’s grown her TV and radio career journey from her child star days.


We meet on a nippy Johannesburg morning and Hulisani’s energy is infectious. She describes herself as the life of the party and go-to person in her family and among her friends. This is not surprising, given that she’s been in the entertainment industry since the age of nine. In the 90s she was entertaining children around the country as a presenter on the popular SABC 1 teen variety show, YoTV.

She recently joined Gauteng-based regional radio station, 947. Previously, she was with Capricorn FM in Limpopo. ‘It’s been amazing,’ she smiles. ‘It is the dream station. The pressure is more intense and a lot of work goes into it, but it is very exciting. It reminds me that anything is possible.’ Hulisani also owns a production company, and has more than proved why she is among the best in the industry.


PROFESSIONAL KID
Born in Soweto, Hulisani (31) recalls how curious she was about television from a young age. ‘I wanted to know how people got inside the box,’ she laughs. ‘I always loved drama and the stage, and started doing major productions in grade 4. I was in a lot of school plays and I loved it!’

She says she used to nag her mother about taking her to the SABC. Eventually her aunt gathered the information she needed to get into the industry, and her journey to stardom began.

‘I joined an agency called Professional Kids in 1997 and did their six-week training course,’ she remembers. Being the natural talent she is, Hulisani went for her first audition and clinched her first TV job as ‘Sabrina’ on Pula and Friends – two weeks after completing her training. ‘You grow up quickly in the entertainment industry,’ she says, ‘because you are around adults most of the time. That helped to mould my confidence and I became more resilient.’

THE HIGHS AND LOWS
Being a child star does have its fair share of lows among the highs, however. ‘There are lows such as being teased and not really having the freedom to be a child,’ says Hulisani. ‘People are always watching your every move and every mistake – you don’t have the freedom to mess up.’ She also remembers being teased at school. ‘You’d think being on TV is something prestigious,’ she says, ‘but some kids would make fun of me because of it, or for my freckles. I grew very thick skin as a result of growing up in this industry.’ 

The upsides far outweighed the bad, however. ‘I got to travel and meet people I wouldn’t have otherwise met,’ she smiles. She was also afforded the rare opportunity to MC Nelson Mandela’s 84th birthday celebration in Polokwane. She says the producers would remind her and her co-presenters that being on the show was a privilege, and that many kids would love to be in their position. ‘This humbled us in many ways,’ she says. ‘That’s why we never got big heads. I know that I stand in better stead in my career now because I started at an early age. Without these lessons, I don’t think I would be where I am today.’


COMING OF AGE
Hulisani was on YoTV for eight years, and left in November 2008, the same year she completed her tertiary education. After leaving the show, she joined the SABC as a PR intern for a year, but she wasn’t prepared for what followed thereafter. Having been employed full-time and earning a salary for nine years, she found herself unemployed and without steady income for almost a year. 

‘I wasn’t getting TV jobs because they said I still had a “YoTV thing” about me,’ she recalls. ‘It was a difficult time. I had the talent, but I couldn’t do much.’ She eventually had to move in with family because she could not afford her rent anymore. ‘It was hard,’ she says, ‘because I had been the person people came to for help, and now I had to ask for help. I do not like being a burden. It was a tough transition period. The toughest challenge was falling down after being so high for so long, and having to start again. That was hard.’ She adds that she learnt the important lesson that there will be times when life does not go the way you plan.

HERE FOR THE LONG RUN
However, it wasn’t long before the tide turned. Hulisani landed a job at a digital agency as an account executive and bagged the SABC Vodacom Millionaires game show presenter gig. ‘I accepted that I must run my own race,’ she says.


‘Sometimes it will take time but it’s okay. I am here for the long run. I have never doubted my talent.’


Her advice to others is to be patient and stay prepared, so you are ready when the opportunity comes.



A PROUD MUVENDA
When the discussion turns to heritage and culture, Hulisani is animated. ‘So many young people in my culture feel oppressed by other cultures,’ she says. ‘The more they see people who sound like them achieving great things, the more they will feel that they can too. This is something I feel very strongly about.’

Hulisani went on to study towards her honours at AFDA in Johannesburg. (Previously, AFDA stood for Africa Film Drama Art but it is now known as the School for the Creative Economy.) While there, she was approached by a group of third-year students who were making a documentary about a young girl learning about her Venda culture. ‘I was keen on it because it was a journey I wanted to take for myself,’ she says. 

She adds that this was the first step she took in her journey to learn more about herself and her heritage. ‘Heritage is the source, a nourisher and replenisher. It is what grounds you. If you don’t have a connection to it, you will feel lost in some way,’ she insists. Hulisani also feels that discussions on heritage should not be a September conversation only, but should be an everyday conversation. ‘I would like to see an awakening of our spiritual and cultural practices,’ she says, ‘with us going back to our roots in every sense and also preserving our ways, our food, attire and languages.’


A FEW OF HULISANI’S FAVOURITE THINGS

  • She loves Pinotage wine
  • She enjoys a delicious ‘seven-colour’ Sunday lunch
  • Her favourite city to visit is Cape Town
  • She loves yellow roses and the colour yellow
  • A book that changed her life is Manuscript Found in Accraby Paulo Coelho




HULISANI RAVELE: FROM CHILD STAR TO A-LISTER HULISANI RAVELE: FROM CHILD STAR TO A-LISTER Reviewed by Jet Club on August 20, 2019 Rating: 5

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