Watch Lindiwe Suttle’s performance in the preview video for her killer track Man Made Moon and you’ll have no doubt that this firebrand, with her slinky voice and cutting edge style, is set for great things. And being the daughter of South Africa’s original television talk show queen, Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, can only help. Born in the US, the Spanish-speaking, fashion-forward Lindiwe has already done more than most would dream off.
With early ambitions to become an entertainer, she was sidetracked by studying business, marketing and Spanish and later working as a stylist for celebrities including BeyoncÃ© and Cynthia Nixon. She then returned to her mother’s homeland to take a job as a fashion buyer but soon decided that her life was meant to be lived in the spotlight.
Based in Cape Town, Lindiwe became the lead singer for the eight-piece jazz / hip-hop / soul band, The Collective Imagination, before starting to perform solo sets in venues across the Mother City. Now she’s in Berlin working with producer Ivan Georgiev on the solo debut album that she’s hoping to release later this year.
Your mother was quite famous in South Africa…
I never knew what an impact my mother was making in SA because I was born and raised in the USA. Only once we started visiting SA and people would ask for a picture with her or an autograph did her fame sink in.
Are you still close?
She’s an inspiration to me. What I learned from her is there are no excuses in life; nothing can keep you from your success. She came from Soweto and everyone told her success was impossible and she didn’t let anything steer her away from her dreams.
Your musical inspirations…
Michael Jackson, Boy George, Whitney, Madonna, Bobby Brown were my icons in the 80s when growing up. When it comes to song-writing – Sia, Tori Amos, Bjork, Adele. Musically – Radiohead, Florence and the Machine… And on-stage performance; there’s Better Midler, aka the Divine Ms M, and Lady Gaga are my ultimate. I want to infuse acting, a little comedy and music into my shows; like a cabaret show.
How did you get into music and song-writing?
I wrote lyrics in high school when I was getting bullied ’cause I felt I had no one to talk to and it was my release. The lyrics helped me learn to love myself more. The song that’s on radio now, Sweet Like Butta, was a song I wrote in high school. I started writing again when I was living in Hamburg and living through a horrible relationship. I was listening to Adele’s 19 album and would cry and cry about my ex, the stories were so similar. This bad relationship inspired me to write again.
There are touches of Grace Jones in your voice and performance…
Grace Jones is queen, I met her. She is power. I do not think Grace Jones received enough praise for her work, she was ground-breaking; her image, her music, her style. She will always be the queen to me. I think the “Grace’ you are seeing in me is my fearless, strong side.
You were chosen as the Most Stylish South African at last year’s Style Awards…
It’s said that fashion is superficial, and I say yes it might be true but personal style runs much deeper. Personal style is an expression of self. I wake up every day and I think about what I am going to wear. It started early when I use to take my mom’s clothing and wear them to school. I was so inspired by my mom’s wardrobe, it made me fall in love with fashion.
Is it hard work always looking stylish?
No it’s a joy. I play dress up every day. My image represents me, so I take it very seriously.
What do you think of Lady Gaga’s commitment to her costumes and style?
Lady Gaga has brought the magic back to music just as Madonna, Grace Jones, Bowie, Boy George and a few others did. We have been waiting for this magical moment for awhile. I aspire to be like them – I want to make music for the ears and eyes.
Your favourite designers?
Kluk CDGT, Lara Klawiksowski, Ida and Phillipa from Olive Green Cat, Skeet… and Kutloano Molokomme.
How would you define your style?
Tell us about your new single Man Made Moon…
It’s about a female stalker. I’ve been single for awhile and sometimes there’s a sense of desperation to be in a relationship. Man Made Moon is about that desperation.
Why are you working with producer Ivan Georgiev in Berlin on your album?
I adore his band ZPYZ and I was signed to the same management company, Motor Music in Berlin. I chose him cause I think he really understands dance music and has a pop appeal. I love rock and we are infusing a lot of rock-n-roll into this album with deep bottom soul bass that hits you in the chest. You will not leave the dance floor. I will give Mambaonline the exclusive: The first song I have written in Berlin is called Love Bites.
How do you see your music influencing people?
I am creating music is to inspire people to be themselves and live their dreams. I speak about issues that people are afraid to speak about, I want to be the voice for those that feel like they don’t have one. I think it’s my responsibility as an artist to contribute to building a better world.
You seem to be involved in many facets of entertainment.
I consider myself a brand, so I run my life like a business. My music career is strategiclly planned out just as one would do if they started a new business. I am always looking for opprtunities. I will be designing my own clothing line, out next year, with my mom.
What attracted you to learning Spanish?
I lived in Seville, Spain for a year during my studies. I love the language; Spanish-speaking people live passion. It’s such a sexy language.
Most memorable celeb encounters…
My biggest lesson came from working with BeyoncÃ© early in my fashion career. I remember she was always so kind to everyone even though she was a mega superstar. I think it is important no matter where you are in you life to always be kind to others. Meeting Bono and sharing a special bonding moment speaking about the death of a friend and him suggesting songs for me to write. And in the end, before I left, Bono asked me to take a picture with him and gave me his shades to wear. Now that’s cool! And Dustin Hoffman randomly walking up to my table and telling me I had ‘exquisite style’…
Your style and music seem to have connected with a gay audience…
I think the gay community has a huge appreciation for art. I am so humbled and grateful for their loyal support. They’ve become some of my best friends. When I was performing in small pubs they were there cheering me on, coming to every show. In a way, I feel indebted to my gay fans; they have helped push me to be even more creative and fearless as a person and on stage.
Do you have a personal connection with gay people?
Yes of course. I use my Facebook page and Twitter account to speak about social issues and after the teen suicides of gay students, I started receiving many messages from young gay teens expressing their sadness and fear to come out. I was bullied growing up so know how helpless one can feel when you feel like people look at you as different. I feel I have a responsibility as an artist to tell them know that