Sassy Souls Ep 3: Cyd Eva & Leah Jazz
South African Radio Presenter, Leah Jazz is putting the Sass back into Radio. As the host of 5 After Hours on 5FM, a national station based in Johannesburg, Leah is revolutionizing our everyday conversations. By discussing sexual pleasure openly and bridging the gap between menstrual health and poverty, Leah uses her voice to raise awareness.
Having started out in comedy, Leah's natural charisma and sensual approach to language are what make her stand out on the airwaves. From the conversations she broadcasts on the radio to her raw and honest presence on IG, Leah is leading by example. It was our podcast cohost Cyd Eva who introduced us to Leah's Sassyness.
We're delighted to have artist Cyd Eva host this conversation. Having met Leah in Durban, Cyd Eva continued to be inspired by her frank and open approach to sexual health and pleasure. In this podcast episode, we hear these two Sassy Souls discuss the ins and outs of vulva health, and how queerness is an identity of one's own.
Leah Jazz's journey into radio has been anything but conventional. For the most part of her twenties, she moved between jobs in advertising while trying her hand at comedy. During this time she was based in Durban, a city that she describes as being like an incubator for creative ideas. Feeling the support of fellow colorful characters living outside of the norm, Leah found Durban to be a place to play without fear of judgement or social pressure. "You can reinvent yourself in a place like Durban and be free to try things without feeling like your entire career will come crashing down if you don't succeed." It was in this supportive bubble that Leah slowly started to get comfortable speaking into the mic.
Comedy was one of those things I started writing after heartbreak and trauma and not knowing what to do with my life. And in a way, I think that's the origin of so much creativity for so many people
Having written songs as a kid inspired by the ups and downs of relationships, Leah continued to write in different capacities. Describing creativity as an outlet for heartbreak, trauma, and the uncertainty of life, Leah explains how"I think that's the origin of so much creativity for so many people". This form of expression is something Leah leaned into during the end of 2016. Having found herself in a dark place, lacking in confidence and feeling lonely and lost, Leah started writing jokes. "I was so nowhere with my life, and naturally started writing jokes about it. I was like - It can't get any worse than it already is!" This led her to perform at open mics with varying success, but soon she found the crowd dwindling. Having been picking up many different jobs at the time, Leah was slowly drawn towards radio. "Radio is not a job you can really study for... the industry is kept quite secret in terms of how you get involved." Searching for her way in, Leah was advised to make a demo so she bought a pair of mics with a friend and started playing in her bedroom.
It was thanks to a friend that she connected with Durban Youth Radio and quickly took on the position of producer for a radio show. "I jumped in headfirst, no idea what I was doing and after about a week of hearing someone else tell my jokes, I was like 'Listen, you have to switch my mic on, you've got to put me in the game'". Soon enough, Leah was taking over the show, exercising her newfound passion. Describing it as an intimate form of media, Leah also recognises the importance radio has in her home country."It's the biggest medium in South Africa still. Internet prices and accessibility are still so low. And radio is such a fundamental part of South African life". Knowing this, Leah is consciously able to connect and relate to people in an accessible way.
You're creating this shared but individual experience and the intimacy of that is what really made me fall in love with radio
It was Leah's experience volunteering at Durban Youth Radio that confirmed her joy for the job. "I was working between 6 - 9am in the morning and then going to my day job. I wasn't really caring about gettting up at 5 in the morning to do this thing I loved" So when Leah saw the National channel 5FM put out a talent search, she knew this was her chance. Leah won the competition with 4 other presenters and went on to host an early morning show in Durban. She then spent the years of covid and lockdown moving between different time slots until, in April 2021, she was offered a late-night show from 10 pm - 1 am. "I moved over to Joburg because they wanted me to be in the studio and I'm so grateful because, ah, there's nothing like driving your own desk. pushing your own buttons, playing your own songs. It's so much fun!" This has come with a new learning curve for Leah as she's found ways to engage further with her audience via IG live videos during her radio show. This has helped her step into the same performance mindset as she embodied while doing stand up on stage.
