To 12-year-oldLeanne As co-anchor of SA’s longest-running breakfast show, SABC2’s Morning Live, TV presenter Leanne Manas has been part of our mornings for almost two decades. She started off at 702 as a late-night news anchor — today the mother of two is an accomplished TV presenter, MC, radio host and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.
Dear Leanne, If I told you today who you’d be in 2020, you’d say it was impossible. I can see you in class, wanting to add something to what is being said. You have all these thoughts and ideas that you want to voice, but something is stopping you, so you keep quiet and let others speak (even though your ideas are better!). But there’s a block and it’s so frustrating. You go to bed at night asking whoever is listening to change everything about you. People call you a plain Jane and when you look in the mirror, that’s who you see – someone who will never stand out in a crowd. Someone invisible.
But there’s one person who sees something in you. And that’s Mom. She’s telling you that you have to do these speech and drama lessons, and you won’t want to do them – you hate being forced to do anything. (That hasn’t changed!) But I’m here to tell you that if it weren’t for those classes, you would never have achieved your ‘impossible’. She’s going to take you out of your big public school and put you in a new smaller school, and it’s not going to be easy. But all of these things will help you shut down your saboteur, the person who is holding you back. You’ll even become head girl at school – can you believe it? You’ll find your voice. You’ll go into every single debate and win, and people will see you. You’ll realise that you want to be a broadcast journalist.
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You’ll start at the bottom and one day you’ll find the courage to ask for more. And that person is going to say no. ‘You don’t belong here,’ they’ll say. You’ll be faced with two choices: to go back to your desk and allow that person to dictate to you what you should be, or to pick up your bag and walk right out that door. I think you’ll be proud of the route we took. You’ll summit the highest peak in Africa, and you’ll interview Nelson Mandela and Oprah (I know you don’t really know these people right now, but trust me, they’re your heroes), but you’ll also be a voice for people who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to share their stories without you.
I think of the sacrifices our great-grandmother made to leave Lebanon and how the courage of one woman led to the success of an entire generation – including yours. I’m writing this letter to you from the home I share with my wonderful husband and my two beautiful children. Currently we’re going through something historic and you’ll be reporting on it. It feels like the world has come to a standstill – hardly anyone is allowed to leave their homes, countries have closed borders and you are not allowed to touch others as a virus infects millions and kills hundreds of thousands.
The world looks nothing like you could ever imagine! But with all this happening, something has changed. Your priorities have completely shifted: you have become more realistic and content about life. Instead of always looking for the next challenge or the next big thing, you are focusing on the now – perhaps for the first time! Pandemic aside, I just want to let you know we have done well. You are going to love the view from up here – it’s been worth every step!