TheTVObserver: Felicia Mabuza

Written by TheObserver from the blog TheTVObserver on 18 Mar 2009
Favourite this post

Picture © Felicia, Inc

I get to meet very interesting people but Felicia Mabuza Suttle has been one of those TV stars whose left an interesting mark.. If you've had the pleasure of meeting Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, you will know that the lady has class and style. She is what we call South African TV Royalty. Long after her TV career she is still very much recognized and admired by regular folks. 

When it came to her show, especially towards its end, most of the viewers had so much to say about the lady that it felt as if the same country she served with her brand of talk-tv was against her.

Born: Felicia Mabuza on June 3, 1950, in Sophiatown, South Africa; married Earl Suttle, 1976; children: Lindi, Zani
Education: Marquette University, BA in Journalism, 1980s, MA in Mass Communication, 1980s.

Picture © Felicia, Inc

Opportunity came knocking in 1992, when the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) offered Mabuza-Suttle a job to host a talk show that would engage audience participation in a manner similar to the Donahue and Oprah shows in the United States. The talk show was a new concept in South Africa, and Mabuza-Suttle's show became an overnight hit.

She worked very hard, and like with most people who are paranoid of failing miserably on television, she become too controlling. Those who’ve attended her taping will know exactly what we are talking about. Watching her tape her show was much more entertaining than her seasons towards the end when she was broadcast by etv. She perfected the art of missing her cameras so well that it quickly become her signature. Although her early days where fantastic, the show was a national success until things or episodes started to be questionable.

Picture © Felicia, Inc

Moving to etv was a big mistake which possibly meant a bit more money for her but it eventually led to a much celebrated end to one of South Africa’s notable TV personalities as she exited TV. It was sad to see her leave the airwaves but her show had turned into an example of bad television and it needed to be upgraded or canceled. So, they canceled.

Felicia was one of very few, if not the only, personalities who would call her advertisers to thank them for running ads during her show.

What most people do not know is that Felicia Mabuza wanted her show to mean more than talk and she tried as much as she could to have a show which will improve the lives of South Africans but unfortunatly reality bites.

Picture © Felicia, Inc

Lesson #1 of having an opportunity as huge as Felicia had, is to own your show and produce it in your own environment. Felica was and still is, well connected to build her own studio which would have produced her own show. Part of the reason why Oprah turned into a success was because she had a good business manager, who owns around 5% of Harpo. He helped her establish her production company and she then owned her own studio. That could influence how much is spent on producing the show and makes the channel look at your show and production more differently. Why do you think a studio such as Urban Brew continues to produce more content for SABC?

Oprah also started out producing her show at ABC, much like Felicia when she also produced her show at SABC. But Oprah moved to what is now known as Harpo Studios which she owns. That was a great business decision which Felicia, who admires Oprah, could have learned.

Picture © Felicia, Inc

Many people think a talk-show is an easy exercise, but until you work for Harpo, NBC’s Late Night with Jay Leno (who is leaving by the way) or David Latterman including Ellen’s show, you have no idea how much work it takes to produce over 180 shows a year. Hence most producers opt for the tabloid version of talk-tv. It’s trashy but people will watch anyway. High quality talk-tv is very taxing and needs a strong team. Oprah has a staff of over 500 working Monday to Friday and sometimes right through Sunday. She produces the show and sends the signal or tapes for broadcast nationally to over 250 stations in America, as distributed by King World.

With the right team and business management, The Felicia Mabuza Show could have been what we truly call the Oprah of South Africa. Felicia was and still is a households name…well to a certain age group. A good way to tell if you’re old…anyway moving on. Everyone is talking on South African television but no one could have the same impact as Felicia had.

Picture © Felicia, Inc

Felicia commented in Ebony, "I knew I could use television, a medium I had studied to help in the rebuilding process." At the beginning she was allocated a very small budget, hardly enough for an audience, but she took it as a challenge and went on to tape 3 shows every Sunday, which enabled her to build a loyal audience. Initially the program, featuring a mixed race audience, was called Top Level, with topics focussed on the social issues driven by the political changes taking place in the country such as affirmative action, desegregation, capital punishment, etc. The timing was just right as the country was preparing for the first black vote and many citizens were taking a new pride in the state of the nation.

