Review by Moira de Swardt

Nianell is a popular South African entertainer who believes that if you love yourself it will make a difference.Nianell’s autobiographical book softened my hardened old heart and there were tears in my eyes that overflowed once or twice.Nianell is a wonderfully gifted performer and I have enjoyed several of her performances over the years, which is why I chose to read this book. Her live shows are marked by the message that we should love ourselves, and her personal journey along this path, shared with great honesty, reflects this. It is not surprising that the back cover of “Knowing Who I Am” revealed that this love was the theme of her first book.I am a devoted Nianell fan so I was delighted that this book included a bonus CD which I immediately slipped into the CD player as I read the book. This is not a review of the CD but I love her magnificent eclectic musicality so I enjoyed this. At times I was unsure if the gooseflesh was because of the music or because of the book. I think it was the former, although the latter was stunning. I was a third of the way through the book by the time the CD ended.

The book is dedicated to her famous triplets, Kaeley, Jade and Tayden and starts with recommendations from Nataniel, Steve Hofmeyr, Ashley Hayden, Rina Hugo and Shaleen Surtie Richards, inter alia. The foreword is by Luis Miguel Falcao.

Nianell’s retelling of her life starts with her confidence and low self-worth and includes the story of her working in restaurants as an entertainer, but hiding in the kitchen when she was on break: “It’s ironic that I was confident enough to sing for people but not enough to mingle with them.”

The story of “Veldskool” made me angry that a school system can inflict that on a child. By the time I reached page 7 where our heroine quotes Nelson Mandela at his inauguration there were tears in my eyes. They fell as she says: “In 2010 I was chosen to perform with the legendary Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli at the grand finale of ‘Celebrate Africa’, held at the Coca-Cola Dome in Johannesburg in celebration of the FIFA World Cup being hosted in South Africa. After the performance we were called onto the stage for a final bow. We hadn’t rehearsed this, so no-one was really sure where to go, or what to do. I really wanted to stand next to Andrea Bocelli because he’s such an amazing human being and I wanted this special moment to last a little longer. When we were called, I walked on without hesitation and stood right next to him!“

The next chapter documents her early career. There were more tears as she describes expressing milk for her three babies while wearing a ballgown because she was performing again two months after their birth. I enjoyed reading some of the anecdotes I’ve heard her relate on stage and reading the words of her songs.

The third chapter is entitled “Body, Mind and Soul”. She describes the punishment her body took during and after her pregnancy with triplets, exercise, diet, alternative methods of handling these, and her Myers Briggs personality type (ENFJ – Extrovert/Intuiting/Feeling/Perceiving) as well as her battle with depression. I learn from letters from those closest to her that “Nia” is short for “Sonia”. Interestingly the section which I thought would be the longest, that of the soul, was the shortest.

The next chapter focuses on relationships with parents, siblings, friends, romantic life partners, children, colleagues and fellow human beings.

The fifth chapter speaks about the miracle of three with “Ps” – Prepare and plan, patience and prayer, parenting, please and, finally, play. This is really the story of the triplets. I loved the take on property law by a child – twenty rules each ending with “It’s mine!” Nianell’s account of Antoinette who lost all four of her children in an accident is moving and once again my eyes tear up.

The next chapter, on love, is a compilation of what other people say about love, celebrities and children and seniors and people close to Nianell. Finally we have her conclusion on the chapter.

The last chapter is on music. And then “Finally” she ends with a section which ends with the words of a song on the CD – “Finally”. No! She still has more to say. “Thank you” to Struik and to schools and old age homes and friends and celebrities and to her parents and to her husband. And a prayer of thanks to God.

I was wonderfully uplifted by the book when I put it down after a single sitting.


Title: Knowing Who I Am
Sub-title: Love yourself and make a differnce
Author: Nianell
Publisher: Struik Inspirational
Year: 2011
Recommended selling price: R160
Bonus CD with sixteen tracks

ISBN: 978-1-4153-1278-0

Read review on ArtslinkMoira de Swardt
Freelance Journalist
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082 553 2457

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