The coloured community won Idols SA this year

So, a coloured girl from Bishop Lavis won Idols on Sunday night, and some people on Twitter are mad because they believe that coloured people stayed up late all week, finishing their airtime voting for her. Angelo C Louw explores the narrative that followed Paxton Fielies’ win on Idols.

I refuse to believe that Paxton Fielies’ win was based solely on the so-called coloured vote. This 17-year-old transitioned between screaming “Oh my God!” and hitting notes perfectly, with the greatest of ease, during the show’s finale. She is undeniably extremely talented.

As Idols SA judge Unathi Msengana noted a couple of weeks ago, Paxton performs to her target audience: the youth demographic, who are constantly on their phones with loads of disposable cash (if they have DSTV in their homes, they almost certainly have pocket money to spare). She is marketing gold.

Having said that, I’d like to explore the notion that coloured people mobilise and vote for constants on talent shows; firstly, because this always seems to be the response to coloured contestants winning talent shows on TV; and secondly, because, yes, it is certainly a contributing factor to her victory.

Along with a host of anti-coloured rhetoric that followed the show were pockets of jubilant displays by coloured Twitter users, proud to see one of their own taking the highly contested prize – a mini resurgence of the #ColouredExcellence buzz that followed Wayde van Niekerk’s record-breaking win at the Rio Olympics.

For them, Paxton represents a girl from the Cape Flats who managed to defy all odds and become a household name, with a lucrative record deal behind her. She represents the hopes and dreams of the majority of coloured people who remain stuck in absolute destitute. As trivial as reality shows are, her victory is important because it demonstrates that it is possible to exceed society’s expectations of you.

Paxton is the beacon of hope for the coloured community that we don’t often see on national television. I have often argued how broadcast media tends to cling onto apartheid stereotypes of the coloured community out of laziness and lack of representation in the industry – as well as how this does nothing for society’s imagination of the coloured identity.

But, here is a talented coloured teenager brave enough to stand up in front of millions of people across the country to achieve what she believes in, and in doing so, has the potential to inspire other coloured youth to prioritise their dreams and to challenge preconceived notions society holds of them.

Paxton is the type of role model the community hardly gets to see in mainstream media, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that coloured people stood so firmly behind her throughout the course of this season. The community needs these recording-breaking athletes, journalists and superstars to counter images of gangsters, druggies and alcoholics they are so commonly portrayed as – not just to change the way society thinks but that way they think of themselves.

We need to see more representations of coloured doctors and lawyers, entrepreneurs and innovators if we are ever going to see the first coloured astronaut, for instance. While it may not be the responsibility of the media to play cheerleader to any faction of society, it is certainly the media’s responsibility to dispel ill-conceived notions of communities for the purpose of social cohesion.

However, until such a time that there is a willingness in the media to shift its agenda as far as the coloured identity is concerned, all this community has in order to achieve such change is its vote. Perhaps, someday, network executives will take this vote (a share of 30 million votes) a lot more seriously.

Angelo C Louw is a member of the South African National Editors Forum and is currently based at the University of Maryland’s journalism school in Washington DC as a Hubert H Humphrey Fellow.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do no necessarily reflect the editorial policies of The Daily Vox

Featured image via Twitter