Picture © Felicia, Inc

In 1995 Top Level was renamed The Felicia Show and the focus changed as Mabuza-Suttle set out to tackle social problems of the day while including forays into entertainment. The program was extended to an hour and that when things took an interesting turn for Felicia. One week she might feature "Prostitution," or "Rare Syndromes and Diseases," and the next might be "South Africa's Talented Kids." In this she believes she is both educating and entertaining. As she told Sean Houghton, "My dream has always been to try and unite South Africans through communication.... In South Africa, television tries to educate and inform too hard, they should also entertain.... Even information and education can be presented in such a way that it becomes entertaining.... We need to refocus and as far as Felicia Mabuza-Suttle is concerned, television has to entertain first, and inform and educate last."

Picture © Felicia, Inc

The show has made a difference in some people's lives such as, the families who have been reunited, the men whose paternity identity has been verified, and the doctors who have volunteered their services to perform complicated corrective surgeries. Some guests have found employment and shelter though Mabuza-Suttle's program. But her crusade has encountered a few barriers along the way, leading some to criticize her for making false promises. For example, a handicapped woman from Soweto, the largest black community in South Africa, appeared on the show. One week later the Felicia office informed the guest of an "American guy" who had offered to build a house for her. Weeks turned into months and nothing materialized. When questioned, a staff person from the show confirmed that an American guest had made a promise to build a house but unfortunately never came through. Mabuza-Suttle told News24 that "we do get feedback from viewers who voice concerns on the various plights of our guests. But there is little we can do if guests don't fulfill their promises."

Together with a group of other women, she formed Pamodzi Investment Holding, South Africa, a consortium of investments that began with a small capital of three million rand. The estimated value in 2003 was approximately 100 million rands.

Picture © Felicia, Inc

Felicia will always be remembered as the South African queen of talk in a country that needed to talk, but who could forget those moments when things went very wrong during her show. I particularly remember when a guest shouted “Rubbish” whilst Felicia was talking and another asked “where is she going” whilst Felicia made her way to the audience during taping.

She has received many awards in her careers and come of these include: The Star/Agfa Award for Popular Television Personality, 1995; Ralph Metcalfe Award, Marquette University, 1999; People's Choice Award for Entertainment, Vivid, 2000; People's Choice Award for Humanitarianism, Vivid, 2000; All University Alumni Merit Award, Marquette University, 2000; Tribute Achievers business category finalist, 2001; Soweto Legends Award, 2001; Prestige Rapport and City Press Achievers, 2001; Business Woman of the Year, 2001.

There is a lot we could share about this wonderful mother and celebrity, including how world events such as September 11th also affected her, not to forget the world icons and Hollywood stars she has met.

By TheTVObserver
Contact: mailtheobserver //at//
© 2009. TheTVObserver. All Rights Reserved. Pictures used on TheTVObserver graphics and information sourced from third parties are the property of their respective owners. All rights reserved. Always Observing, Always Observe are service marks of TheTVObserver. All Rights Reserved.

The information provided here is not journalistic but simply observations and the opinions expressed by TheTVObserver and guests, which are strictly their own. TheTVObserver does not claim credit of any kind for any images shown on this blog unless otherwise noted. Usually we try to give credit when and where we can. The rights or copyrights to content, copy and images on TheTVObserver belong to the respective owner(s). If you own rights to an image and do not wish it to appear here, you may contact this blog at mailtheobserver (at) and it will be removed. The TV Observer is not responsible for, and does not have control over, the content of any external Web site links shown on this site. Written text on this site is copyrighted by The TV Observer, except as clearly noted and duly sourced. Information featured on TheTVObserver can contain errors or inaccuracies, although we try all in our power to avoid this. We do however not make warranty as to the correctness or reliability of the blog’s sourced content. Material copyrighted to TheTVObserver may not be used elsewhere without written permission. TheTVObserver invites your comments, this blog was created to inspire thoughtful dialogue and conversations with one another for shared experiences and insights. While TheTVObserver encourages debate, the comment portion of the blog is not intended as a forum for personal attacks and destructive postings. If that is your intention in commenting, we ask that you go elsewhere.


18 Mar 2009 07:50

question- Why an article about her, she hasnt been in the public eye so what is the reason behind the article? And Whats wrong with her eye brows????

