2008 January Woman in Media: Renelle Naidoo



Renelle Naidoo has come a long way since starting off in sports journalism seven years ago. She currently works in print, radio, and has just secured a TV contract with SABC Sport.

journalist Renelle Naidoo is a motor sport fanatic, so it’s no surprise that
one of her ambitions is to replace Louise Goodman as ITV’s Formula One field
reporter. This feisty 29-year-old has travelled to Britain
and France
to watch Grands Prix, and she has met some of sports biggest names, including
Nigel Mansell, Ricardo Patrese, Jody Schekter, and Emerson Fittipaldi.

This former
Durbanite started off her sports media career in print in 2000, moved to radio
in 2004, and a year later, got her break on TV. She continues to write for
various sports publications, is currently the producer of SAfm’s week daily
sports show, Gameplan, has just
signed a contract with SABC Sport TV as a producer for the overnight Sports
Channel, and she is negotiating her contract as a motor sport presenter &

But, its evident this hasn’t been an easy journey, especially
working as the only female in the sports department at Independent Newspapers, where she had to prove herself, her writing
talent, and her knowledge of sport. But, she has come a long way, and is richer
for the experience of working in a male dominated industry.

enjoyed playing sport at school, and later on, had a few stints as a drag racer
in KZN, resulting in many bruised egos. But her short hair has now given way to
long tresses, and she admits to wearing skirts occasionally. To her, femininity
is about celebrating being a woman, loving who she is, and having

Piece to camera for SuperSport Production – SA drag racing nationals; she couldn’t resist the opportunity to sit in a 10-second dragster that belongs to the Jan “The Drag Queen” Johnson

Her advice
to women who want to break into sports journalism is that they should have a
real passion for sport and know for sure that this is the industry you want to
work in. Most importantly, she says, you should have a good knowledge of sport,
or you will fast lose credibility.

What impresses
us most about this talented sports journalist is her desire to expose and
acknowledge our country’s non-mainstream sports stars. Over the years, and long
before gsport was launched, she
played her part in raising the profile of women in sport, and her goal is to
continue bringing exposure to those sports stars that so desperately need the

Renelle is
inspired by her work and is constantly reaching for the stars. With an attitude
like that, there is no doubt that her many dreams are sure to become a reality.

Sport aside;
her ultimate ambition is to find her calling – to figure out why she’s here and
to make a difference.

gsport’s 2008 January Woman in Media, motor sport fanatic, Renelle Naidoo!

When did you get into sports broadcasting?

I took the
plunge from print media to radio in December 2004…was headhunted by LotusFM –
worked as the afternoon sports presenter and then producer of Inside Sport
(half hour talk show).

Then I moved
over to e.tv in November 2005 as a sports reporter/producer…worked a three-month
stint at e.tv, before heading over to SuperSport,  the company I had always wanted to work for
but never really pursued working opportunities until very much later in my

leaving SuperSport, I was a Presenter, Journalist and field reporter for Update
Channel 24. I was also the presenter for the SA drag nationals.

What did you do before you got into

I was a
sports reporter/columnist at Independent Newspapers (Durban) – wrote for the
Daily News, Mercury, Sunday Tribune, Tribune Herald and Independent on Saturday
and also supplied copy to sister publications in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Photo shoot for Saltwater Girl – shortly after being crowned the “Fastest Woman in KZN” – elapsed time over a quarter-mile at the KZN drags (Margate Airport)

What are your current projects?

Balancing my
TV and radio schedule doesn’t afford me much spare time…one of the things I’m
really passionate about is exposing and acknowledging non-mainstream sports
stars in this country…therefore, I write previews, reviews; profiles and
features on sports events and stars in various sporting codes including
surfing, volleyball, athletics, swimming, water sport, motor sport, etc.

There are a
few projects that I have in mind and plan to put in place in the near future,
but haven’t as yet finalized details…

What would your ideal job be?

This is my
ideal job… being a sports journalist is one of the best jobs around – I get
paid to watch sport! Seriously, I love that I’m able to be actively involved in
three different mediums within Sports Media.

I write for
newspapers in Durban;
have a bi-monthly column "Calling the Shots" in Post; I am the Producer of
Gameplan on SAFM & I read the sports bulletin; I have just signed a
contract with SABC Sport TV – as a producer for the overnight Sports Channel
and am currently negotiating my contract as a presenter & analyst

Renelle interviews one of her motor sport heroes, Nigel Mansell

What has been the biggest highlight so far?

