Idols SA first launched in 2002, and eight seasons later, the South African television show, based on the popular British show Pop Idol (the inspiration for the U.S.’ American Idol), finally crowned its first black winner.
Khaya Mthethwa (pronounced KYE-yam-TET-wa), 25, went home with the top honors and a prize package of 1 million South African rand ($114,000 in U.S. dollars) and a recording contract with Universal Music South Africa.
Mthethwa, who won over the judges and the audience with his rendition of Nick Minaj’s “Super Bass,” became the first black person to win the popular contest following years of controversy over the voting for the show’s winner.
South Africa has an 80 percent black population, but for a show where contestants rely on the popular vote to win, Idols had failed to produce any black winner for seven seasons.
The black majority in South Africa has a lack of access to the subscription channel that airs the show, M-Net, broadcasted by private satellite company DSTv, whose subscription base is primarily white. This has been cited as another reason the show failed to produce black winners in the first seven seasons.
According to the New York Times, Mthethwa, the son of preachers from Durban, who grew up singing gospel music in church, said that he was proud to be the first black winner but that his race does not define him.