18 Mar 2009 08:33

LOL!! GML, She doesnt have eyebrows, that is her own artwork, she draws her own using a penicl. She is beautiful kodwa. i didnt know half the things about her, thanks TO.

18 Mar 2009 08:36

I will always respect and admire this woman.

18 Mar 2009 08:45

I feel soo young, i now there was a Felecia Mabuza show but dont remember what was happening there

18 Mar 2009 08:53

LOL Cande, tl tl tl hi hihi

18 Mar 2009 08:54

"......Felicia has many accolades, including being a finalist in the 2002 South African Business Woman of the Year contest. This published author, who has a doctorate in Communications, is currently president of SA Tourism USA based in New York. She has investment interests in the real estate, retail and leisure industries, and is credited with pioneering SA’s first audience-generated talk show concept......" ...and she's still on the Pamodzi board of directors.....

I dont remember much about her show, i was extreeemly little........but whether she pioneerred SA talk shows or not, she sounds like a mover and shaker to me.

Someone that young gals should know about and be inspired by.
The daughter is also a mover and shaker.....and personally i think she's done better things (and she probably stil will do better )than the etv gig she "lost out on"

Im soo inspired im gonna get working now.

18 Mar 2009 09:06

Yhoo i still remember lomama. She used to talk until her audience / victim cry.......

18 Mar 2009 09:08

The will never be no one like her and i agree whe you say that 
Moving to etv was a big mistake

18 Mar 2009 09:50

Just from looking at the pics. I must say she is very stylish...ok, lemme go and read

18 Mar 2009 10:13

I particularly remember when a guest shouted “Rubbish” whilst Felicia was talking and another asked “where is she going” whilst Felicia made her way to the audience during taping. 
kwa kwa kwa tl tl tl...that must have been hilarious!

18 Mar 2009 13:29

when a guest shouted “Rubbish” whilst Felicia was talking and another asked “where is she going” whilst Felicia made her way to the audience during taping.
  LOL south africans were new to the talk show scene...

neeways  I didnt like Felicia when she moved to etv..she started dishing out "gifts" and I thought her topics were not well researched..or at least SHE didnt come out sounding knowledgable about the subjects..she was good with the tears though and a loving pat of a hand here and there followed by a promise of a house and a free cell phone  and then there were all these different singers/musicians who were perfoming every week until i started thinkin is this a music show with a bit of talk or what...neeways the observer sounds like a big fan
BY THE WAY  CAN THE OBESERVER TELL ME WHAT HAPPEND TO CAESER MALEBATSI..A BRILLIANT TALK SHOW HOST -although he seemed smarter then his guest..and didnt have the tv face..He WAS GOOD

18 Mar 2009 13:43

Wow-i didn't know all this about her, i just thought she is a has-been who is a joke in the tv industry (well after her show failed on e tv)..T-O you just made me respect this woman...and her eyebrows.

18 Mar 2009 13:47

ROTFL Spopo tell me...exactly how old are you to remember all of that??? i just remember her being on tv to what she was gaaning aan about or what was happening i won't tell you!

18 Mar 2009 18:54

How logogo akagugi bantu?

18 Mar 2009 21:10

Lol@sponono,Cesar molebatsi geez i have neva seen him on khalaTV.I used to watch him on a black and white tv back at home.

18 Mar 2009 21:19

Im nt a fan, but bcoz i only knw the etv show!lol

18 Mar 2009 21:21

Felicia reminds me of Dali Tambo *lemme think WHY*

18 Mar 2009 21:27

FD its the 2pieces they used to wear maybe.

18 Mar 2009 21:42

Oh ya MAYBE uright CngleMa...(black and white two pieces plus your tv was ublack n white lol)...It was Felicia on tv1 and Dali on tv2...I remember those days...

18 Mar 2009 21:51

LOL @ the SPEAK OUT on SABC 2 tl tl tl tl tl tl tl tl tl tl

18 Mar 2009 22:27

CCVTV FD,u remember the pillows Dali gave out to guests?his dredlockish scurl and styling gel?

18 Mar 2009 22:36

CCTV??? That name sounds familiar *tv camera or something* those pillows, oh yes i remember that. But i used to like watching Felicia. Dali used to do his show not in the studio...isn't?

