BUILDING BRAND Pearl
Actress sets her sights on making it in the Big Apple
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.”
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