Unathi Nkayi

Unathi Nkayi, Idols SA judge

Unathi Nkayi is a South African singer/songwriter, actress, entrepreneur, radio and television personality best known for hosting shows on youth station YFM and Metro FM’s drivetime show, with Glen Lewis.

She was referred to as Unathi Msengana during her marriage to media personality Thomas Msengana.

Unathi Nkayi is a former judge on Idols South Africa.

She was on the judging panel since Idols SA season 7 in 2011 when she replaced Marah Louw.

Unathi then served for a total of eleven seasons on the Idols SA judging panel with Idols SA season 17 being her last.

During her service on Idols South Africa, Unathi Nkayi shared the judging panel with Randall Abrahams, Gareth Cliff and Somizi Mhlongo.

In 2022 before Idols SA season 18, Unathi and fellow long serving judge, Randall Abrahams, were dropped from Idols SA and replaced with new judges, Thembi Seete and JR Bogopa.

Unathi Nkayi Biography

Real/Full Name:Unathi Nkayi
Date of Birth:November 6, 1978
Age:45 years
Spouse(s):Thomas Msengana (divorced)


Unathi Nkayi was a co-host (with Rowan Cloete) of the third season of the reality competition Popstars, in 2004.

Over the years Unathi has collected a string of accolades.

In 2003, she walked away with two awards at the Metro FM Music Awards, for Song of The Year and Best Dressed Artist.

In 2004 and 2005 she was named as one of the Top Ten people in Media by The Star newspaper and was named as the most promising woman in media at the MTN Media Awards.

Unathi has also been nominated twice at the South African Music Awards (SAMAs).

Her most recent accolades were being voted as South Africa’s Best Female at the Metro FM Music Awards and nominated for Best Urban Pop Album at the SAMAs.

Talking about music, Nkayi has stunned audiences from all walks of life.

Performing for the United Nations delegates, she evoked such strong emotions that legendary producer Quincy Jones gave her a standing ovation before joining her on stage, mid-performance, to sing her praises.

Unathi Nkayi has also shared the stage with icons like John Legend, Yossou N’Dour, Chaka Khan and D’Banj.

Her accomplishments on home turf are just as impressive and they include playing at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. She’s also dazzled audiences at Standard Bank Joy of Jazz.

Composing the song, “Sgubhu” which was featured on the soundtrack for the Academy Award-winning film ‘Tsotsi’ is one of her proudest achievements.

Unathi is also one of the greatest radio personalities in South Africa, co-hosting Metro FM’s Breakfast Show with the legendary Glen Lewis for a period of 10 years.

She was the subject of an episode of the Nicky Greenwall-hosted documentary series The Close Up, which aired on e.tv and the eNews Channel in 2012.