Listen: This is how Mel the Storyteller writes her own story

Henry

The TikTok star Melanie du Toit, known to her thousands of followers as Mel the Storyteller, has heard since childhood that she is someone who likes to venture down paths that others are too afraid to walk.

Education, drama and writing, as well as her recent daring leap from social media bacon shooter to comedian, is precisely resounding proof of her fearless approach to innovation.

“I have traveled to so many places and tried new things, but it feels as if my career has now been a gathering of all those experiences and different professions – then you realize why you had to go through such phases to come out at a certain point come,” says Mel in the RNews studio.

Like many people, Covid-19 boredom led her to TikTok in 2020 where “a few silly comic sketches”, as she calls them, made people laugh and quickly grew followers.

Her spicy commentary videos on the kykNET series Farmer looking for a wife and The Real Housewives of Pretoria however, according to Mel, was her first breakthrough moment.

“Then ‘important’ people saw me,” she says with a laugh.

In 2023, she made the decision to with her comic one-woman show, Everyone is Crazy!making the move from social media to the stage.

“I only realized that people were really taking notice of me when I did my debut show at the Atterbury Theater in May. On your phone you only see names and numbers, it’s different from being stopped by people in real life.”

According to Mel, since her childhood in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, her life has always been filled with stories.

With inspirations like Tolla van der Merwe and Nataniël, it is also easy to understand how she would end up on stage one day.

“I saw Nathaniel for the first time as a twelve-year-old and his book, Tuesday, read to the point of boredom. When I finally got to meet him recently, I burst into tears and realized the impact his stories had on me. Now I write my own stories for my own shows – it’s actually crazy!”

Mel confesses that she had to quickly learn that social media celebrity doesn’t always have the same impact in “the real world” either.

“I feel like I definitely have to work harder to be taken seriously in entertainment circles. A venue has already told me that people won’t buy tickets for a storyteller they don’t know. I then decided on another venue in the same town, and we sold out – with high demand for a second one.”

That’s why she likes to share the spotlight with other up-and-coming artists wherever she can.

“I know how it feels to be underestimated and to struggle. One can so easily miss the chance to discover new talent if one is not prepared to take a chance.”

According to Mel, becoming a comedian, and moreover one of the few female Afrikaans comedians, was not on her wish list.

“At some point I had to make a move from social media. I’m ambitious and I wanted to do a one-woman show, but I wanted to do it as Mel, not as a character. I am a woman with an opinion and a unique humorous outlook on life, so stand up comedy happened very organically.”

Celebrity was certainly not her end goal, but rather to make people feel heard and seen through humor and stories.

“I just wanted to tell stories and maybe occasionally motivate and inspire people. I don’t worry about covers, but rather the connection with my audience.”

That’s why Mel likes to talk about topics like body positivity, especially among women.

“I learned early on that people outside your inner circle don’t have to have an influence on your life. I’ve been ‘strange’ since childhood and had to face many comments about how I look, how I speak and how I do things, but I’ve always been blessed to not care what others think.”

She says she believes it is important that women know themselves and stand firm in that.

“There are sometimes words that sting, but I think those who struggle to find themselves are more likely to care what others think. We have to normalize that everyone doesn’t look the same and stop making fun of people’s appearance – there are many other sources of humor.”

The wedding bells will ring early next year for this comedian and her fiance, Ronald Welgemoed. The couple currently lives in Paarl in the Western Cape, but according to Mel, their hearts lie towards the West Coast.

“I’m going to take the whole of February off, and after that I’m fired up again for my new production, Thick and messywith which I want to tour the country again.”

A new book and an “exciting collaboration project”, about which she cannot yet reveal much, also lie ahead in the new year.

“I am now indeed writing my own success story and I know there are still quite a few chapters to look forward to.”

  • Listen to the full interview at the top of the post.
  • Check out Mel’s hilarious tips for original Christmas gifts here: