Actress uses her fame to nurture
● TV star inspires women, writes Zamandulo Malonde
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.”
HOMETOWN GLORY: Nambitha Ben-Mazwi in Central’s Winston Ntshona Street which was named after her uncle