Johannesburg - Actress and musician Marah Louw has released her highly anticipated tell-all autobiography, which is simply titled It’s Me, Marah. She began writing it after a hip replacement in 2015.
In an interview with City Press at her publisher’s office, BlackBird Books in Auckland Park, Louw recalls that the writing process was a difficult journey that was often punctuated with emotional outbursts as she relived her memories, and as she was driven by the desire to tell it like it is.
She says that even though the process of writing was therapeutic, she also had to overcome the difficulty of revealing the names of the people who were involved in her life.
“I don’t feel like you should hide the names if you write an autobiography. That’s why I was honest about everything – from the man who abused me to my own family,” she says.
However, she admits that there are certain things she still feels have not brought her total peace, such as “the revelation of the true identity” of her mother.
She may have written the truth and ensured she has nothing to hide, but she is still left without “full closure”.
At the launch of the book, which was held at Restaurant Vilakazi in Soweto on Wednesday night, her daughter Moratuwa related how her mother would often stay up late at night typing away on her laptop.
The 65-year-old singer, who looks as radiant in person as she does on our TV screens, admits that she could not bring herself to mention radio and television personality Gareth Cliff in her book, even though she writes about an encounter involving him.
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The incident relates to when was still a judge on singing competition Idols SA, during which she received merciless public criticism for allegedly going berserk and acting irrationally during the filming of a live audition.
She was subsequently fired for allegedly being drunk on the job, which left her image tarnished.
Fellow judge Cliff later conceded in his book – Cliffhanger, Confessions of a Shock Jock – that he gave Louw a drink containing vodka and Red Bull, which Louw consumed after taking pain medication.
“I don’t mention him because I don’t ever want to talk about him. He is a little boy to me, and that’s that. We used to be so close, but I have absolutely no relationship with him now,” she says.
In 1991, Louw was invited to perform on the Oceanos cruise ship, which sank due to uncontrolled flooding off the Wild Coast on August 3.
She relates the events of that fateful night to readers: “I was the only black person on board, simply because I was invited to perform every evening. The day we were told the ship was sinking was the scariest day of my life.”
Louw also mentions in her book the racist backlash she has faced throughout her life, including during her 17-year marriage to Scotsman Bill Thompson.
She recalled a night when her husband “went out to a bar for a drink and one of the men asked him if he had found my ‘tail’”.
“These kinds of comments continue today [on social media], with people calling us ‘monkeys’ and other names.
"It angers me, but it also worries me that we are an angry nation – we are a melting pot waiting to explode,” she says.
Asked about her future plans, Louw says she is in a happy space and a new album is set to be recorded in collaboration with South African composer Lebo M, of Disney’s The Lion King fame.
“Lebo M was just 14 when he used to sneak into the Pelican Nightclub at which I used to perform, and he used to beg me for an opportunity to sing with me. Eventually, I gave him that chance,” Louw says.
She says that, at the book launch, Lebo M announced to everyone that he wanted to do an album with her.
“I couldn’t be happier because it’s been 20 years since I’ve released an album. He also posted it on Facebook, and I know he always sticks to his word,” Louw says.
- This article was amended on April 3 2017 to correctly reflect Louw's age. An earlier version of the article said she was 59.