Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The MisRed Story - Embracing Your Mistakes

It is just after 9am on a Friday morning at the ZiFM Stereo studios in Newlands, Harare and Samantha Mussa, popularly known as MisRed has been on the radio for just over three hours. 

She is dressed casually, in a pair of leggings, combat boots and a sweater – her signature, no fuss style. “I like my sneakers, I like my hoodies, I like to be comfortable, I’m not your typical girly girl,” she says later. The co-host of the station’s breakfast show, The Ignition, is not showing any signs that she has been awake since 2am. The atmosphere in studio is light-hearted, with a playlist of songs that include the word “party” and banter amongst the people in the room. The producers and an intern tease MisRed about her supposed crush on Nigerian artist, Burna Boy, whom she met at this year’s MTV Base Awards. 


She begins to speak about those awards and music in general – who is going to blow up, who is a good performer - her passion for and knowledge of the inner workings of the industry on full display. Next, she is looking over a script that has just been handed to her. A few seconds later, the music stops, everyone snaps back into place and MisRed expertly reads the script and the show goes on.

It is now just over a year since MisRed started at ZiFM. After coming on to replace Tinopona Katsande (Tin Tin) in November 2013. She has quickly made herself at home on the show and embraced her new role as an on-air personality. One of the first things you notice about her, is her genuine smile; the smile of a woman who is comfortable in her own skin. It was not always this way and she will be the first to tell you that her journey has been full of many hard lessons.

Words by Zanele Mhlaba. Photos by Zash Chinhara
MisRed was the type of teenage girl that your mother would warn you to stay away from. She had a notorious rebellious streak and a knack for finding trouble. While in Form 3, she was part of a group of students that went to a nightclub under the guise of attending a schools’ music festival. Some parents discovered what actually happened and contacted the school then the entire group was suspended from their private school, in Harare. Although MisRed had a decent academic record, she was always in trouble. The headmaster declared that she could only return to school after a psychiatric evaluation. “I think that was their way to kick me out of school, but my mum took me to get the evaluation and the person said I was okay,” she says. Upon returning to school, she felt the school was trying to frustrate her so she voluntarily withdrew. “A lot of people think I was kicked out, but I was never actually expelled,” she explains.
The MisRed Story - Embracing Your Mistakes
Now, at 25, a more mature MisRed reflects on disappointing her parents, especially her father, who worked hard - starting off as a bank teller, to gradually move their family from Tafara to the plush suburb of Highlands. “I was a rebel, so my parents were in between a rock and a hard place; they wanted to support their child but at the same time, I was a difficult child.” After briefly being out of school, she enrolled at Speciss College, in Harare, but did not pass her O’Levels. She supplemented some subjects and passed a few but her parents had had enough. She was sent to Mozambique to live with an aunt and attend school in Maputo. She is grateful for her time in Maputo. While there she started to change for the better. “The minute I just walked out, I think that was the beginning of my life because I now knew I could do better, be better and every single thing that I was doing when I was still in Zimbabwe wasn’t really worth it.” It seemed that MisRed was finally on the right path.

Unfortunately, it was a fluke. MisRed was involved in a relationship that was driving yet another wedge between her and her family. She found herself back in Zimbabwe and married. “I was a bit naïve, I think I rushed into it because he had put me in a difficult situation with my parents.” The marriage did not last. Again, she was in the familiar position of having disappointed her parents; but now with the added complication of finding out that she was pregnant, shortly after leaving her husband. For many people, this is where they expected a rebellious girl like MisRed to end up. She describes being depressed and hiding from the world for most of her pregnancy. It was during hyperinflation and things were very bad in Zimbabwe. She had no income of her own and her father’s business was not doing well. The prospects of being able to care for herself and the baby were bleak. In addition to that, she felt guilty that as the firstborn she was bringing added stress to her family.
“There’s a saying in Shona which says something like, the child holds all the money. The day she was born, no one had money, we struggled to pay the hospital bill but after she was born, things just started happening. I don’t know if I’m a believer in chivanhu, but there was definitely an element of blessing when she came.”

