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Pretty as a picture

Pretty Mhlongo knows just how to multitask. Wife, mother of three, child of God, and well-known Mpumalanga gospel singing sensation, she is also the provincial tourism ambassador.

Pretty has loved music from an early age. Not a day went by that she didn’t crack a song while doing dishes or cleaning the house with her siblings. She sang in the school and church choirs, and later on did backing vocals for various artists, but it was her husband, Selby, who recognised Pretty’s special talent and nurtured it. “I come from a musical background, and I always knew I had a good voice,” says Pretty. “But I never thought I’d ever do it for a living. Selby groomed the gift, and that’s when I realised that I could make it my career. I also believed that God would never give me a gift for no reason. I want my music to heal people, to bring about hope and peace, and to help people experience the love of God through my music.”

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While it is tough to make it in the music industry, Pretty knows that nothing beats hard work. “The end goal should never be I want to be famous, but rather I want my work to speak for me,” she explains. “My mother once told me that respect and humbleness always go a long way, and that is one thing that I have applied in my own life, something which I know can also help aspiring artists.”

It is important to always maintain a balance, and keep your feet on the ground. Pretty emphasises that first and foremost, she is a mother and wife. “Nothing will ever change that,” she says. “I am a family woman, and in the midst of all the busyness I always make sure I make time for my family. Unfortunately, sometimes there’s very little time as I’m always on the road, either to perform or with the provincial Department of Tourism team or the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency. But I believe that women were created to multitask, so it comes naturally to me to be a wife, a mother, an artist, a businesswoman and an ambassador.”

As part of her role as ambassador, Pretty promotes products in the local tourism sector, and she encourages people to visit the area. “Because honestly,” she smiles, “in every respect, Mpumalanga is breathtaking and there are so many things to do. We truly are a world in one province; there is nothing that we don’t have, from our beautiful scenery to our safaris. There is nowhere in Mpumalanga that I don’t like, although the Kruger Park takes the lead when it comes to my favourite places. International visitors must fall in love with Mpumalanga through us; they must see it through our eyes. Part of my job also entails motivating people to visit our rural areas, where they will get to experience the real culture of the province.”

Pretty makes use of a variety of ways to help her spread the word, and with recent restrictions on gatherings and social events, social media is proving to be an especially effective method. “Social networking is taking the lead at the moment,” she admits. “I make use of my personal channels to encourage people by sharing information and images of the beautiful places we have in the province. Currently, that is where the most interaction is, and whatever route works best is the one we will follow. “We must always remember that when we are talking tourism, we are talking money – not just rand value, but money in all currencies. Having international tourists visit our province and our country as a whole, strengthens our economy. And there is nothing more important than that.”

 

While her singing career and tourism endeavours keep Pretty on her toes, she always manages to find time to relax, which for her means baking. “That’s my me time,” she laughs. “I think people often look at me as someone who won’t even do chores, but I can cook up a storm, and most people don’t know that about me. I have a baking business called ‘Pretty’s Home Bakes’, and the slogan is ‘Every family deserves a tasty home bake’, which I think sums it up.”

Apart from her dream to be recognised worldwide as an artist, with a foundation whereby she can help mentor upcoming artists, Pretty would love to one day own her own restaurant with a mini bakery on the side. It certainly seems that there is no slowing down in sight for this bubbly young woman.

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