Star FM’s Iyati a.k.a Fiona Itayi Takaendesa Shares Journey to Her Dreams

Radio personality Iyati is a natural-born conversationalist who loves telling and listening to real-life stories, reading and travelling. When her father objected to her continuing school after high school, she left home to live with relatives. Though it has taken years and meandering path, she finally obtained a university degree this year and is living out her dreams at Star FM Zimbabwe.

She narrated her story to The Weight She Carries.

When the Sheraton Hotel was being built, I was around the age of 6 and would relish the opportunity to get kumusha kwaZvimba (where my mother grew up) [and] tell my maternal grandfather about the splendour of it all. You can imagine how captivating this glittering skyscraper was to me from a chicken bus seat as we exited the city westwards, en route to Zvimba. Promises to bring [Grandfather] to the Sheraton was perhaps one of the earliest signs of how much I liked the finer things in life and would not stop daydreaming about them.

I was born last, after two brothers and one sister, into a very basic and secure working-class Shona family. I always talk of how I have one mother, one father, went to one primary school, one high school and lived in one house all through my childhood. This contributes to my strong sense of self and the confidence. I’m an active member of the traditional church my maternal grandmother groomed my mother in and hope to remain so.

So, [my] background [was] steady and solid, forming a firm support structure throughout my life. My mother is a very balanced woman who brought me up to know, bond [with] and appreciate both my father’s and her side of the family equally. This gave me an extensive network of cousins, aunts and uncles that I could easily relate to and rely on in addition, of course, to my three siblings and my parents. Being a star student in primary school also meant that my teachers were always partial to me, making my childhood very positive and rather idyllic.

A key value [learned at home] was that hard work and [aspirations] would see you through life. (Interestingly, I ended up with the high school motto Per Ardua Ad Astra – through hard work, you reach the stars).

At home, we were reminded almost daily that you were your own saviour; only you could make something out of your life. So, no matter how difficult things got, then and now, the only option was/is to soldier on. There was no entitlement at all. I remember as young as 7, my mother explaining to me how there was only so much income in the house, on which all six of us had to make do. That’s how I became a realist [and learnt to] deal with the situation at hand and keep going.

At the age of 19, after my A-levels, I ran away from home in protest as my father and I were fighting over (advancing my studies) while my highly strung-out (financially) father felt that I was old enough to find a job and make something out of myself.

I went to Bulawayo to live with my aunt and uncle and did find my first job as a shop floor assistant at Edgars. How I survived this with my bare-minimum spoken Ndebele is still a mystery even to me, but hey, I am a survivor; this I now know for sure.

We eventually came to a place of understanding with my father and I returned home and studied an IATA course as a travel agent.

My journey in radio started one afternoon while listening to James Maridadi (who was a well-known radio presenter/producer from 1992 to 2000 on Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s then Radio 3) on the Junior 3’s show.

Luck was on her side. Just as she completed her certification, she was called to audition at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC). ZBC is the state-controlled broadcaster in Zimbabwe.

My father sadly passed on during my radio training days in May of 2000. And so, I ventured out into the big wide world at 21, fatherless, but with a steely determination to live up to his expectations that I would make something out of myself and make the family proud. I have had a blessed and interesting 20 years of adulting since then, worked for some of the best employers and learnt a lot [about] corporate culture and professionalism – with, of course, my fair share of battles.

I’ve been fired once, a very huge, bitter pill to swallow, had a company closure to endure and have also just left jobs when I felt I had had enough. I’ve been on the street, literally, hustling like a lot of people during the 2007-2009 era.

How did you feel about losing your jobs and how did you overcome it?

I was young. I really did not put much thought into it; my own reasons why made good sense to me. Naturally, I was dejected and worried about my next income. I had just moved out of my parents’ house and I was sharing a flat. God had a plan though, I was fired on the December shutdown day which is usually around the 19th of December of that year, and just after Christmas I got a call that turned my misery around.

An airline in whose interview I’d come second months before had a sudden opening and instead of re-interviewing, they called me in to start on 1 January. Months into that job, I checked-in with the lady who had fired me at the previous employer. She just winked and said, “Look how you are flourishing here.” It was a priceless moment I will never forget!

