Cleone became a household name when she became 5FM’s first female DJ to host her own show on the nation’s national radio station.
While modelling, the transition to radio was one she was dying to achieve. “As a model I was a mute clothes-horse. I had a lot to say but no-one wanted to hear it! I was a terrible model anyway, way too stroppy and vocal but thank God it made me an ideal candidate as a DJ!” During the next ten years on air she built up a loyal following of fans, featured in FHM’s Sexiest Women in South Africa, and moved into TV where she presented the MTV style music show The Toyota Top 20 and then hosted the popular dating show Love At First Sight.
On a career high she left radio and TV in South Africa moving to the UK where she’d been offered two radio on-air opportunities with Capital Radio and Heart 106.2 London. She remains the only Saffa DJ to date who has worked in both the Johannesburg and London premier radio markets.
Cleone’s media star was rising as her career in one of the world’s broadcasting capitals went from strength to strength. Her radio show ratings had nearly tripled, she had a top agent and new TV opportunities were opening up when tragedy struck.
Her fiancé, a pilot deployed in Kosovo with the British Army was killed in action and Cleone’s world fell apart. “I just didn’t feel that I could entertain anyone at that stage of my life. I was shattered, like a vase dropped onto the floor, a husk, and I couldn’t imagine a world where I would want to do anything that frivolous or fun ever again.”
After that realisation Cleone left radio behind her to concentrate on piecing her life back together. She stayed with the medium of TV working behind and in front of the camera as a sports reporter, and for a while was a European correspondent for Top Billing interviewing stars like Angelina Jolie and Will Smith.
“But I was just going through the motions. I don’t think anything will ever hurt that much again. You never forget the first time you are broken. Nevertheless, as hellish as it was I have grown on a personal level through the experience. It has made me stronger. I feel like I can survive anything now, and it puts things into perspective on a life level. I used to stress over the small things but I try not to now. I’ve realised what the important things are in life; they’re the basic things we can’t live without - not yachts, bling or marble mansions with gold taps - although who am I kidding those would be ice!!!”
“No, but seriously I mean it. I’m blessed with amazing family and friends, I’m busy starting my life over again and going back to radio. I feel very blessed right now. I used to pray that my passion for life would come back and my passion for media. And finally it has.” It took Cleone 10 years to come back to her radio roots and feel that passion again but as the old chestnut goes ‘better late than never.’ Cleone Cassidy is back on-air now with the Johannesburg station Mix FM (93.8 on the dial) and doing the 12-3 weekday slot from March. She joins a team with a wealth of experience and a couple of DJ’s and names you’ll remember from 5FM The Old School Line-up. Tony Blewitt will keep you company on the breakfast show from 6 -9am and Keith Lindsay is looking after the drive show 3 – 6pm.
“Its so cool to be working with these guys again, they’re really awesome, we’re like a happy little radio family!” So why the return to radio now? “I got the radio bug again after being interviewed by Gareth Cliff. The sudden craving I felt was a complete curve-ball, I couldn’t believe it. I knew I’d missed radio but it was only after being in the studio … my old studio… that I realised I was hooked again. It’s like a drug. I knew then I just had to get back on air and that I was back to myself. Complete.”
The public’s response to the news has been overwhelming, “I’ve had so many messages on Facebook. It’s been amazing. I’m just really grateful for the love that is coming my way. I feel very lucky that I’ve been missed and that so many people are chuffed I’m on-air again. I don’t think its anything to be taken for granted, I’m here for the listeners. I’m in the studio to play the hits they want to hear and hopefully have a blast with them for 3 hours, its not about ego or self-gratification ...OK that sounds a bit pervy but you know what I mean!”
When Cleone starts with 93.8 Mix FM she’s going to be shaking up her style with a side-kick. “I’ve never had one before and as a listener I love listening to a team, I just think it’s more entertaining than a solo presenter. So I figured what the heck I’ll give it a go. I’m still looking now for the right person but I’m sure I’ll find him or her soon. And the beauty about a loose radio format is that I can play with it, so we can always try out a couple of people to see what the fit is like. So anyone out there that wants to be on radio with me? Check me out on Twitter or Facebook and bring it on!”
‘Bring It On’ seems to be a trademark style for Cleone Cassidy, she has defied the odds in her personal life and what was previously a male dominated domain - as bizarre a thought as that is with the plethora of great female presenters we have on air now. But there will only ever be one original who paved the way… and she’s back. So bring it on Cleone Cassidy … Bring It On!
Cleone Cassidy has previously interviewed and had editorials with many publications including You, FHM, Life, The Sunday Times, The Star and The Sandton Magazine to name just a few. She has also featured on magazine covers including You, Sarie and The Sunday Times before leaving for the UK.
Cleone is expecting publication later this year of her fist children’s book which she co-authored with a friend. The book is due to be published in the UK (with the possibility of US territories.)