“I want a man who is clear ‘upstairs'” says superstar, Yvonne Chaka Chaka. Then she adds excitedly “and he must be very handsome!”
Being one of the country’s most popular singers makes ‘enchanting’ Yvonne even more desirable to men throughout the country. Luckily though, she doesn’t get propositioned by chancers. “Many fans come to talk and get my autograph after shows, but they’re all normal chaps. They don’t hassle me.
Yvonne’s a ‘people’ person. She thrives on going out in a crowd. “I prefer socializing with friends – guys and girls. We all all get together at someone’s house or go to disco’s.” Although disco’s are full of people drinking and smoking, Yvonne never partakes – but it doesn’t stop her from enjoying the company. She also frequents places like the Carlton for lunches and dinners. “Sometimes I’m dressed so casually that people look at me and say: ‘Is that Yvonne Chaka Chaka or not?’ Usually I smile and greet those people and then pass by. I find that they leave my friends and I alone to enjoy our meal in privacy.”
But with all these friends, isn’t there anybody extra special? Well, Yvonne’s not giving away too much. She does hint though that she is presently in love but the lucky man shall remain nameless. Trying to pry, I’m quick to pounce on her left hand – she’s wearing an engagement ring! “No, no – all the rings on my hands are just dress rings! I’m not planning any marriage at the moment.” However, Yvonne is not anti-marriage. “I will marry one day if I think that it’s the right man and I know that he won’t tell me what to do. You know, most Black men like to rule their woman, and I don’t want that. i don’t want to be somebody’s housewife.”
Since Yvonne’s introduction into a world of bright lights and fame two years ago, she’s only had one serious boyfriend whom she went out with for about a year. She prefers a meaningful relationship of at least six months or a year, to too many casual dates.
I wonder if her hectic public life interfered with her relationship, but she dispels this. “There were no hassles about my concerts, no jealousy and sometimes he even came with me.” At the time of her first hit son, she did have a boyfriend, but he too was not bothered by her success. “It was a good affair, but it would have ended anyway,” she says.
So exactly what kind of guy turns Yvonne Chaka Chaka on? “Well, it’s hard to say who I choose. Normally, I check out what kind of guy he is, so I must know him myself first.” No invitations are accepted from strangers. The perfect man for Yvonne should enjoy life and be able to laugh as much as she does, be “very educated” and should take her for what she is without trying to change her.
“I also don’t want a guy who feels small and afraid when I have people around me. He must have confidence in himself. And if I love that guy, most importantly, I don’t need to know how rich or poor he is.”
Yvonne likes her boyfriend to fit in with her friends, so that they can all go out partying together. But if it comes to her idea of the perfect romantic evening, then alone they must be. The best, for her, would be for the two of them to stay home and have dinner. And since she doesn’t want to be a housewife, who would cook that dinner? “Either of us could prepare the meal. That wouldn’t be important – just so long as we’re together.”
Although we’ve been speaking mainly about Yvonne’s ideal man, she actually finds it better to be single. “When I’m single I have no problems of any human being. I cope with these better when I’m alone.” She doesn’t need to have a man to sing for – singing for herself gives her as much satisfaction.
And for the past two years, Yvonne Chaka CHaka has had an extremely satisfying singing career. Along with her band, Midnite Express, she’s constantly on the move with concerts, rehearsals and tours “where we all have a lot of fun!” To date, Yvonne and all the band have appeared all around South Africa, as well as in Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Botswana. People know her everywhere and they all love her music.
This year she’ll also sing in the Transkei as she’s received so many fan letters from there. She’s even been receiving fan mail from Zambia! Another prospect on the cars for this year, is a rip overseas. “I may go over to check out the situation and possibly do some interviews.” But don’t worry, Yvonne definitely has no intention of emigrating.
One of the reasons for Yvonne retaining her popularity (apart from her amazing voice) is her constant desire to make her fans happy. For this reason, she often changes her stag show and likes to rehearse beforehand so that the fans get their money’s worth. “As I’ve only been in the music industry for two years, I often buy videos of people like Donna Summer and Diana Ross.” Yvonne then watches the videos to see how she can improve her own shows.
She admits that she used to be scared each time she had to perform, but now she can’t wait to get up on stage. “When I see all those people enjoying my music, I get so much more ‘oomph’. Their response is important to me.”
With such a successful career, and so much popularity it seems as if Yvonne Chaka Chaka is totally independent. However, behind the public image lies a twenty-one year old who still dotes on her mother. “I respect her so much and love to stay home with the family. People are often shocked when they come to visit me and find that I still live with my mother. I think that I depend on her a lot – especially for advice.” (Yvonne also turns to her elder sister when she has a problem.)
The man in Yvonne’s life would have to accept the important role her mother plays. This goes as far as having to invite Yvonne out at least a week in advance of the actual date! “I must tell my mother a week before I’m going to go out with friends or a boyfriend, otherwise she’ll spank me!” reveals Yvonne.
Yvonne Chaka Chaka is definitely a chossy lady, but she’s worth it. She’s in touch with herself and her needs, she’s got backbone – and her boyfriend is certainly one very lucky guy!
NEW DAWN, May/June 1987
Yvonne Chaka Chaka was the first person I interviewed for a national magazine, after moving to Johannesburg. Until then I’d only done two interviews whilst I lived in Durban for the local paper there. The magazine was ‘New Dawn’ – aimed at a black audience. Yvonne and I clicked instantly and it was wonderful watching her career soar. I was desperate to work as a journalist, and got the job because my flatmate, Jo, worked in the same building as New Dawn’s offices. My first interview with the publisher to get the commission was a ‘me too’ moment – he drove me out to his farm somewhere in Magaliesberg and told me about all the dreams I could make come true if I just went skinny dipping with him in the dam on his property. It was searingly hot. Not a breath of wind. A Highveld afternoon. I remember being quite scared. There was a bit of a cliff, lots of rocks, and the water was dark below. There was a moment I thought I may have to. The only way home was a lift with him in his Mercedes. But I really didn’t want to, so I talked my way out of it. We didn’t skinny dip and I did get home safely, and he never tried again. But nor did I get the opportunities he had promised before. I did the two commissions and that was it. Thank goodness they were wonderful interviews with brave, talented black South African women who had even tougher struggles than I did. As for my beautiful flatmate Jo, her boss was the first to import breast implants from America – Jo and I used to sit in his office and play with the silicon, not quite believing that people would ever fall for it. I remember her boss being a nice guy – he employed his friend’s daughter who had no sensation… so Jo’s job sometimes was to watch this girl closely and make sure she didn’t staple her fingers together or cut herself with the scissors. There were mishaps. My beautiful Jo became yet another Easter road statistic in South Africa in 1993. She was sitting in the back seat before cars were created with seatbelts in the back, and was flung out into a bed of cosmos that she’d been admiring just moments before. We only ever disagreed over one thing. Before that, I had been very relaxed about wearing my seatbelt when I was driving. I thought my ‘freedom’ was more important. Jo always insisted I wear it and it drove me crazy. Till then. The last time I saw Jo, she was stuffing mushrooms. I said: “Jo, haven’t you read that life’s too short to stuff a mushroom?” And we laughed and drank some more. I still wear a gold bangle I bought her for her birthday that I never got a chance to give her.