This is how Cele begins a chapter in his autobiography The Dream Of An Idol. Being in the top two of Idols SA, Cele thought he was close to his dream – he would finally be the superstar he had dreamed of being since he was a child. But little did he know, that the hard work was only just about to begin.
“When I was on Idols I was unemployed and I was behind on all my payments,” explains Cele.
“I was pouring my heart out every week on the Idols stage, yet it hurt me that I couldn’t even afford to send money to my family to come and support me every week.”
These were only some of the challenges that Cele was faced with. While his book aims to inspire aspiring musicians, Cele also opens up about the harsh realities behind the glamorous facade of Idols and the entertainment industry as a whole.
“When you’re on a big show like Idols, you assume that contestants who made it to the top five would be offered recording deals left right and centre,” explains Cele.
“But obviously this is not the case. I was runner-up and every single recording label I approached rejected me.”
“The music industry is just not big enough for all of us,” says Cele.
“After the show is over, people always ask: ‘What happened to the winner? Why didn’t they release an album?’, but the truth is, after Idols you are on your own. If you don’t push yourself, no one else will.”
And push himself he did. Instead of giving up after the competition, Cele continued to pursue his dream independently. He and Elvis Blue – who ultimately won that season – had made a pact to split the R500 000 cash prize regardless of who won.
So with R250 000 in his pocket, increasing debt and a family to support, Cele decided to risk it all again with the hopes of finally becoming a working musician. He formed his own record company called Levi Josh Records (named after his son). Having been a worship director at his church and a self-taught saxophone, keyboard and guitar player, Cele was well equipped to put together his albums.
He wrote and composed about 90% of the songs on the albums, titled One and No Limits. At the 2012 South African Music Awards, Cele’s first album scooped Best Pop Album and the hit Make It Easy was nominated for Song Of The Year. His collaboration with Loyiso Bala on the Zulu ballad Thando was nominated for Best Collaboration.
Determined to do as much work as possible on the music scene, Cele has also taken a job as a DJ on Vuma 103FM, a new radio station based in Durban.
“The show is on Sundays and we play inspirational music. We’re growing every day,” he says.
In a more revealing chapter of the book, Cele opens up about his marriage and how growing up without his father affects the kind of father he is.
“My wife is of a different race”, says Cele.
“I didn’t think this would be a big problem for us, but it was. When I first went to ask her family for her hand in marriage, they rejected me.”
“My wife is my number one supporter,” says Cele.
“She put her dreams aside to support mine. I respect and appreciate that so much,” he says.
Looking back at some of the difficult experiences in his life, Cele wouldn’t change a thing.
“If my life had been easy, I probably wouldn’t be where I am right now.”