18 Mar 2009 22:49

Dali's show wasnt done in the studio.there was a show called ingcwenga.wat show was putco and desiree makoti co-hosting?where is Mandla Malakwane?

18 Mar 2009 22:51

Is Mam'uLinda Gqomfa still alive?

18 Mar 2009 22:56

Malakoana~he's a manager of water and wat wat wat wat for DBN municipality. Linda Ngqofa ~ news reader???

18 Mar 2009 22:58

I saw the light skinned rasta guy that once did take 5 at the bus stop today.and the white dude that did the niknaks top20 with zandile nzalo?

18 Mar 2009 23:01

Yes the newsreader.and bab'uMduduzi Hlophe?

18 Mar 2009 23:07

Tjooo CngleM...where are you getting all these names from...Mdu died i guess. Zandile Nzalo hhayi angimazi, ngaz uNhlapho lol

18 Mar 2009 23:09

The sotho dramas on tv2 used to drive me dilly(b4 the subtitles were invented lol)my cousins and i loved them but couldnt understand fokkol.

18 Mar 2009 23:13

Sotho drama~lesilo huh?

18 Mar 2009 23:15

oh now i get it...missed dat 'S' lol

18 Mar 2009 23:22

I saw yo silly post on my babymama drama article its too big 4 me to post via cingo.shame Mr Hlope what killed him?i hav been a tv freak 4 too long.remember izitory zeradio(ogonondo/udeliwe).what about capital radio yalapho ethekwini?kenny maistry/ravi naidoo/justice and meshack mokoena were the Dj's there.i think yavalwa ngo95/96.

18 Mar 2009 23:28

Umncinci FD i have concluded lol!ndiyakshiya ngo12,BS and Piz are busy sorting out their marriages to tizoz and cliff.

18 Mar 2009 23:37

FD masilale ngeke kunini sincokola lol.there are no hidden agendas in what i just said ok?gudnite.

18 Mar 2009 23:38

Have you ever heard of 'the new sound of the city' G99.5

18 Mar 2009 23:40

On your list angazi even one dj...Izitori lol my old lady loved it...Omandende lol

18 Mar 2009 23:42

Igagasi?ayidlali egoli will check it out ekoloni nxtmonth.yeka ngoku ndifun'ulala lol!who said u cant talk dirty ngomageba?

18 Mar 2009 23:47

Nytiiiiiiiiiiiii...I only have 5hours...

18 Mar 2009 23:48

Talking about hidden agenda...mmmmmh angazi lol

19 Mar 2009 05:09

Stop with the marriage joke now cnga...i feel like im from the middle east with these arranged marriages or forced in this case!lol

19 Mar 2009 08:17

She remineds me of her run ins with Phat Joe, What happened to the Pha joe show anywhere???

19 Mar 2009 20:43

I love Felicia....she's a very nice granny..........

20 Mar 2009 09:33

I love and admire this woman.......I wish to see her show re-runs even if its on dvd

Only TVSA members can reply to this thread. Click here to login or register.


New on TV today: Saturday 20 August

HISTORY goes back in time when I Was There, as CBS Reality documents My Extreme OCD Life.

Legacy 2 on M-Net Teasers - September 2022

Series finale! Guess who's back? She's at the centre of the show's last eight episodes.

Uzalo Teasers - September 2022

Nosipho grows a set and stands up for herself. Bam!

New on TV today: Friday 19 August

Bad Sisters take over Apple TV+ and M-Net gets Super Pumped over The Battle for Uber.

Story and characters revealed for new kykNET novela Diepe Waters

If you were a casting director, who would you cast in these roles?...

Cancelled! DiepCity to end in March 2023

Blame it on their short, uncreative teasers! That's our take on the situation.

Binnelanders Teasers - September 2022

Peacemakers are everywhere, but what about peace?

New on TV today: Thursday 18 August

Dystopian drama DMZ kicks off on M-Net as Netflix goes Inside the Mind of a Cat.

Scandal!'s Gloria says "I do" in pink (Pics!)

Drama turns up like an uninvited wedding guest but the show must go on.

The Black Door Teasers - September 2022

Rape allegations against Bra Gibb. Is it true or not?


More activity at TVSA Central




You browser doesn't have Flash, Silverlight, Gears, BrowserPlus or HTML5 support.