Sunday World

CHICHI ’ S HUMBLE COMEBACK

Actress says she did some soul-searching while out of the scene

- MOSA MOKHEMA

FALLEN TV princess Tebogo “Chichi ” Letswalo is making a celebrity comeback with an image and attitude overhaul.

The former soap star and Top Billing presenter has swopped her glamourous starlet image for a toned-down “earth sister ” look, and her candyfloss chatter has been replaced by studies in philosophy.

“I had to play out the fabulosity that people expected of me then, and I crashed. I was emotionall­y and physically drained. I got sick and found myself often in tears because I was so lost. All my so-called friends who used to work and party with me simply ignored me when I reached out for support,” says Letswalo of accepting her “failures ” and embracing a deeper life meaning.

During the height of her fame, she surprised many by packing up and leaving Mzansi for the US. Her ambition? The lofty heights of the US entertainm­ent scene.

Instead, she was a nanny for almost the entire five years she spent there.

“After having been shocked by my own success at a young age, I was never given the chance to explore my other interests. Chichi was that sparkly and bubbly star that everyone knew, but Tebogo, which is my African name, has always been a very mellow and private person.

“I just wish I learnt how to switch off Chichi when I was off set,” says the reflective 32-year-old.

“I did some serious soul-searching upon leaving the industry. Many people claim that I was spat out, but the reality is that I had to walk away because it was my own fault that I chose to live a lie.”

'I had to play out the fabulosity people expected of me, and i crashed, I was emotionall­y drained and so lost'

Since her return two years ago, her comeback has been far from the glitz of her previous incarnatio­n. She now acts in made-for-TV short films on the Mzansi channels, and has been a presenter on short promo shows such as Ciao Cocktails and the Handy Andy homemaker show.

Still, she insists she’s not looking for anything that will tie her down for more than a year. “Call me a gypsy, I love travelling and don’t want to be tied to any one place for long because I’m definitely going back to New York one day.”

Talking about her childhood “friend” Cleopatra Mariri’s claims that Letswalo had said she hated South Africa, the actress says: “Cleopatra has always been an enemy of mine from primary school. She was that girl who tried her best to be me; she is a venomous individual who used my fall as a tool to promote herself.”

With a string of highly publicised romances with actors and sports stars when she was hot property, Letswalo says she’s now “enjoying a full dating life” that involves meeting new men, going on dates and having casual fun.

“I’m not ready for anything serious right now. Marriage just freaks me out because in the past I had boyfriends who were intimidate­d by my success and they wanted to put me down. I’ve never been that girl who will do his laundry or cook for him.

“It’s all about me and my career right now.”

A very different woman from the girl who once said she couldn’t wait to marry her rugby player boyfriend on the beach, wearing a white bikini.

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