So many to
name…First would be traveling to Britain and France to watch the Grands Prix;
and other highlights include meeting some of the big names of the past – Nigel
Mansell, Ricardo Patrese; Jody Schekter; Rene Arnoux; Emerson Fittipaldi,
Murray Walker; meeting world’s best cricketers at Cricket World cup 2003 and
successfully changing from print to radio to television in a year.

Favourite sports stars:

Current: Kimi
Raikkonen (F1); Sachin Tendulkar; Ricky Ponting; Kumar Sangakkara; Luis Figo;

Former big
stars: the late Ayrton Senna (F1); Steffi Graf; Mika Hakkinen (F1)

Favourite stadium:

Not a
stadium, but a race track…if I had to narrow it down I’d have to say Monte
Carlo, but I pretty much love all the F1 circuits

Favourite quote, motto:

If you can
dream it, you can make it a reality! Or Work live a slave to live like a King!

How can we improve the state of women’s sport in South Africa?

corporates need to get more involved by pumping money into women’s sport.

the media can play a major role by highlighting top achievers,
publishing/broadcasting events and introducing South Africa’s women sports
stars to the public – this needs to be done at various levels (club,
provincial, national and international levels)…

ridiculous that we have world champions/internationally ranked sports stars in
our country who aren’t even known/acknowledged/recognized because they don’t
compete in the big three (rugby, soccer, cricket)…

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a
woman in media and how did you overcome it?

Ooh that’s a
tough one…I guess being a woman in sports media means you constantly face
challenges, but for me the biggest one would probably have been earning
respect, particularly when I first started out in print media. Men just don’t
take you seriously, which means you have to work twice as hard to
earn the respect and recognition you deserve.

As the only
female working in the sports team at Independent Newspapers (writing for
publications such as the Daily News, The Mercury, Sunday Tribune and
Independent on Saturday in KZN as well as sister publications, The Star, Sunday
Independent (Gauteng) and Cape Argus, etc), I had to prove myself, my writing
talents and knowledge of sport.

Aside from producing Gameplan, Renelle also reads the sports news on the show, which is hosted by Kwena Moabelo (with his back to camera)

It didn’t
take too long before that happened and I still have a great relationship with
my former colleagues/editors at Independent Newspapers and occasionally engage
in "healthy" discussions/debates regarding various sports topics. One of my
passions is motorsport, Formula One in particular, so they know exactly how to
press my buttons.

challenges included making the transition from print media to radio and from
radio to television. I am a very private person, used to be an introvert of
sorts, so for many years I hid behind my computer screen! Going live on air at
LotusFM on the afternoon drive with Rakesh Ramdin and CJ Benjamin was another
highlight, as was my first report for eNews Prime Time and of course presenting
the half-hour sports bulletins on SuperSport.

Today, I can
confidently say that I’ve overcome the challenges that have come my way – I
embrace new challenges with optimism, enthusiasm and give off 120 percent to
each and every assignment that comes my way – be it for print, magazines, radio
or television. In this industry you have to have a very thick skin, but more
importantly you have to accept criticism, take it in your stride and use it to
better yourself and your work.

Each and
every day is a learning experience and if you approach work and life in that
way, you can overcome every single challenge and obstacle that comes your way.

Having been
in the sports media industry for seven years now, I have experienced many
different scenarios, interacted with various types of people, have worked to
some crazy deadlines and I had to adapt to working some really odd hours (like
starting at 5am or 8pm when I presented shows on SuperSport Update Channel 24)
and I have learnt many valuable lessons through all of those experiences – good
and bad. Patience, perseverance, persistence, confidence and an insatiable
appetite/thirst for knowledge will put you in good stead in this industry.

Renelle can never resist an opportunity to get into a super-quick car – this was Nigel Mansell’s race-winning car at the Inaugural Grand Prix Masters at Kyalami

What is your advice to women who are keen to break
into sports media?

First and
foremost, I’d have to say that you must be passionate about sport and know
beyond a shadow of a doubt that sport is the field you want to get in to.

Sure, it
seems like a glamorous job – traveling, meeting local and international
sportsmen and women; getting paid to watch television; but you must also be
aware of the fact that the hours are odd – so working shifts might not be your
thing; most sporting events take place over the weekends, which means that
you’ll be working most if not all of your weekends, sport also often takes
place on public holidays – so you don’t get to enjoy those either!

don’t get into sport just because you want fame or popularity, do it because
you love sport and because you enjoy being a vital link between the sports
events/personalities and the public.

