By Yasmin Darsot Cassim
In this issue of Irtiqa, we talk to a well-known television personality Gulafsha Sayed, the producer and host of Let’s Talk, a lifestyle talk show on DSTV channel 347 (ITV). We take a closer look at her journey in the media industry and her successes thereof.
Q: Please tell us a little more about yourself. Your age, relationship status and do you have any children?
Gulafsha: A lady never gives her age so I will keep you guessing! I am unmarried, but devoted to my career at the moment. I have no children except my dearly loved African Grey, Nawab
Q: Tell us more about your background such as, your childhood and where you’re from?
Gulafsha: I am originally from Mafikeng. I come from a close-knit family. I have an older sister and younger brother, making me the middle child. I moved down to Johannesburg to complete my Honours degree in Film Making, Performance and Media and have not looked back since.
Q: Is being a TV Presenter or having a career in the media something you have always envisioned yourself pursuing?
Gulafsha: Being a top academic performer myself, certain degrees would have been more realistic, but one day I browsed through a Wits Brochure and had a sudden epiphany. I realized, at that moment, that I wanted to make it work in the media world. I had always been involved in Public Speaking in Primary school and won many competitions, so this field was not something new to me. I am a go-getter and knew that I could succeed at anything that I put my mind to.
Q: When did your career in the media really begin?
I’d say it began early in my studies. Since my degree is a combination of theory and practicals, we had to obtain some industry experience and that became our first step. When I completed my studies I filled various roles; such as researcher, video editor, scriptwriter, director and lecturer. Each experience polished my skills further. I’ve worked with some big names; NFVF and BBC News, and have also been on shows aired on SONY, SABC 2, MINDSET LEARN, and MNet. Ijoined ITV last year to host and produce Let’s Talk
Q: How do you, as a Muslim female, handle being in the lime light? (Being a TV presenter I am sure draws a lot of attention)
Gulafsha: Shukar, so far I have only had positive feedback. I am so glad people are more aware of my show. They even recognize my voice on the street or in shopping centers sometimes and introduce themselves to me. In this way I get to meet new people and gain insight into people’s opinions and suggestions for the show.
Q: Take us through your day. Preparing on set, the people that you work with, more about producing the show
Gulafsha: I have no set working hours because we shoot from different places and meet different people all the time. My day is very unpredictable and as you can imagine, quite hectic. I do a lot of research prior to my shows and do not believe in a script. I work on key points. In this way I can encourage conversations with my guests, otherwise it will just be a question and answer show with little dimension. I prefer that my guests have more freedom to express their views.
Prior to the show there is always a rush. I find myself gearing up quickly. , I do my own make-up and I love to incorporate colour on set by wearing different Hijab styles and colours. I often prepare the guests before the show -most of them are quite nervous- by talking to them and getting them to be comfortable. I have met many amazing people on the show, some of who have become very important contacts and friends. My work never ends even when I go home. I am continuously researching and reading up to gain insight into topics I am exploring with my guests. When I do settle down for the day and unwind, I love spending time in my own space.
Q: What sort of challenges are you faced with when on set?
Gulafsha: Sometimes we have technical difficulties, but there is always a backup plan and since the show must go on we have more time to resolve issues. In the media industry there will always be challenges that are unpredictable, but the team tries their best to resolve it as quickly as they can so that we can get back up and running.
Q: How do you handle criticism (if ever) from viewers?
Gulafsha: Criticism for me is not a bad thing. I like to learn from all forms of criticism I try my utmost best to take into account all my viewers’ suggestions for the show. As a start, I respond to all my e-mails, facebook comments and the like. I believe that life is full of free lessons so we should make the most of it, gain knowledge and continue to develop. You can never have enough knowledge. There is always room for growth.
Q: Tell us more about your accomplishments in the media in general as well as what has been a personal accomplishment for you.
Gulafsha: I was nominated for an award for a short documentary while I was studying. I am also currently lecturing final year students at the University of Pretoria and I am also the founder and facilitator of the workshop “Speak Up”. These workshops cover the basics of presenting and public speaking for all ages. The workshop is designed to give people a little push and to gain more confidence. The biggest achievement for me is to pass and share the knowledge that I have gained
Q: What are your short- term and long-term goals?
Gulafsha: In terms of short term goals, I am really focusing on getting my show to a certain level of perfection. It helps that the team and the CEO of ITV have a lot of faith in me. In terms of long- term goals, I am really enjoying lecturing and would love to grow in the field to gain a professorship. I would also like to turn Let’s talk into a brand that women can identify and learn from.
Q: What advice do you have for Muslim women who want to get involved in the media field, but are afraid to?
Gulafsha: Having a supportive family makes a difference. I am blessed to have supportive parents and an amazing sister and brother who always encourage me. I would not have achieved what I have without my family. I have to admit that my journey has not always been easy. There are many late nights, early mornings and continuous work over the weekends. The job takes a lot out of me as I am on the road most of the day- I live in my car, I can often have all the day’s meals on the road- but it is all worth it. Media is a very broad field and I think that if anyone is considering it they must give it all they’ve got. Nothing is impossible for Muslim Women, we are blessed to have so many opportunities and we should make the most of it
Q: How do you find the balance between work and family?
Gulafsha: I prioritize, but right at the top of my list is my family and best friend. It doesn’t matter what time of the night it is I will be there for them like they are there for me. I try and spend a lot of time with my African Grey. I love him to bits and enjoy teaching him how to talk. His favorite word is “Allahu” he often tells me “Kya Hua” when I am having my usual crazy day. He is an amazing creature and knows how to lift my spirits. I am also lucky to have the latest technology at my fingertips.
* To get in touch with Gulafsha please send Irtiqa an email and we will forward her contact details to you