Penny Lebyane

Penny Lebyane is a South African radio DJ and media personality best known as a DJ for Metro FM.

Penny Lebyane, Idols SA season 1 judge

Quick Facts:

Birth / Real Name:Penny Matshidiso Lebyane
Date of Birth:25 December 1976
Age:47 years
Nationality:South African

Penny was a judge on Idols SA season 1 in 2002. Making up the female component of the Idols SA judging panel, she worked alongside fellow judges Dave Thompson, Marcus Brewster and Randall Abrahams.

In November 2007, Penny co-hosted the 8th Annual Metro FM Music Awards, with Siyabonga Ngwekazi.

Penny began co-hosting the SABC2 lifestyle show Motswako in February 2010, and left the show in 2013.

She was also a guest judge on season 1 of ‘The Search: E! Host South Africa’.

In 2014 she joined the breakfast show Sunrise as an anchor, making her first appearance on Monday 14 July.


On Sunday 9 June 2002, Penny Lebyane who was a judge on Idols SA at the time come under the racism spotlight after she made unflattering comments to contestant Melanie Lowe, following the penultimate live Idols show.

Lebyane said to contestant Melanie Lowe: “I’m upset with the public who’ve carried you through with their compassionate vote. It’s not going to help you when you’re an idol you must stand alone.”

Then Melanie’s fans came out in strong support of their favourite Idols SA contestant by slamming judge Penny.

However Penny Lebyane defended herself in an interview with News24 regarding the racism allegations, she said: “Fundamentally, I am there [on the Idols judging panel] to play a role. I am doing that to the best of my ability. If people are choosing to interpret my comments in that manner, there is nothing I can do about it.”

After season 1 ended, Penny left Idols SA and continued with her career. But more than 16 years later in 2019, Penny made certain claims about Idols SA season 1.

In an interview on MTV Base’s Behind The Story in October 2019, Penny claimed that the first season of Idols SA was unfair to the black contestants.

“The black kids were more talented than the white kids at the time. I’m sorry but it’s true,” she said.

Known for not mincing her words, Penny Lebyane still claimed that black contestants on Idols SA season 1 were apparently set up for failure.

MTV Base’s Behind The Story Host Pearl Thusi alluded to reports provided by M-Net stating that Penny had made a “mistake” when she said that black contestants could sing better than white ones.

Without giving Pearl a chance to finish her question, Penny interjected and said that her comments were not a mistake and she stood by her claims.

“I’m sorry but it’s true, there’s no mistake that I said that. It took so many years for the black kids to be seen and heard, and for black people to start voting.”

“Yeah, I said that black kids can sing better, it wasn’t a mistake. I said, the black kids could sing better. At that time Idols SA was on M-Net and black people could not have access to DStv so they could not vote.”

She further claimed that behind the scenes, the black contestants were dressed badly because they didn’t have black stylists who would be able to style them properly.

“Actually I had a conversation with someone who asked why the black child was styled like that? I said you make the child look 45 when they are 18. This is an Idols SA search, they need to look young and fresh,” Penny further stated.