Going live puts you into the zone and I think a lot of performers can relate to that because as soon as there's an audience you blossom, you come alive
Leah's journey into radio has come with a conscious awareness of the topics she's wanting to speak up about. Focusing on sexual health and pleasure, Leah is using her platforms to inform and educate. This is something she wants to continue doing with qualified authority, through multiple formats including TV documentaries and writing. "I really want to grow my voice, from a knowledge and research-based perspective, when it comes to sex education". Menstrual security and poverty is something that Leah is highly aware of, explaining how "there are schoolgirls in South Africa who don't go to school when on their period because they can't afford menstrual products!" Leah emphasizes how this impacts the gender inequality that holds women back from education, limiting their future prospects.
Leah is currently using her platform on the radio to talk further about sex and break the taboos and myths that often surround the topic in damaging and toxic manners. By interviewing guests, Leah has elevated the voices of advocates and educators, discussing healthy relationships with masturbation, and male vulnerability. Leah explains how "South Africa is a dangerous place for women. It comes as no coincidence that we happen to be extremely conservative when it comes to talking about sex - we don't want to talk about it but everyone's doing it." She goes on to explain how there are extreme rates of teenage pregnancy, HIV, violence against women, and the lack of consent and rape within her countries culture. "So you mean to tell me you don't want to talk about [sex] but you're expecting these issues to go away!" Leah is consciously changing this by advocating for the bettering of sex education within SA. "This is probably my life's work. I love comedy...and having fun on the radio. But at my core, I want a safe, comfortable and pleasurable world for women"
This is probably my life's work. I love comedy...and having fun on the radio. But at my core, I want a safe, comfortable and pleasurable world for women
With this same openness, Leah shares her journey of using contraception and the limited information she was given regarding ovulation and fertility."When it comes to contraception, on a basic level of sex education, it was never explained to me that I could control [my fertility] without hormones." Having had negative experiences of hormonal contraception impacting her mood and mental health, Leah moved to the IUD which resulted in her bleeding and spotting for 10 months straight. Therefore, it was life-changing for Leah to learn that she was only fertile for roughly 5 days of every cycle. "If someone had explained that to me, I would have been way less afraid of my body, of pregnancy, of sex as this big scary thing."From there, Leah replaced hormonal contraception for the menstrual health app, Clue, to track her cycle and use the fertility awareness method.
Touch your vagina, be familiar with it, know what your discharge looks and smells like. Because if you don't know what's normal for your body, how will you know what's abnormal?
It is clear how Leah is actively breaking through the wall of silence and shame that often surrounds the female body. From describing the changes in cervical fluids to feeling your own cervix, Leah is all about encouraging vulva people to befriend their bodies. "Touch your vagina, be familiar with it, know what your discharge looks and smells like. Because if you don't know what's normal for your body, how will you know what's abnormal?" It is with confidence and clarity that Leah brings these topics into the open air. In doing so, she's creating a ripple effect for other people to be inspired by. "When you start to talk about something you subconsciously permit someone else to do the same.... When I open up with a bit of vulnerability, I am met with so much honesty and vulnerability in return". This truthfulness is what encourages others to take action, such as exploring one's own vulva and enjoying the uniqueness of its shape, size and colour. It makes us smile hearing both Leah and Cyd Eva tell us to "grab a mirror, go and look at what you've got. There is no such thing as normal and in that sense, they're all normal". We couldn't have said it better ourselves!
Winding down the conversation, Cyd Eva asks Leah about her Sassy side and the role sensuality plays in her day-to-day life. It's fun to learn how sensory stimulation is Leah's method to staying present. "The sound of bubbles in a drink is so pleasurable for me, the taste and textures of foods and smells, the way grass feels underneath your feet - it's so grounding for me." As she talks, we can feel the sensations Leah describes, reminding us to indulge in the smallest pleasures that so