You could try to describe Lala Tuku’s illustrious career in words, but somehow even all the superlatives in the dictionary wouldn’t quite capture the impact she has had on South African media and television.
Having honed her craft at the National School of the Arts from a young age, Lala’s drive carried her to the very top of an industry that wasn’t always as diverse and representative as it is today.
In 2021, Lala is one of the most respected figures in the world of South African media and has helmed some of the country’s most popular television shows, including more recently BET’s Isono (which marks its 100th episode this week!).
The entrepreneur is also on the cusp of a new project, her brainchild Lalaland. The multi-faceted business will be creating a range of luxury sleepwear, while also using her reach to empower young South Africans to think in bigger ways. If there’s one person who you can say has never slept on herself, it’s definitely Lala Tuku!
A new decade; a new venture for Lala Tuku
Welcome to Moziak Magazine! How was your birthday?
Thank you, my birthday was a majestic offering and a profound reflection on how far God’s grace has nourished me. The gathering and outpouring of love from family and lifelong friends in celebration of this 40th landmark is what turned the big day into a thanksgiving. I was reminded of just how loved and appreciated I am by those dearest to me.
You need little introduction to many who admire your work in South African media – but for those who are reading about you for the first time, how would you describe your career?
My career in the arts took shape during my high school years at the National School of the Arts where I also went on to became head girl. After my schooling years my dream was to pursue a career in directing but I was confronted with the harsh reality of a predominantly white and male industry that refused me my chance to pursue this dream, fundamentally because I was a black woman and at that time, ‘black women directing tv or film’ was unheard of.
I redirected into acting which I had also trained for and thoroughly enjoyed until one very uncomfortable day on set changed the course of my journey and I ran off set. I took a hiatus from acting and went on to study a degree in Communication Science. From there on I opened an events company and worked for major corporate clients and the story-teller in me continued to live through the high-profile events I curated because I always treated each event like a story. With a background in Stakeholder management at the NFVF, I continued to run and administer Corporate-Icons Media. I am currently the MD of Clive Morris Productions; Chairperson of the Africa Rising International Film Festival and Founder of Lalaland Luxury Sleepwear. When I am not in the office you can find me on screen, acting.
You are the brain child behind a lot of our favourite content on television – where does your passion for telling authentic stories come from?
I loved telling stories from a young age, I was in grade 5 when we had to perform an English poem and I brought costumes and used different accents to perform each character and I tore that poem apart time. I was too young to even understand that I would grow into an authentic story-teller myself.
One of your projects, Isono, is reaching its 100th episode this week. What does it mean to you to reach such a massive landmark in the world of daily television?
These are exciting times. Working during the lockdown restrictions has been quite a challenge in terms of producing content . Producing a new drama series during the pandemic has taken its toll on all of us. At some point, the series launch date was pushed back but we still kept the faith. Reaching 100 episodes particularly As BET first long running daily drama is an incredible feeling for all of us.
Are you allowed to drop some hints about your upcoming TV project?
I can give a sneak peek into the world of The Estate. It’s an SABC 3 proposition which deals with topical issues. With an all-star studded cast. First black-owned elite lifestyle estate with a cross-section of families reflective of modern-day South Africa.
Land claim emerges from the impoverished community of Thembalethu across the road.
What is the one characteristic that has made the difference in your career and seen you go from being another also-ran, to running the show?
My ability to dream big to remember to fail forward, to reflect and to use the wisdom earned from yesterday’s loss to fulfill tomorrow’s promise of victory.
This week we learned of your newest project – Lala Land Luxury! Please tell us about Lala Land and its various components? (not new though)
Over time I have developed a relationship with restlessness and trouble sleeping. In 2018, my health suddenly started deteriorating under strain from high levels of stress which I believe contributed to my insomnia. The notion of rest was foreign to me. Until one day everything reached a screeching halt and emotionally, physically and psychologically I was done. I was forced to SLOW DOWN and introduce REST into my schedule and life
I started to introduce pockets of self-love moments. I slowly started to learn how to fall in love with rest. Thus, I became inspired to create a premium rest experience for myself by designing comfortable luxury sleepwear that consists of various luxury signature ranges that are housed in the LalaLand Luxury online store.
Part of the Lala Land brand includes luxury PJs. What makes your range of sleepwear so special?
Lalaland is a sleep health-conscious brand that encourages rest, self-care and luxury comfortable sleep. Our sleepwear is made from luxury satin, the silky sensation reduces friction on skin allowing you a gentle rest.
Who did/do you have in mind as the ideal consumer of Lala Land products?
Anyone who struggles with unrest and insomnia andanyone who thrives for comfortable luxury sleep. We work extremely hard and thus it’s important to show up for rest. It’s a premium brand for those who wish to celebrate themselves.
Lastly, as we navigate a tricky new normal in the world of level 1 (waiting for vaccines etc!) what advice would you give to the country as we try and get by?
Seek Inspiration to continue living the life you deserve. Inspiration is everywhere and the arts sector has been a lifeline of support for people struggling to cope. Find healing in song, film or poetry. And don’t forget to build a community around yourself of friends who are also facing the same challenges so you may share you story on suffering and loss. The pandemic was sign that life can change at any time . It was also a moment for us to recognise the opportunities that can come from hardship. Live your truth always.
As I celebrate my 40th birthday and big milestone I launch LalaInc a platform that centres all work that I have done and continue to do.