Also, note
that sport in South Africa
is still very much male-dominated and there are stereotypes that exist. While
many countries (UK, USA, Australia, NZ) are making great
strides towards gender equality and nowadays we’re seeing many more female
sports presenters/journalists, this is not the case in SA, which makes it even
harder to break into the industry!

Once you
decide that this is what you want to do – do some research or perhaps
internships to establish what your niche is – there are so many other exciting
jobs within the sports industry – producing, editing, graphics, floor managing,
event co-ordinating, researching, directing, writing, analyzing, commentary,
sub-editing, designing, etc.

Again, I
have to stress that you must love and be passionate about sport and you must
have a vast knowledge of various sporting codes – if you lack knowledge, you
will stand out like a sore thumb and lose respect and credibility not just from
your colleagues, employers but also from your readers/listeners/viewers.

Renelle is a self-confessed motor sport fanatic, who gave the boys a run for their money when she had a few successful stints as a drag racer in KZN

gsport strives to celebrate femininity. How would
you define femininity and what role does it play in your life?

For me,
femininity is about celebrating being a woman, loving who I am and about
self-confidence. Having been a tomboy for pretty much my entire life, I didn’t
pay any attention to stereotypes, the media’s perception of what a woman should
be, but was instead confident with who I was.

I spent my
entire childhood and actually preferred spending all my time with my male
cousins and the boys in the neighbourhood – actively involved in school sports
from athletics, volleyball, netball, tennis and swimming to neighbourhood
cricket and soccer.

I had really
short hair and looked like the typical tomboy. Later on, I had a couple of successful
stints as a drag racer in KZN – resulting in many bruised egos. Nowadays, I
prefer long hair and occasionally wear skirts (dresses are not part of my
wardrobe just yet), but I’m still very much a tomboy at heart.

Don’t get me
wrong – I love being a woman and I don’t believe that any woman should defend
her femininity just because she’s in a male-dominated industry, it’s just that
certain girly things just don’t interest me. I’d prefer watching and talking
sport than chatting about clothes and make-up.

If you
embrace the joys of being a woman and celebrate this truly magnificent gift,
you will start to appreciate all that life has to offer! Most importantly,
femininity does not mean feminism.

Who are your role models?

I’d say my parents – for instilling in me good morals, values, self confidence,
independence, and for all the support and most importantly all the sacrifices
they made to ensure I had everything I wanted and needed. I am humbled by the
way they are and the sacrifices they have made.

person I admire is Oprah – for having the ability to pick herself up when she
was at her lowest, make all her dreams a reality, while spreading such positive
and empowering messages to the world. I am in awe of all the work that she does
not just in media but all the humanitarian work she does as well.

What inspires you?

My work
inspires me – all the challenges, stresses and unpredictability of being the
producer of Gameplan on SAFM, while juggling my print/magazine commitments and
also my television work. Basically I’ve set myself deadlines and work really
hard to achieve those goals and when I have, I move on to the next challenge.
Life is too short and I don’t wanna die having any regrets.

Renelle does a piece to camera as mechanics and the drivers gear up for the big race day

My parents
are also a great source of inspiration.

And, this
may sound a tad weird, but I draw a great deal of inspiration from myself –
each and every day is an incredible journey for me – I approach each day with a
positive attitude, make the best of everything that comes my way and even when
the chips are down – I manage to put a positive spin on just about every

I’m inspired
to be the very best at whatever it is that I choose to do and aspire to make
all my dreams a reality. Knowing I can do whatever I want to, have whatever it
is my heart desires and constantly strive to achieve my goals while setting new
ones is my daily inspiration. In a nutshell, you could say I’m constantly
reaching for the stars!

What is your greatest ambition?

Well, my
dream job would be to replace Louise Goodman (Itv-F1 field reporter). Haha! I
think it would be awesome to travel to all the circuits while providing the
latest breaking news from the paddock for a global audience and on Itv’s

I’ve already
achieved many of the goals I’ve set through the years in print, radio and
television, but I still have many more to achieve. For years, I’ve been trying
to raise the profile of women in sport as well as our non-mainstream sports
stars and I guess my ultimate goal would be to see these sportsmen and women
getting the recognition they deserve, with the full backing of sponsors,
government and the media.

For too long
soccer, rugby and cricket has been dominating the sports scene in South Africa –
we have so many world champions, international record-holders and highly-rated
sports stars who simply do not get the recognition they deserve in this

Sport aside;
my ultimate goal/ambition would be to find my calling – to figure out why I’m
here and to make a difference.


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gSTAR: Stacy Bregman


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About the Author:

Kass Naidoo

Kass Naidoo

Passionate sports broadcaster and founder of gsport4girls

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