A CONVERSATION WITH MIKA STEFANO
SOUTH AFRICAN SOCIAL BLOGGER A.K.A. GP’S GOSSIP GANGSTER
Mika Stefano is South Africa’s social blogger with a big personality and an even larger, more diverse following. Known as GP’s Gossip gangster, he brings all the latest tabloid and celebrity news to SA from the red carpet, or the twittersphere!
While he has many celebrities shaking in their boots and stilettos, Mika also campaigns for gay rights, heroes an anti-bullying campaign and runs online radio station, Trans Africa.
For all the open letters, and candy floss celebrity gossip, there is more to Mika than a fabulous image and a sharp tongue. Mika Stefano is bridging gaps in SA, breaking down stereotypes and using his influence to do good.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I know this sounds weird, but I always wanted to be famous. But not as a soapie character like Barker Heins or Queen, and I knew I couldn’t really sing, even though I did musical theatre. I guess one could say I have achieved my childhood dream. Now, I wonder what it would be like to be a Doctor, Nurse or Metro Cop, I respect people who give of themselves.
How much of Mika Stefano’s online and on-screen persona is the real you?
Well, those are both the same person, so it’s all me.
Sometimes people have bad hair days – the hairstyle they are famous for doesn’t have to be the hairstyle they wear every day. Everyone has different masks. Obviously when I go to a red carpet event, I have to put on a different mask to the mask I wear to gym every morning. Imagine arriving at gym in 250 plastic bags made into a tutu, looking effing fabulous… Lol… I sure would break a sweat!
You’re positioned as the gossip gangster. What do you think about South Africa’s appetite for sensational tabloid news?
The appetite is a growing one… Especially out of Johannesburg and areas where celebrities are so easily accessible.
We believe in the power of being talked about and often quote Oscar Wilde: “The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about.” How do you remain relevant and remarkable?
Well, let me ask you, what is relevant? Is Bobby Van Jaarsveld relevant to Lillian Dube? I think being you helps you stand the test of time. I am a social commentator and blogger. So my blogging keeps me relevant. Being on Metro FM once a week, putting stickers with my name on everywhere or releasing a song like Twitter Dance is simply fuelling it all.
They say the entertainment industry is all about who you know, but you’re not afraid to make enemies. What is your crisis management strategy when tweets hit the fan and you enter a war of words?
Well, as I mentioned, if you stay true to who you are, what you do and what you believe, then you should never have regrets.
I am a social blogger. Shashi Naidoo* knows that blogging is my job and if she was a proper friend, she would understand that. If she was a proper friend, I would have been invited to her wedding and she would have visited me in hospital. But no, she didn’t.
I have a group of friends and they understand what I do. So if they ever happen to see themselves on my dot com, they know it’s just business from my side and nothing personal. One should never be afraid of anything you do. Imagine if a doctor was afraid of blood or a soccer player had an allergic reaction to grass. Sometimes you need to have challenges to face, in order to make you the best doctor, soccer player or blogger.
You leveraged your profile for a good cause, leading Push Purple, SA’s part in the #SpiritDay movement against bullying. Is this when bloggers get real – using their networks to change society for the better?
I can’t answer that question on behalf of all bloggers, but I can for myself.
Yes, this is one of the campaigns I am serious about. People may question the fact that Mika Stefano is leading an anti-bullying campaign, while on his blog he calls people out. The difference is celebs put themselves out in the public eye for criticism, so it’s part of the game. This they need to understand and if not, they need to re-read the Oscar Wilde quote above!
However, young gay and lesbian children still dealing with and exploring their sexuality are not putting themselves out there to be criticised. In a country where we have the most amazing democracy, we are still faced with so many prejudices. It’s sad. I feel that I can use my voice to break down stereotypes. I mean, a white gay guy going to hip-hop festivals in Newtown Johannesburg? 5 years ago, I may have been the only gay guy there, but now there are others. And it’s cool, they are cool and hopefully, one day, we will all just be cool.
Social media and bullying is a scary combination which many young people feel the brunt of today. What is your advice to young people and their parents in coping with social media bullying?
Well, like I did with the Munya issue, sometimes you need to stand your ground. If you feel you can’t, then try talk to someone who can help you.
You leveraged your profile for a good cause, leading Push Purple, SA’s part in the #SpiritDay movement against bullying. Do you feel that a level of responsibility comes with the influence that you have?
The Internet allows us to self-publish our opinions, tastes and build personal brands. How would you have expressed and profiled yourself in a world where blogging and social media didn’t exist?
Well, in high school I created and edited the Pink Paper – a newspaper that featured articles from the gay students in the school. It was an entertaining, gossip magazine, printed on pink paper… I guess, I could have continued with that!
You talk to a very diverse audience – black, white, gay, straight etc. Do you see yourself as a cultural connector between different social circles?
I do. Like I said, Mika Stefano likes to challenge the stereotype. Who is to say a young hip-hop artist can’t enjoy a piano recital?
You’re also involved in Trans Africa Radio. Where do you see this going in the next 5 years and what are your goals?
Trans Africa Radio has been going for 12 years already. In fact, it was the first online radio station in Africa. I have now been the station manager for almost two years, working with great DJ’s like DJ Zinhle, Eda Rose, Psyfo, DJ Capital, Twins on Decks, SK, Ettienne Shardlow and Ms Cosmo who is now on 5FM.
There are some big plans with Trans Africa Radio and one of them is becoming one of the only radio stations that plays 100% All African music… I love Beyonce and Justin, but let’s give LeAnne, Loyiso, Lira and Lizah James a chance!
You’ve commented on SA being the only country in Africa that protects the rights of gay and lesbian citizens. Do you see Trans Africa Radio as a line of activism in this regard?
Yes. During apartheid, the only thing that helped bridge the gap was arts and culture. Music is a language we all understand and using a platform like Trans Africa Radio will not only bring us closer together as Africans, but will make us proud to be African.
Brands are all over bloggers with press releases and free stuff. How do you think brands can better engage with bloggers and personalities?
With a cash cheque… (Full Stop) I can buy my own coffee and sneakers and a bunch of goodie bags won’t help pay my rent.
Who is the next big thing in Africa?
There are a lot of people you should keep your eyes open for. There is a young rapper from South Africa called Priddy Ugly. I think he has something special.
What is your favourite app?
I love Instagram. Is it an app, as much as it’s a social networking tool?
10 minute interview with anyone in the world – who would it be?
Nelson Mandela. I know that sounds so cliché, but I would love to meet our dear Madiba. I would actually cry. Not even an interview, just a picture would do…
For more of Mika check out his blog, twitter and Facebook page: