Behind the mask

Weekender spoke to the winner and runner-up of popular TV celebrity singing show ‘The Masked Singer SA’ about the sweaty business of singing incognito

TV actor Warren Masemola (centre) on The Masked Singer SA stage with show detectives; J'Something, Sithelo Shozi, Somizi Mhlongo, Skhumba Hlophe as well as host Mpho Popps. Image: Supplied.
TV actor Warren Masemola (centre) on The Masked Singer SA stage with show detectives; J'Something, Sithelo Shozi, Somizi Mhlongo, Skhumba Hlophe as well as host Mpho Popps. Image: Supplied.

Singing inside a hefty, sweaty mask and imitating a giraffe led to Warren Masemola’s crowning as the winner of The Masked Singer SA last week, a feat which came as no surprise to the award-winning actor.

Speaking to the Weekender shortly after he was unmasked in the hit S3 (formerly SABC3) show last week, Masemola, 40, said he was convinced he was going to win the second season of the mystery celebrity singing competition.

“I was booked to do another show in Cape Town when I got invited to do the Masked Singer, and so I made sure I would be available for the date of the show’s finale because I knew I was going to win it.

“Still, when they announced I was the winner and the confetti came down, I was in tears inside that mask because it was unbelievable that the [conviction] came true.”

This season’s competition featured 16 A-list celebrities including Breyton Paulse, Andile Dlamini, Bobby van Jaarsveld and Boity Thulo, all singing in disguise before a panel of “detectives”, made up of J’Something, Somizi Mhlongo, Sithelo Shozi and Skhumba Hlophe, who tried to decipher which famous faces lurked behind the masks.

As the last one to be unmasked in the finale, Masemola, who has won four SAMAs, removed his giant giraffe headpiece to reveal a thrilled but damp face.

The Pretoria-born actor, who studied drama at The Market Theatre Laboratory and is known for his work on Scandal! and The House of Zwide, said sweating it out in the giraffe mask was his number one challenge while performing hits such as  Welcome to Jamrock which rocked the finale.

“I sweated profusely under that mask. There were two fans inside it which helped with ventilation, but one was positioned under my chin so it blew up my nose, so I would switch it off but then I would sweat more,”  Masemola, whose mask weighed about 7kg, said.

“After each performance it would take three minutes to wipe off about 500ml of sweat and then I would drink two litres of water.

“I lost 2kg from all the sweating and the weight of the suit and my pants had to be altered.

“I also danced a lot — some of my movements were choreographed but some were improvised.”

As an actor trained to inhabit any role he is playing, Masemola drew on these skills to embody a giraffe, which included a goofy pigeon-toed gait.

“You have to imagine what it is like to have hooves instead of hands.

“I couldn’t find how the feet of giraffe would be so I thought let me take the feet of President [Cyril] Ramaphosa and I decided to walk like him.

“You must zoom in, that is how he walks!”

So confident is the actor that he is unbeatable, that he will not participate in the show again.

“No, I won’t do it again because I would win every time and I’d rather give others a chance.”

Former Miss SA and celebrated children’s book author Shudufhadzo Musido, 27, who was disguised as the Blue Crane and whose identity the detectives struggled to guess, was philosophical about narrowly missing the win.

“I don’t like coming second, but it was to a worthy competitor — he was absolutely incredible.

“But for me it wasn’t only a competition. Every day that I got to go up on that stage I was living my dream.

“I felt like I was a little girl. I get to be here and sing? This is incredible.”

When The Masked Singer’s producer, Anele Mdoda of Rose and Oaks Media, offered the former pageant queen a spot on the show, signing up was a no-brainer.

“There was no maybe. I didn’t even have to think! For one it would sort out my stage fright and two I would get to live my dream.”

Masquerading as a large-beaked bird took care of her innate stage fright and picking to sing her favourite songs was an extension of her daily life.

“I sing everywhere. So if you sit next to me you will hear me humming.

“When I’m sad I sing, when I’m happy I sing, when my food is nice I sing. Singing makes me happy.”

She said though her voice was  comfortable with singing in the middle ranges, the show’s musical director pushed her to reach notes she didn’t know she had.

“The fact that people didn’t know who I was, meant that I got to be a child and by the time you take it off you never have to sing again.”

While she felt connected to the grace of the blue crane costume that was chosen for her, it was one of the most restrictive costumes of the season.

“It was so heavy! It was such a great mask and it matched my personality but it was heavy.

“I would want to move more but I’d be so tired by the end of it, my back hurt.

“So I could really just move the wings and be graceful.

“The fan inside the mask helped a lot and so I wasn’t drenched in sweat.

“I don’t know if I lost weight from doing the show because I don’t weigh myself.

“I stopped weighing myself three years ago. I didn’t like the pressure.

“Unless a doctor weighs me for health reasons, I don’t understand why I must weigh myself every other day.

“My body carries me through so much every day.

“They way I judged it and wanted it to look a certain way, was a little bit disrespectful because it does so much for me.

“So I thought why weigh myself? I can rather honour my body by not overeating and exercising my body out of respect for it.

“I am going to write more children’s books because I am very passionate about the minds of children and how they need to be cultivated by education, but my next book will probably be an adult book focused on things like impostor syndrome.”

Musido has a degree in philosophy, politics and economics from the University of Pretoria, an honours in international relations and is now busy with a master’s degree in New York.

Her ultimate dream is to lead the country.

“I want to work in government. I want to be president.

“My plans and my studies are geared towards being an active participant in the political space and find African solutions to African problems where Africans are active participants.”



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