Local celeb – Linda Mtoba
Famous as Zama Ngwenya on Isibaya, LINDA MTOBA, 25, tells us about marriage, fame and switching from teaching to acting.
Mzansi Magic’s telenovela, Isibaya, brought a new talent to our screens in March 2016: Linda Mtoba. She plays Zama, a member of the notorious Ngwenya family and the troublesome daughter of infamous taxi boss Judas, played by the renowned Menzi Ngubane.
Hers is an overnight success story. Linda quit her job as a part-time primary school teacher in Durban after a friend made her audition for a talent search by Bomb Productions. She also dropped her third-year studies in marketing managment for Isibaya. “My friend Nombuso practically bullied me to fill in the audition form, saying that if I didn’t, our friendship would be over. I did as I was told and went for the audition, and the rest is history!” says the KZN-based actress.
She lives in Durban with her husband and family, and flies to Joburg when she has scenes to film for Isibaya. She tells us more about her dear friend: “My friendship with Nombuso is amazing. We support each other and have known each other for almost 10 years now. She saw something in me that I didn’t before, that I’m now discovering and enjoying to the fullest.”
An actress for just over a year, Linda has impressed many and has garnered a 200 000 followers on social media. Her character, Zama, suffers from a heart condition and abandoned her family in the name of love. She grabbed viewers’ attention, and last year The Sowetan included her on their ‘Mzansi’s Sexiest’ list. She also won Best Newcomer at the Simon Mabhunu Sabela Film and Television Awards. In a sea of amazing local actresses, what does Linda feel she brings to the table? “I’m not here to be anyone else.
“I NEVER MISTAKE HAPPINESS FOR PERFECTION: IT’S ABOUT BEING CONTENT AND REALISING LIFE IS GREAT. ”
Acting is like a love story; it started out of nowhere, and I’m here to enjoy the journey in discovering new things. I’m here to bring magic, which is myself.”
Although she’s enjoying her newfound fame, it has its dark side. “My skin had to grow that much thicker,” says Linda. “Someone you don’t know feels entitled to say whatever they want about you. As much as people may say that criticism comes with this career, words hurt. But it’s just a few people; most are friendly and supportive.”
Despite the negativity, Linda has a happy outlook on life. Going through her Instagram page, @linda_mtoba, life seems perfect for the star: she’s got the looks and style, has achieved overnight success, and married the love of her life earlier this year. “Happiness is something that comes from within,” she says. “We ourselves have to create it. It can’t be given to you. I always ask myself if it will matter in a year. If it doesn’t, I don’t bother myself with it. I never mistake happiness for perfection: it’s about being content and realising life is great, regardless of how bad your day was.”
Linda married her husband in March, and posted images from the traditional ceremony on Instagram, then jetted off on a lavish European honeymoon. But marriage hasn’t changed their love: “We have a very strong foundation so being married solidifies that. We’ve been together for six years. I said yes because I love him. There’s no version of my life that makes sense without him.”
She wants to keep some privacy in her relationship, however, so she doesn’t like to say too much about her husband or her private life in interviews. What makes the marriage work, she says, is consistency, respect, time, communication and forgiveness – because all those things are acts of love.
Fame has changed life for Linda. She tells of an incident at the airport, when a fan knocked on the cubicle while she was in the loo, asking for a photo with her!
Is fame what she had expected? “To some degree yes, but also not. Most people are friendly, and I appreciate everyone who recognises my talent. I’d like to think that I’m real and open. I’m not creating a façade – this is who I am every day. So I feel fans can see that too.”
Isibaya has changed her life in other ways. “I now know I can act and cry on cue,” she says. Being the new ‘it’ girl doesn’t matter to her. “In my eyes, everyone is an ‘it’ girl or person. It is anyone who immediately makes you smile, or brings about admiration.”
Linda loves how she’s grown as an actress playing Zama – who has had some dramatic times on screen. She’s run away from home, had a heart transplant, been bitten by a snake, and got caught in a shootout. Playing all the drama is that much more fun for Linda.
Recalling her first day on set, she says: “I was a mess – my heart was beating so fast that the microphone had to be taken off my chest, because they could hear it. But I work with amazing people; each time I fumbled, they were so accommodating and patient. Beauty (Thuli Thabethe), Iris (Mampho Brescia), Jabu (Pallance Dladla) and a few more were with me in that first scene. I’m in awe of their talent and learn from them every day.” For now, she says, she is concentrating on Zama, but she’d love to venture into presenting and films. How did her parents feel when she moved from being a teacher to acting? “My mom is great,” says this elder of two siblings. “She follows me on all my social media and is extremely supportive, like my entire family. My mom calls me out when Zama’s done something bad. Nothing’s changed at home, which I’m grateful for.”
Linda’s parents were never married, and her dad passed away when she was 12. She was raised by her grandmother, aunt and grandfather, and she applauds her stepfather for taking on the role of dad.
“Everything I do now comes from a place of love – because of my upbringing, which overflowed with love. I won’t do anything I don’t have a connection with. I’m able to recognise love as an adult, because I was brought up with it.”