Unfollowed episode 4: The notorious Nonhle Thema

By Gen Terblanche13 September 2023

Unfollowed episode 4: The notorious Nonhle Thema

What happens to a celeb who’s been cancelled? Each Wednesday, Showmax Original series Unfollowed takes us to meet South African stars who are wrestling with life after social media death.  

Nonhle Thema was poised to be South Africa’s “it” Girl. But after fans called Nonhle Goes to Hollywood (her 2011 reality series) a chore and a snore, Nonhle set fire to her own career on Twitter (X). Her attacks on critics and fellow celebs alike cost her her job at DStv’s Vuzu channel, her contract with beauty brand Dark and Lovely, and destroyed her name as a brand.  

In episode 4 of Unfollowed, host Thembekile Mrototo sits down with “Twitter Beast” Nonhle Thema’s greatest critic – Nonhle herself – to find out why she burned her brand to ashes.  

Satan was waiting

Nonhle Thema gets interviewed on Unfollowed, now streaming on Showmax

Nonhle tells Thembekile that she was not ready for the realities of making a reality show about herself, and it showed. “I found it quite intrusive, and I realised that I wasn’t that kind of person that liked having people in my space like that,” admits Nonhle. “How do I have a reality show, and I’m saying this is who Nonhle is when I’m actually still on a journey of self-discovery?” Already self-conscious, she lashed out on Twitter. “It’s almost like Satan was waiting … when I replied to that one negative tweet, it just spiralled to people realising that oh, she responds!”  

Black crab culture

To shore up her battered ego, Nonhle attacked not just her fans and critics, but anyone she felt threatened her success. Unfollowed unearths tweets in which Nonhle accused Minnie Dlamini of being drunk and acting the victim, and attacked Bonang Matheba, Dineo Ranaka, and Terry Pheto for being poor, and “acting brand-new” about going to America. 

“It was a battle of myself, my ego, my pride … I found myself fighting people. I thought this was the only way that I could get this respect, because I needed to step up and have people fear me,” Nonhle admits. 

Business coach and CNBC anchor Zanele Luhabe-Morrison refers to the root of Nonhle’s downfall as Black crab culture – the desire to bring down anyone you see excelling. “That’s nonsense. We have to really go down to the root of what is it that made us feel that we had to fight for a limited pie,” Zanele insists. “There isn’t a scarcity; we live in abundance.” 

Nonhle Thema gets interviewed on Unfollowed, now streaming on Showmax

She was demon possessed!

Nonhle reveals that her online drama addiction became so extreme that she’d be on Twitter, fighting, during emergency meetings with brands about posting apologies. And when asked to surrender social media or her job, she chose Twitter. 

Global publicist Simphiwe Majola quips, “If Nonhle says she was demon possessed I can really attest to that. We’d pick up a phone to say, ‘Doll, what is this? Take it down’. And at the time, she was like, ‘No, who are you? Have you been overseas? Do you work overseas?”. 

But from the ashes, Nonhle realised that she could survive her two greatest fears: being fired, and losing her reputation. And now, she’s not only rebuilding, but helping a new generation to avoid her mistakes, as she works as a social media trainer.  

In Unfollowed, Nonhle also talks about why her Twitter account being “stolen” was a blessing. Coach Zanele Luhabe-Morrison, former COO of the Universal Music Group South Africa, Eloise Kelly, broadcaster Penny Lebyane, global publicist Simphiwe Majola, and social media reputation manager Sibonisile Ngubane weigh in on the flip-side of fame, when big platforms magnify bad attitudes.  

As to whether Nonhle was really worth R10 million, well… 

Watch the trailer for Unfollowed

About Unfollowed 

Nomsa Philiso, CEO of MultiChoice’s general entertainment division, describes Unfollowed as an opportunity for us to reflect on cancel culture and its place in pop culture – a chance to interrogate whether it’s the best way to deal with people who have been deemed problematic. The show interviews public figures who were cancelled on social media and lets the viewer decide if the treatment in each case was deserved. 

Watch Unfollowed S1 on Showmax, with new episodes on Wednesdays. 

Read more about addictive South African reality series on Showmax

Stream Unfollowed: Tol A$$ Mo
Unfollowed: No stone unturned - Phat Joe