“I grew up because of my daughter,” continues MisRed. She lovingly describes Hannah, 4, as the biggest blessing in her life and a major reason for change in her life. She decided it was time to change and become a responsible adult.

Once that decision was made, she never looked back. After settling in Pretoria, South Africa, she enrolled in a UNISA program and worked in administration at Nxatel. One day, she answered the phone at her office and a man told her that she had a beautiful voice. She brushed it off thinking, “ari kundinyenga (he is hitting on me).” However, the man insisted that he wanted to use MisRed’s voice for a project. That is how her voiceover work started. Her life was improving, she was making some money and she was providing for her daughter but she was wracked with guilt. “It wasn’t enough, I was away from my daughter and I just felt like I needed to come back to Zimbabwe.” He had been toying with the idea of getting onto radio, she had heard about new radio stations in the country so started listening to ZiFM Stereo via an online stream. On a visit home, she was spending some time with a producer friend, who encouraged her to record a demo. He was not the first and she felt that the universe must have been telling her something. After recording the demo and dropping it off at ZiFM, nothing happened. Disappointed, she packed her bags and went back to her job in South Africa. Back in Pretoria, she still was not ready to give up, she kept calling and texting one of the producers whom she had met at ZiFM Stereo, but was not getting any response. She returned to Zimbabwe, hoping that if she appeared in person, she may get an answer. Nothing. At that point she decided to try Star FM. She went to Star FM and met with radio legend, Comfort Mbofana. He assured her that he would listen to it and get back to her. Once again, she got nothing. Then she met Tony G from ZiFM; he had listened to her demo and encouraged her not to give up. At this time, there was a scandal that involved then morning show co-host, Tinopona Katsande. It seemed MisRed was in luck because of this unfortunate situation. ZiFM was looking to replace TinTin. After training for a few weeks with Tonderai (TK) Katsande, she started on the show in November 2013. “I was literally thrown into the deep-end, I hadn’t done mainstream radio.” Her persistence paid off and she still cannot believe how it all worked out.

Understanding that she had to prove herself, MisRed dedicated herself to learning the craft. “They just took a nobody, I literally came from nowhere,” she says as she explains how grateful she is for the opportunity. “I would book studio time and just spend two to three hours, trying to acclimatize myself to the stuff in there.” A year later, she feels more comfortable but acknowledges that it is a constant learning process. Radio is what she describes as an ever-changing form of media. Each day they must prepare for the next show. Working on radio has changed her life in many ways. “I’m still wild and crazy,” she laughs, “but I am more responsible and I know what my goals are.”
MisRed speaks candidly about her past and she is confident that she has left that part of her behind. She wants to tell her story and move on from it. “I think God is good because I turned out okay, but I went through so much,” she says. She feels strongly that as a public figure, she has a responsibility to be as honest and real as possible. She stresses that she is not perfect and wants the public to know that there is a real woman behind the fancy dresses and makeup at events. Everyone struggles and has a past, life can be difficult, no matter whom you are. She adds that it is important to her, to speak to other young women about the choices they make in life, “I do feel that I have to be that voice because I’ve had to learn the hard way.” In her view, our society shuns difficult conversations. “I want to be open enough to talk about sex, to talk about things that people don’t want to talk about, from a real woman’s perspective.”
MisRed has embraced her mistakes and most importantly she has forgiven herself for them. She is a different woman now and she is focused on looking forward.

Behind the scenes with one of our three cover girls. Hear what MisRed, on-air personality at ZiFM Stereo, had to say about covering the first ever issue of Induna Magazine.
The MisRed Story - Embracing Your Mistakes
Location: Harare, Zimbabwe
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Summer 2014 digital issue of Induna Magazine. Released 5 November 2014.
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