BUILD­ING BRAND Pearl

Ac­tress sets her sights on mak­ing it in the Big Ap­ple

CityPress - - News - NTOMBIZODWA MAKHOBA ntombizodwa@city­press.co.za

South Africa’s star ex­port, ac­tress Pearl Thusi, is fast learn­ing the busi­ness tools of mar­ket­ing the “value and worth” of her per­sonal brand while work­ing in New York on the hit US TV se­ries Quan­tico. “I have learnt that I de­serve the fol­low­ing things: re­spect, good treat­ment and a de­cent pay cheque,” she told City Press this week.

For a woman who de­scribes her de­ci­sion to ven­ture into the dog-eat-dog US en­ter­tain­ment mar­ket as “the ul­ti­mate scare” since it in­volved leav­ing her daugh­ter, Than­dol­wethu, here in South Africa, it is un­der­stand­able why she com­pares her ex­pe­ri­ence with that of an en­tre­pre­neur start­ing a new ven­ture.

“Mine is the same sac­ri­fice that Than­dol­wethu’s fa­ther [sports per­son­al­ity Wal­ter Mokoena, from whom Thusi split in 2009] made when he went to France to work,” she says.

He re­turned and a few years later, Pearl also got a gig – this time, in Hol­ly­wood.

“This is how I know when God plays fair. Some­times you have to sac­ri­fice to achieve your goal,” she says.

Thusi has been por­tray­ing the char­ac­ter of Dayana Mam­pasi on Quan­tico. She has re­turned to Mzansi on a whirl­wind visit to shoot the sec­ond sea­son of Lip Sync Bat­tle Africa, which airs from April.

She also at­tended last week’s Pre­to­ria pre­miere of Kalushi, a biopic about strug­gle hero Solomon Mahlangu in which Thusi por­trays Solomon’s girl­friend, Brenda Riviera. “Play­ing Brenda was fan­tas­tic. I have learnt that some­thing worth­while does not hap­pen quickly and it will test you in ev­ery as­pect of your life.”

Thusi is pre­par­ing to re­turn to the US in a few days’ time. When asked what it is like to be an im­mi­grant un­der the ad­min­is­tra­tion of newly elected US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, she says: “I hear a lot of talk. I spent two years un­der apartheid [rule]; it can’t be worse than that.

“It is a bit scary when you read about th­ese things, but I have to re­spect their democ­racy,” she says, adding that she re­gards her­self as a child of for­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela and noth­ing can break her spirit.

When teased about prospects of meet­ing her South African brother and fel­low star ex­port, co­me­dian and host of The Daily Show Trevor Noah, who re­cently bought a Man­hat­tan pent­house for R130 mil­lion, she says: “I haven’t met him. I guess we both have hec­tic sched­ules. I have hung out a lot with Uganda-born South African co­me­dian David Kibuuka [who joined The Daily Show as a staff writer in 2015].”

One would think Thusi reg­u­larly at­tends red car­pet Hol­ly­wood func­tions. She has no time for that, she says. “The only event I man­aged to at­tend there was ‘Spring in South Africa Septem­ber/Au­gust’, which I en­joyed.” What keeps her go­ing? Does she get home­sick? Thusi says her move to the Big Ap­ple has taught her that there is noth­ing dif­fi­cult in life.

“Peo­ple are so fo­cused here. They have di­rec­tion in the way they strive to achieve their goals.

“It is amaz­ing to be in a place where ev­ery­one walks with a pur­pose – it is mo­ti­vat­ing.”

While ad­mit­ting to be­ing oc­ca­sion­ally lonely, she com­mu­ni­cates “al­most ev­ery day via Face­Time” with her daugh­ter. “She is a con­stant re­minder that I have to re­mem­ber my goals, dreams and vi­sion with­out her, my part­ner and fam­ily by my side.”

De­spite all she has achieved so far, Thusi does not feel she has ar­rived yet. “The day you think you’ve ar­rived, you will stop chal­leng­ing your­self. The more you achieve, the harder it gets.

“My pur­pose in this world is to con­trib­ute to African en­ter­tain­ment. I want to be re­mem­bered the same way as Mam’ Miriam Makeba – as some­one who changed the en­ter­tain­ment game.”

PHOTO: LEON SADIKI

GO-GET­TER South Africa’s star ex­port, ac­tress and model Pearl Thusi, is de­ter­mined to make her mark in New York and on the African en­ter­tain­ment scene

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