Actor & Comedian
Coconut Kelz is a double-barrelled satirical weapon. She was writing for television and performing as a DJ (as Dame the DJ) when she started vlogging on YouTube as her alter-ego, Coconut Kelz. Kelz is a “caricature of a self-loathing black person who hilariously articulates collective white anxieties in post-apartheid South Africa.” Tlhabi sees the over-the-top character as a way to “play these [racist] sentiments back to them [white girls] in a funny way so they’d actually listen and not get defensive.” She cites Issa Rae, Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling and puppet Conrad Missing as her inspirations and comedic influences. Others have compared her race-bending comedy to Sacha Baron Cohen‘s Ali G.
The act took off on the internet and she was noticed by conventional broadcasters: in 2018 Coconut Kelz started appearing in a regular slot on Phemelo Motene‘s Radio 702 weekend program and in 2019 the South African Broadcasting Corporation announced that Tlhabi would join Bongani Bingwa on a new show, Democracy Gauge. In May 2019 Kelz hosted a televised “election special” on BET Africa.
Towards the end of 2019, Tlhabi published a satirical book, Coconut Kelz’s Guide to Surviving This Shithole. Reviewer Nkosazana Dambuza wrote that, while the book may not “seem that deep”, Kelz’s character is a “reminder that the daily struggle of being black is far from over.
In this video, Coconut Kelz offers a spiritedly inane defence of Adam Catzavelos, claiming the K-word (side note: k-word is the South African equivalent of n-word in America) scandal was all a big mix-up involving fruit. “It was just a family video, guys!” says Kelz. “He was saying to his parents: ‘The sun is out, the water’s nice, but there are no kaffir limes for him to pick for the sauce. So if you don’t even know the context of the video, and you just go and judge, how you gonna know what people are talking about? Kaffir limes! It’s a fruit, guys! Google it!”
On a serious note, Lesego has also campaigned passionately against bigotry in private schools, as a result of her own experiences growing up and attending private school, in post-Apartheid South Africa.