In 2012, while Iyati was working as a car workshop receptionist, a call came through to join a new radio station that had just been launched.

With the opening of Star FM, that old radio passion was reignited and I did not need much convincing. On 25 June 2012, I resigned from the workshop at 8 a.m. and by 10 a.m. was at 102 S. Mazorodze Road, thrilled to begin this phase of my life that you all know quite well.

Iyati told The Weight She Carries that when she came to radio for the second time, she had a conversation with God in which she asked why she was getting this opportunity again and what exactly it was supposed to mean for her.

One of the three things I asked for was a university degree; that yearning from when I was 19 was still pending in my heart and I had to fulfill it. As if all the forex-chasing to pay fees, deferment and late nights were not enough, my final semester had to be in 2020, the year of the pandemic! But look at the symbolism of the numbers: 20 years later in 2020.

Iyati celebrated her graduation with a photoshoot which was symbolic to her in the sense that she revisited a very special place where it all began some 28 years ago in Grade 1B at Glen View 2 Primary School, a school where she became a star student and was moulded well. To be standing here today, with this BA Communication Science, is a long-held dream come true and a prayer faithfully answered!

What instances have you given up on?

I’m strong-willed and quite the independent thinker, so I find it very hard to put up with not-so-great conditions, relationships, mindsets or organisational culture. Being a Virgo and a Humba (totem) too just makes me very outspoken and I will not hesitate to speak my mind. This has not always worked in my favour, though I would not change it for anything else.

Admittedly, I have mellowed with age and maturity, and I now try and pick my battles with a lot more careful thought. In the previous two decades though, I was quite brash and would not hesitate to walk away from any environment that I felt did not serve me well. You’ll be interested to know that since the age of 19, when I started working, I have not lasted longer than 24 months in any one job. This makes me realise how much I have grown in that sense because this is my eighth year with my current employer.

What challenges have you faced before?

I have faced [too] many challenges to go into details, but suffice it to say, I’ve largely been an underdog from the time I ventured out of my secure childhood neighbourhood and environment, starting with the multiracial former group A high school I attended.

At the tender age of 12, I was so determined to break out of the ghetto I had been raised in that I commuted into town all by myself to apply for a Form 1 place. I remember being quite a spectacle to the admin staff on that day that I wandered into the Girls’ High School office unaccompanied. I managed to convince them that my parents were too busy at work, so they had allowed me to go apply. From there, I turned up unannounced at my father’s workplace, application forms in hand. Thus, determination has always seen me through the many ups and downs of life.

What are some of your achievements?

I win every step of the way, the way I look at my life, totally moving from glory to glory. That makes it very difficult for me to articulate my achievements. Allow me say, I am happy and healthy, I have a great family and fantastic friends. I am able to tell stories to multitudes of people through my brand Iyati, utilising and fulfilling that natural-born speaker element in me! To be willing and able to serve my family, community and country should perhaps be the true measure of achievement going forward, so help me God!

You can catch me every Saturday morning between 0600-0900 at Star FM Zimbabwe on the Super Saturday Spread, an uplifting, positivity-infused breakfast show.

What is your advice to other women?

Goal-getters are dreamers that oftentimes will not be easily accepted or understood. I’ve read somewhere that heroes don’t feel heroic in the moment of their heroic acts but are driven by an intrinsic passion that cannot be ignored. My advice would be to be sure-footed, clear-sighted in your vision and steadfast in pursuit of your goals! I love the colloquial Shona saying ‘steady ne ngoro, ma banana anotengwa chete;’ simply put, keep going, it will all be well!

My journey to acquiring my degree and working in a field I am passionate about is proof to self and others that it is never too late and that yes, you too can! I’m 41 years old and I’m still aspiring to be a wife and mother someday. The God I serve assures me He has plans to prosper, not perish, me. Who am to not believe?!

You’re worthy, you’re deserving!

Delayed does not mean denied!

Listen, God is always on time!

Follow me on social media:

Twitter: @ndinonziyati
Instagram: @i.y.a.t.i
Facebook: Iyati

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