Delectable MARY Lee Ann Bernard has endeared herself to ZTV audiences during news bulletins.
Her natural optimism and energy have helped her polish up every aspect of her presentation.
The 34-year-old was recently named Best News Anchor alongside Anika Arsen from eNCA in the SADC region at the SADC Success Awards 2020.
She has been reading news since she was a child. At the age of 8, she would imitate the late veteran journalist Judith Makwanya and many would call her Judy.
She is a single mother of three children — Whitney (12), Orey (5) and Winnie (3).
Mary Lee (ML) talks to The NewsHawks’ Jonathan Mbiriyamveka (JM) about how she started out and her views on gender-based-violence. Here are excerpts of the interview:
JM: How did you learn to become a newsreader?
ML: From the age of 8, I would sit my parents down in the living room to give them daily news updates as to how the house was run in their absence. I cut up an old cupboard box, get a chair and introduce myself as Judith Makwanya. At the time, I only knew the late Makwanya and Reuben Barwe, so my nickname was Judy. This passion has always been there, to sit before the camera and address an audience.
JM: Tell us about your upbringing.
ML: My father was originally from Mozambique, my mom from Scotland. I didn’t get the opportunity to see our relatives in Mozambique, but my two siblings are in the UK through ancestral rights. I grew up on a farm set-up because my dad was in the Zimbabwe Prisons Correctional Service department; that’s how I learnt to speak Shona. I did my primary school at Courtney Selous and attended secondary education at Roosevelt Girls High School. I furthered my education to business management, and my first job was at Eastlea Spar as the customer service manager at the age of 20. I had my baby at 22, resigned at 25, got married and divorced at 28.
I then started a branding business with a lawyer as my business partner, but he pulled out as he had more responsibilities to attend to at the time. So, I had to pre-register my own company and start all over again this time from where I left off.
JM: And when did you start presenting the news on ZTV?
ML: I did my first live bulletin in 2018 on the provincial news until I was later put on the Good Morning Zimbabwe breakfast news after improving my presenting skills. I am currently the face of the Lunch Time News and Sunday Edition.
JM: Take us through the audition, how did it go?
ML: I auditioned with five participants before a panel of then radio personalities and current affairs management. Two months later, I was shortlisted and started radio editing, then radio news in 2016. I was pregnant at the time, so I left radio to go and deliver, and later returned to the broadcaster in 2018.
JM: Who is your inspiration?
ML: My inspiration is Hugo Ribatika. I used to watch him on TV and was inspired to become just like him one day. So when I managed to make an acquaintance with him much later in the field, he was my mentor and coach. From how to look on TV and characteristic approach to life.
JM: Are you a full-time news anchor or you have another job elsewhere?
ML: I’m on contract at ZBC. I own a branding company (Wincobrands) that has been in the industry for four years now. Wincobrands is named after my children and is into corporate wear and promotional material.
JM: You are a single mother, tell us about the challenges you face in parenting.
ML: Being a mom is a beautiful experience, however the only challenges that I encounter is having to play both roles, the discipline side and the cuddle mum. Switching the characters isn’t as easy as it comes but difficult as they grow each year. Teenage tantrums are terrible too.
JM: You have been attacked on Twitter, how did you survive the cyber bullying, including being linked to different man?
ML: Over the years, I have learnt that I do not argue with the person, instead I deal with the argument. I am not defined by utterances labeling me what I am not, so I usually like to turn it around for them to see the other side of me and love me for me. What they perceive, people’s opinions are always available and it’s up to me whether to select the suitable content I can use to either build me or bury it. I have been bullied from pre-school to high school and took up public speaking which taught me to speak out and stand by my beliefs.
JM: What do you do in your spare time?
ML: I’m a workaholic, my only spare time comes if my outings are planned, if not I’m always at work.
JM: What is your philosophy in life?
ML: My philosophy in life is attitude is everything. We are all given the same amount of time, if you cannot dream it, you cannot achieve it in reality. Lead from the front and always leave room for the next person to join you and empower the next person below you.
JM: What is your view on gender-based violence (GBV) and how it can be stopped?
ML: Until it’s 365 days of activism, we cannot be silent. There is an increase in GBV and society needs to commit to gender equality and diversity across all avenues. We need to increase awareness programs for women and men. There should be full participation in civil society and scaling up prevention efforts that address unequal gender power relations as a root cause of gender-based violence. Lastly, more male centres should be available for the men to express their views as this affects both the men and women, worse still during this Covid-19 pandemic.
JM: How do you relate to other news anchors?
ML: I relate pretty well, especially since most of my presenting skills are all from watching international news channels. I always tell myself my competition isn’t local but on an international level. I was recently awarded as the best News Anchor alongside Anika Arsen from eNCA in the Sadc region.
JM: What is your favourite food, artist and music?
ML: I love braai pork chops and sadza, no gravy. Jah Prayzah and Janet Manyowa are my favourite musicians. I listen to gospel, I love soaking myself in worship.
JM: Any advice to your fans?
ML: Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Believe in God. You can’t do it on your own. Besides, your strength is limited. Believe in yourself, you are the designer and creator of your own universe. Never be belittled by anyone; we breathe the same air. Run your own race. Tell your own story.
As I always sign off on the news, “I’m Lee Ann Bernard and it’s a wrap, good day, stay safe and mask up”.