Home People Personalities Revealing Prev - the person behind the gown

Revealing Prev – the person behind the gown

Many know him as the sharp-witted, sassy Aunty Shamilla. But now Durban actor, stand-up comic and content creator Prev Reddy takes to the stage to introduce himself to the world.

From a young age, Prev was a class jester who possessed the ability to spread positivity through laughter and light up a room with his original and unrivalled wit. At 26 he’s reached a level of stardom that only a few South Africans have. And his three-year career in the industry has only just begun.

“Growing up I always wanted to move out of Durban … go to Johannesburg or New York, wherever the entertainment scene was. Little did I know that Durban would be the home to my success,” says Prev, who currently lives in Umhlanga but spent much of his childhood in Queensburgh.

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Photo: Joel Mundi

“I remember as a kid I was always very outgoing and bubbly. Whenever there was a family get-together I would  have some sort of performance ready. It’s hard to explain but I firmly believed already at the age of five that there was nothing else on this earth I wanted to do other than entertain.”

Listing Tina Fey, Mark Banks and Trevor Noah as some of his earliest comedic inspirations, Prev says his romance with the stage blossomed in Grade 4 when he quit playing cricket (and he wasn’t half bad at it) and took up Speech and Drama at school.

“I went onto to do several Young Performers Projects and immersed myself into the arts culture that high school offered. It was those years that really made me understand that this was the only career for me.”

Prev’s rise to stardom came when he created his lead character Aunty Shamilla – now a household name to many – a character he says he had no intention of creating.

“One day mom and I got into a silly argument which I wanted to re-enact for the world, and to my surprise that video went viral. I took advantage of that moment and started to create skits of literally every argument or incident my mom and I had. And the rest is history. But just to clarify … Aunty Shamilla isn’t entirely my mom. She’s a culmination of my mom, two grans and four aunts – the women who raised me.”

Photo: Joel Mundi

His characters are Aunty Shamilla – the head matriarch and no-nonsense aunty, Uncle Baboo – Shamilla’s husband, a very easy going uncle and the one you’d make conversation with at a function, Devi – Shamilla’s number one frenemy also known as the ‘Posh Umhlanga Mom’, Kogie – the timid peace-keeping aunty, and Saras – the aunty in the family that thrives on drama and constantly stirs the pot!

“It’s crazy … none of these characters where ever meant to be anything apart from comic aids for certain skits I had in mind, but I guess each of them resonated with the public, so I kept them around. Shamilla has become very much a part of my everyday life … people yell Aunty Shamilla in public more than Prev, and it’s ok because it’s great to know that my work is being recognised.”

Since the birth of Prev’s characters, his popularity created the demand for a country-wide comedy tour, which resulted in three consecutive sold-out tours across South Africa over a span of three years. Soon afterward he was awarded the internationally acclaimed Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award in Los Angeles.

With his heart set on reaching international stardom and spreading Aunty Shamilla’s unique spice throughout the globe, the Queen of The Gowns tour was born. This comedy special explores Aunty Shamilla’s life, with an insight into the woman behind the gown. The global debut showcase, produced by Love-Tec Entertainment, was staged at the prestigious and iconic Leicester Square Theatre in London. Naturally it featured guest appearances by each of Prev’s characters which, as it turned out, are loved by fans throughout the world now for their overly zealous humour.

“I’ve been lucky enough to travel to New York, London and Dubai for my career. I got to attend the MTV Video Music Awards in New Jersey which was unbelievable! I was flown to Dubai to shoot content for a company and was taken care of in absolute style – they were driving me around in a Bentley. But London! it is my favourite place in the world. This last trip was very different because it was the first time my visit was fuelled by my fame and not just my desire to perform. Having fans come up for pictures on the streets of Leicester Square and at train stations was absolutely unreal!”

Photo: Joel Mundi

Having recently returned home, Prev stripped himself of these much-loved comic aids to show the world who HE really is through his new first solo show Qualified Disappointment. Prev says the story behind this stand-up comedy show is based on the joke of the career options Indian children are given which are a doctor, a lawyer or a disappointment.

“Even though my career does not fit the traditional mould, I still managed to make a career out of it, so surely I’m qualified right?” says Prev who dabbles in a lot of things – from cultural upbringing to attending a government school and the whole instant rise to fame journey.

“I think a lot of people forget that I’m just 26. I’m not really the aunty that everyone sees online. Perhaps people also think that because I’m always smiling or posting happy content online must mean that I’m always happy. Far from the truth, but I don’t let being sad or difficult situations have a negative impact on me, especially when it comes to work. Whenever I’m faced with adversity I ask myself what is the lesson the universe wants me to learn or how can I turn this situation around. A lot of my success has come from figuring out how to change a dark situation around.”

His sold-out show, which was staged at venues across Durban, Joburg and Cape Town in May and June, was so popular that it’s being brought back to local stages again next month.

Prev and Aunty Shamilla also feature, along with are some incredible celebrities, on the new season of Takalani Sesame, and the trailer for his first feature film, The Honeymoon, is scheduled to be released in August.

“I’ll also be featuring on SABC3’s The Insider SA this month – something I’m really excited about – so fans can keep an eye out for that.”

When he’s not on stage, he’s lapping up everything Durban has to offer, from the food to the city’s relaxed vibe and rubbing shoulders with the who’s who at major events. And keep your eyes peeled … you’re bound to see him at the Durban July.

Details: Follow Prev on IG and TikTok: @prevreddy or FB: PrevReddyZA

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