Interview with Neymat Raboobee
Siddiqa Soofie, a name that is quickly becoming a household favorite. She began posting comedy videos to the microblogging platform Instagram in August of 2018. In the short time since then she has not only posted over a hundred skits, but also performed at several events. I sat down to chat with her about her craft, the success she’s been experiencing, how she deals with the haters as well as how she manages her hectic schedule.
According to Siddiqa, she stumbled into the world of Instagram comedy. Her very first video was made simply because her helper, Princess, made a funny comment and Soofie had a cell phone in her hand at the time when struck with the idea to capture it on film. She’s continued to post these videos due to the joy and happiness they give people. Her inbox is filled with people sharing that they’re going through a tough time and thanking her for creating videos that help to brighten their day and provide them with a form of escapism.
“I get really happy when people get happy,” says Soofie when asked how she manages to keep her passion and consistency alive. “I take out the time specifically due to the happiness that the videos create.”
Soofie has a fantastic support structure as well and she’s foremost in mentioning her parents and their unwavering belief in her. Due to the sometimes controversial nature of her videos, as well as the odd person watching who doesn’t understand the satire and hidden message behind them, Siddiqa has had to deal with some backlash. “Initially, people would call my parents to ask them what was going on,” she explains. They would also criticize her parents for not stopping her or reprimanding her. “But”, she says, “My parents supported me 101%.” When Siddiqa’s mom sat her down to ask her whether or not the backlash and criticism scared her, all she did was open up her phone and display the numerous duas (prayers) she’d been getting from her viewers and those fears were no more.
Since then, Siddiqa’s parents readily go to bat for her offline. Online however, her fans are so passionate that she needn’t even worry herself about trolls and fake accounts created to attack her as they shut the person down themselves. Siddiqa confirms this with a laugh, saying “When I receive criticism, I don’t give much energy to it and I don’t have to because my fans will slaughter the person.”
She admits that the criticism did at one stage affect her and reading particularly nasty comments significantly affected her mood at the time, but her mom put things into perspective by saying, “You chose this path, you gotta deal with it and wear your big girl panties.”
One of the biggest controversies Soofie has had to deal with revolves around one of her characters, “Aunty Shaydah”. In the past, people have assumed that Soofie’s recordings were done as a way to make fun of the woman and she denies this vehemently. She explains that when she once made the decision to stop posting videos with Aunty Shaida, the elderly lady’s response was “Do a video now! I’m not going anywhere.” This is the video in which Aunty Shaida shared her sentiments about people “trying to take her place”.
When asked whether or not she believes herself to be an entertainer or an educator first, Siddiqa’s response was that the two go hand in hand – passive learning, rather than in-your-face methods of spreading a message, works better.
So what about the context of her videos? Racism and classism are both hair-trigger issues in South Africa – with good reason. Siddiqa explains that it wasn’t a conscious choice for her to do videos focusing on such sensitive issues so often but, these are things which have always annoyed and sometimes deeply upset her. From requiring one’s staff to use different dishes to the prevalent assumption that a Black person is uneducated, and their default employment is as a cleaner, Siddiqa tackles them all!
Soofie relates that Zama, one of her close friends and the manager of her business, has often been the recipient of casual racism like this and says: “I don’t like the mentality that black people are below us (Indians), that you can’t hang around with a certain kind of person because of class. There have been incidents, she says, when people would be confused about why Zama was coming with me to a restaurant.”
How does Siddiqa deal with these prejudices? The answer is simple:
“I have distanced myself from negative energy and that small mindset. For me, energy is everything. I don’t surround myself with people who are being too negative. I surround myself with positive energy instead.”
I asked Siddiqa for her advice on how to stand up against prejudice, particularly when one is younger than the person they are trying to correct and she explains that this is one of the reasons she uses the vehicle of humour. She acknowledges the difficulty in such a situation as more often than not, correction is seen as disrespect. Nevertheless, it’s necessary “Sometimes you just need to tell them. In a very nice, well-mannered way, address the issue.”
In terms of the development process behind her videos, she says that “it is so spontaneous. There’s no scripting. It’s just a random thought that will come into my mind and I will work out the dialogue immediately and record right then and there.” She does admit that there are retakes. “If I don’t like a small expression or movement, I will correct it.”
Siddiqa will be considering stand-up comedy at some time in her future when her plate isn’t too full, but her shows will cater for women only.
I’m sure you can’t wait for that day to come!
Siddiqa’s vlogs are available on instagram @sid_diqa