In celebration of Pride, we’re taking a look at MTV Shuga’s LGBT storyline with our South African characters Odirile and Reggie. Odirile and Reggie got together in MTV Shuga Down South Season 2, after we followed Reggie’s journey of self-discovery and acceptance in the first season.
Mohale Motaung, who plays Odirile, is openly gay and believes stigma about sexual health among men who have sex with men is preventing it from being openly discussed:
“It is not spoken about. People don’t want to talk about sex. People don’t want to talk about those little topics we actually should be talking about. We need more channels to get it to people.”
Across the season, Odirile’s character touches on a number of topics central to the LGBT South African experience, including self-expression, relationships with friends and family, and safe sex, including the use of PrEP. “I was able to really tell my story through Odirile.”
He also said the show changed the way he saw sex as a gay man and gave him the confidence to talk about it. “I learnt a lot and I was able to open my mind and help other people understand that it is okay to talk about sex. You are a man, you like men, there was a lot of things I could advise my friends.”
His partner Reggie’s storyline is one of the most powerful tools of our South African peer education programme. In our sessions, each participant has to choose a character at the beginning of the series, and support them throughout, no matter what challenges they face over the course of the season. Reggie is one of our most popular choices for young men – he’s cool, handsome, one of the boys, a talented graffiti artist and really into his music. But as our peers progress through the training and they realise Reggie is gay, many find it hard to identify with him and sometimes request to drop the character.
However, they are encouraged to stick with the character, with the message that it’s everyone’s right to be who they feel they are: gay, straight, bisexual, transexual or asexual. Once they reach the end of the programme – those who stick with Reggie’s character really appreciate him for who he is – someone who’s assertive, brave, and true to themselves.
Odirile is also back on our screens for MTV Shuga: Alone Together, our newest campaign aimed at combating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and providing support to our viewers.
The LGBT experience is a very real part of African history and culture, and through our acting talent and writers we ensure that representation is proudly on screen in MTV Shuga. Getting this content out to the whole world through our YouTube channel has allowed us to open up discussions in parts of the world where being LGBT is illegal – a small but important step in creating a more tolerant future for our viewers.