Many people think they know what Tourette’s syndrome is, but they might have many misconceptions. Briefly, can you explain what this syndrome entails?
In general, it is a neurological disorder due to the [amount] of dopamine in the body. So there’s either a lack of it or too much of it … Around ten percent of global patients that have Tourette’s actually swear out loud, [which is] called coprolalia, but a lot of people just assume based on what’s been circulating in the media in the last two decades that Tourette’s is all about cursing. It can be very misunderstood.
In your daily life, how does your condition affect the things you’re able to do and the goals you’ve set for yourself?
Campus can be quite agonising in general … [the] University of Pretoria has made it very comfortable for me with the Disability Unit. I usually surround myself with people that understand my situation … I dislocate my left wrist maybe five or six times a day, so in an exam room when I’m stressed, I’m probably dislocating three times in that hour or two. [But] I just click it back and carry on writing. I’ve broken a few tables on campus. [I’m] not proud of that but they understand … I tend to sit away from people, like if friends tell me to chill with them, I’d sit [with] them but not directly next to them.
What made you enter Idols?
I wasn’t supposed to, and then a lot of people were telling me to go and there was also one of the people who work as a part of Idols who said I should become a part of this season … It’s okay because I didn’t progress to TV auditions, but I enjoyed the experience. I met a lot of good people.
You’ve become somewhat of an internet sensation. What made you post your first video?
A lot of friends and family had been telling me to do so, but I was always scared because society can be quite cruel … My ticks were becoming unbearable because my mother got diagnosed with cancer two weeks into January [and] I decided, considering my ticks are this bad, [that] I enjoy singing. When I sing, my Tourette’s just vanishes. I wanted to make a video to show people how something I’m passionate about assists me with my ticks.
How do you use music to deal with your illness?
I was told that singing and talking come from two different parts of the brain, and even when I talk I twitch. I always use the analogy of “have you ever been on a vacation or had a moment in your life, where you’re completely content and happy at that exact moment?” So when I sing, that exact moment is all that matters and my Tourette’s just takes a back seat.
What specific music do you prefer to perform?
In general I like singing pop, hip-hop, [and those] types of things, but I am a fan of a lot of different genres. I can appreciate [from] local house to old school ‘80s or ‘90s [music], Lionel Richie, The Bee-Gees, [Michael Jackson], Chris Brown – a lot of mixtures. I just appreciate music overall.
Who is one your biggest current musical influences?
Well, this might [sound] strange, but Lionel Richie, Chris Brown and Mi Casa. So from the old to now, those are my influencers. And [Michael Jackson], definitely.
Do you have any plans for furthering your music career?
I would love to establish a career in music, though I lack the necessary resources to do so. But [I will] if an opportunity does arise. It just means [that my] exposure and reach would be more [and] in that process I can help more people.
Photo: Shen Scott