Ac­tress uses her fame to nur­ture

● TV star in­spires women, writes Za­man­dulo Malonde

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Arts & Entertainment -

My grand­mother, a dark beauty her­self, spoke life into me

For Port El­iz­a­beth-born ac­tress Nam­bitha Ben-Mazwi, 29, there is no point to the flash­ing cam­era lights and fame if she is not us­ing her plat­form to in­spire the world – es­pe­cially young girls and women – for the bet­ter.

Hail­ing from a fam­ily of in­flu­en­tial greats like the late renowned play­wright Win­ston Nt­shona, who was her un­cle, Ben-Mazwi’s star has al­ways glim­mered from when she was a bub­bly child in Sun­day school at the Word of Faith Chris­tian Cen­tre.

Though some of her el­ders pre­dicted her star­dom, the path has not al­ways been as clear for the Col­le­giate Girls’ High School alum­nus who tested the wa­ters in the cor­po­rate world in the US be­fore find­ing her niche to change the world, one girl child at a time.

In line with her women em­pow­er­ment quest, Ben-Mazwi re­cently started #SheS­peaks, a se­ries of talks with women on var­i­ous top­ics which com­monly af­fect them.

#SheS­peaks was partly in­spired by the feed­back the ac­tress re­ceived from fans of the TV roles she has played such as Lu­lama on Bro­ken Vows and Unathi on Doubt.

Em­brac­ing her vul­ner­a­bil­ity and her open­ness to en­gage on un­com­fort­able top­ics such as is­sues of self-es­teem and how she was once teased for her com­plex­ion, have all in­spired young women to ap­proach her about their own is­sues.

“As I was open about my own in­se­cu­ri­ties and self-es­teem is­sues, I have many more girls open­ing about their own sto­ries of self-love and find­ing their own beauty,” Ben-Mazwi said.

For #SheS­peaks the ac­tress uses so­cial me­dia to se­lect fol­low­ers to join her for a women’s brunch with guest speak­ers.

“#SheS­peaks is lit­er­ally giv­ing women tools [to] find their voice in all areas of their life, be it prop­erty in­vest­ment or ways to build wealth, and so on,” she said.

The ac­tress hopes to touch fans’ hearts with her new role as Be­nathi, a young ad­vo­cate on SABC 1 le­gal drama Di­a­mond City, which de­buted last month.

“I ab­so­lutely love and am so proud of this char­ac­ter and you get to watch this girl who is sur­rounded by a lot of self­doubt, es­pe­cially doubt from her own self, but you get to watch her grow and be­come this fear­less young woman,” Ben-Mazwi said.

For her con­fi­dence and com­fort in her skin, she cred­its her iconic late grand­mother, Nanziwe Ben-Mazwi, who never missed an op­por­tu­nity to praise her beauty and teach her to love her dark skin from a young age.

She con­tin­ues to draw strength from the icon whose courage to chal­lenge the op­pres­sive apartheid regime and travel to Eng­land to be­come a ma­tron at a time when that was frowned upon – among other rev­o­lu­tion­ary acts – re­sulted in Ben-Mazwi Street in KwaMagx­aki be­ing named af­ter her.

“My grand­mother, a dark beauty her­self, spoke life into me ev­ery sin­gle time I vis­ited her.

“She al­ways en­trenched ‘black is beau­ti­ful’ and she would sing my praises and tell me she had named me Nokhwezi (bright morn­ing star) be­cause I was her star,” she said.

More to the ac­tress’s ad­van­tage, guid­ance and ad­vice from the­atre stal­warts like her un­cle, Nt­shona, were just a phone call away.

“The most pro­found thing my un­cle taught me was that the best way to spell the ‘art’ in act­ing is ‘L.I.F.E’ be­cause by liv­ing life I’m able to just be and tap into the dif­fer­ent roles that I’m given be­cause I have al­lowed my­self to go through the mo­tions of my own life,” she said.

That said, the ac­tress is fo­cused on let­ting her work speak for her while she serves her true pur­pose and stays grounded.

“I’m a ser­vant and I make sure to never lose touch with those who have known me the long­est.”

Pho­to­graph: BRIAN WIT­BOOI

HOME­TOWN GLORY: Nam­bitha Ben-Mazwi in Cen­tral’s Win­ston Nt­shona Street which was named af­ter her un­cle

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