Average read time: 8 minutes.
It’s hard to believe that Nonqaba Nozuko Rwaxa, better known as Ms Cosmo, began her professional journey in the banking world. “Growing up enjoying entertainment the way that I did, I knew a part of me wanted that, but I just didn’t know where I fit into that space,” she says, adding, “I thought [I would] let that dream die; I’m going to study and secure my future.”
Yet, entertainment was a dream that refused to stay buried. Ms Cosmo, in fact, used her very first banking paycheque to pay for classes at DJing school, FUSE Academy run by industry ground breaker, DJ Zinhle.
Her career soon began to heat up and she joined YFM and later 5FM. Eventually, Ms Cosmo was forced to make a choice between banking and DJing. “I’d had over three years of experience at the bank, and I figured that was good enough for me to take the risk, jump into this DJing career and see where it took me. If at some point it failed at least I’d have my backup plan,” she laughs. “I haven’t looked back since.”
The next level
It’s easy to see why. These days, Ms Cosmo is not just a household name in the South African hip hop landscape, she’s also a beloved media personality with over 158 000 Instagram followers. In addition to her Sunday night 5FM hip hop show, “The Stir Up”, she hosts weekly podcast, the POPcast covering pop culture and what’s hot and happening in the entertainment industry. She was an in-demand club DJ before COVID-19 struck.
“Financially, the pandemic has brought a slump, but it’s also opened up my eyes and my mind to bigger and broader ways of doing things. I’ve been forced to innovate and use platforms like Zoom to engage with people doing virtual events, although some audiences haven’t adapted as well as others. I need everyone to vaccinate so we can get out again,” she laughs.
Yet, there’s no stopping Ms Cosmo. As a music producer and sometimes-singer, she herself is a central part of the local hip hop scene. She counts her music as her greatest accomplishment. “Anybody can get into studio and record something but it’s really difficult for you to pour your heart into a song and expect people to relate to it,” she says. Nonetheless her music seems to have struck a chord, with her 2017 debut single Connect featuring Nasty C, Rouge and Kwesta gathering almost two million YouTube views. Her songs continue to burn up the charts.
More recently, Ms Cosmo has revealed her hidden singing talents. This happened by chance whilst recording in studio. Her team told her that she had sing in order to get the right timing for her song, 88 and the rest is history.
“Singing wasn’t something I was pushing,” she laughs, “I’m very honest with myself and it’s not like I’m Beyonce. I can hold a note but I’m very aware of my limitations. I have to be front and centre now though.”
Ms Cosmo has attained widespread success through perseverance, hard work and tenacity. “I’m always setting goals, asking how I can reach them so that I can take my brand to the next level,” she says, “I don’t necessarily have the give-up factor; I push myself a lot because I judge myself if I don’t achieve something. That keeps me motivated.”
A brand that builds
While she’s an undeniable entertainment force, Ms Cosmo had to work hard to gain recognition at the beginning of her career. “I felt like I had to prove myself because hip hop is a boys’ club within a boys’ club,” she says. Although she had the support of a group of male DJs when she first broke into the scene, convincing a larger fan base of her talents and staying power was a challenge.
“They needed to understand that I was there for a purpose,” says Ms Cosmo. “At the time, it seemed like I was just a girl who was a gimmick because for them, it was only men who were DJing and talking about hip hop. They didn’t understand this new ship that was coming in with me, so I had to do double time and prove that I knew what I was doing. I empathise with other women going through that.”
Through her own struggles and eventual triumphs, Ms Cosmo decided to help other women in similar situations. “Once I established myself, I realised that we needed more support for up-and-coming ladies or those who are doing big things but lacking acknowledgement. Women need to feel that we’re just as good as the guys – we can get into hip hop and entertainment and dominate.”
As part of her efforts to empower other women in these spaces, Ms Cosmo developed SHE Social SA, a platform for the country’s female movers and shakers. “I initially started it two years ago as an events series – I wanted to push the agenda that women can headline events in their creative spaces,” she says, “that obviously had to halt when COVID struck, although we’ll do events as soon as we can.”
Having reinvented SHE Social through podcasts, Ms Cosmo has conducted interviews over Zoom and hopes to soon welcome guests in person. “I’ve leveraged my following to draw the public into these women’s stories – who they are, where they come from and what they’re about.”
Drawing the line
Ms Cosmo admits that she is very intentional when it comes to separating her public and personal personas. “I’ve created a balance by understanding where and when I need to be Ms Cosmo and when and where I can be Noni – myself,” she says.
It’s very important for her wellbeing to put only her work out there so that people don’t scrutinise her personal life. “With social media, what you put out is what you’ll get back. My relationship, friends and family are very sacred to me – I try and keep them as the base that I can still go home to, should something go wrong in my work life.”
Yet for now, things are going very right for an entertainment powerhouse who serves as a daily inspiration to everyone around her.