Be­ing mar­ried to an ITAL­IAN MAN, moth­er­hood, not fol­low­ing the RULES – MAM­PHO BRES­CIA shares all.

True Love Bride - - Competition | B R I D E - By Katleho Khoaele Pho­to­graphs Nick Boul­ton

Most of us have a love-hate re­la­tion­ship with the ma­nip­u­la­tive vil­lain, Iris Zungu, on the award-win­ning Mzansi Magic soapie Isibaya. When you meet Mam­pho Bres­cia, the tal­ented ac­tress be­hind the bad girl, you can’t help but won­der if she’s plot­ting some­thing de­vi­ous. The 37-year-old por­trays Iris with such au­then­tic­ity that it’s hard to recog­nise the real per­son be­hind the role.

But Mam­pho is friendly, enig­matic, and a de­light to talk to. She’s right on time for our in­ter­view at the posh DaVinci Ho­tel in Sand­ton. She looks ex­quis­ite in a sim­ple faux-fur gilet matched with an over-the-top beanie that clearly re­flects her unique style. There’s no way Mam­pho can blend in with the crowd.

She’s with her man­ager and hus­band, Ni­cola, but he’s not join­ing us for the in­ter­view be­cause he doesn’t com­pete with his wife for the spotlight. He just wanted to make sure that ev­ery­thing was in or­der. “A lot of the time I have to do the public thing alone be­cause that’s my space, and Ni­cola is not in­ter­ested in this,” says Mam­pho. When she’s not in the spotlight and the cam­eras are off, Mam­pho rev­els in her home life with her Ital­ian hus­band and their two-year-old daugh­ter, Rainn.

Clas­sic love story

Mam­pho’s face lights up when she starts talk­ing about her part­ner. Some­times love finds you in un­ex­pected ways and forms, and lit­tle did the Soweto-born ac­tress know that love would come to her in the form of an Ital­ian man. Mam­pho’s love story is like a ro­mance movie: girl meets guy, they fall in love at first sight, and live hap­pily ever af­ter.

Mam­pho and Ni­cola met at the gym. The ac­tress says it was un­ex­pected; she was not look­ing for com­mit­ment at the time. “I was pretty young and had just come back from study­ing in Ja­pan. I was still try­ing to find my feet and ease back into life at home. As I walked into the gym, Ni­cola looked at me, and right then he knew he had to talk to me. It was love at first sight. I would nor­mally have been ap­pre­hen­sive, but there was some­thing about his aura, and I couldn’t say no when he asked for my num­ber.

I was sur­prised when he called the next day ask­ing me out for din­ner. He wanted to pick me up, and af­ter re­fus­ing sev­eral times, I even­tu­ally let him have his way. When I saw him wait­ing in the car, I was en­am­oured. I was ex­cited to see him,” she says.

“He took my breath away. There was no deny­ing our chem­istry. In that mo­ment, I was cer­tain we were go­ing to get mar­ried. There was just some­thing so sooth­ing and warm about him. He has this amaz­ing pres­ence and peace about him,” she says, smil­ing.

On their first date, Mam­pho asked Ni­cola about his in­ten­tions, prov­ing just how com­fort­able she was with him. Within three months, they were al­ready dis­cussing mar­riage. “He was 37 at the time, ready to set­tle down. Although I was only 25, I was ready for our re­la­tion­ship to progress to the next stage. You feel it when you meet your soul­mate, and, quite frankly, age has noth­ing to do with it. We were happy to be to­gether,” she says.

No com­pro­mises

They were mar­ried a year later, but they didn’t do things the con­ven­tional way. Ni­cola’s par­ents didn’t write a let­ter to Mam­pho’s par­ents ask­ing for their daugh­ter’s hand in mar­riage, nor did he pay lobola, and there was noth­ing African or tra­di­tional about the wed­ding.

“I didn’t want to com­pli­cate things. My hus­band didn’t pay lobola, and there were no ne­go­ti­a­tions with my un­cles and fam­ily. I didn’t have a prob­lem with that, but ob­vi­ously not ev­ery­one was happy with how things were done. It was not a big deal to me,” Mam­pho re­mem­bers.

“Ni­cola and I dis­cussed what we wanted for our wed­ding, for our­selves. We were happy with our de­ci­sion. We told our par­ents we wanted to get mar­ried and we wanted noth­ing more or less. We just wanted a sim­ple wed­ding with­out ex­ter­nal in­flu­ences.”

Mam­pho be­lieves cul­ture is learned. “I al­ways ques­tion why things have to be done in a cer­tain way. I don’t easily con­form to things and tra­di­tions just be­cause I’m ex­pected to. Those tra­di­tions are not what we wanted for our­selves. We have the right to cre­ate

our own cul­ture. I don’t want to be dic­tated to; I guess I’m a rebel in that re­gard. But I do re­spect other peo­ple’s cul­tures and opin­ions.”

The Sagit­tar­ian star ex­plains that there have been many chal­lenges along the way for her. “It has been dif­fi­cult to be me, be­cause peo­ple look at you and think you have no re­spect, for­get­ting that these are the choices I make for my­self. Even in mar­riage, I never wanted to com­pro­mise my­self. I value my in­di­vid­u­al­ity and never wanted to be like any­one else. I’m grate­ful that I have a hus­band who ap­pre­ci­ates and em­braces me for who I am.”

Cre­at­ing our own cul­ture

Just to show that she lives by her own rules, Mam­pho de­cided to get mar­ried in a red dress – some­thing her fam­ily was not pre­pared for. “My late mother and mom-in-law were not happy when we told them I was get­ting mar­ried in a red dress. All moth­ers have this per­fect pic­ture of what their daugh­ters will wear on their wed­ding day, and un­for­tu­nately I didn’t live up to their ex­pec­ta­tions. Even though my mom was not happy with that choice, she un­der­stood; she al­lowed me the free­dom to be who I wanted to be. She ac­cepted that I was not go­ing to have a tra­di­tional wed­ding. She taught me what she be­lieved in, but as a per­son you make your own rules and cre­ate your own life.

“I also re­fused to wear a veil, and that did not sit well with my fam­ily. I didn’t care about the mean­ing be­hind wear­ing one and had zero in­ter­est in wear­ing it. My hus­band was sup­port­ive. I’ve never be­lieved in con­form­ing to what so­ci­ety deems right or wrong,” she adds.

When asked how peo­ple re­acted when they saw her wear­ing a red dress, Mam­pho says some were ob­vi­ously shocked, but oth­ers ex­pected it be­cause they know she’s never been the tra­di­tional type. “Ev­ery­one al­ways has some­thing to say, and it doesn’t bother me. We have only this one life to live, and you have to do things that make you happy. We can’t live ac­cord­ing to peo­ple’s opin­ions of us.”

The Bres­cias had the wed­ding in South Africa, at­tended by fam­ily and friends. She says their un­con­ven­tional “white wed­ding ” was one of the most beau­ti­ful days of her life. “I re­mem­ber walk­ing down the aisle to­wards my hus­band, and that for me sym­bol­ised walk­ing to my des­tiny. It was deeper than just a mere walk along a path,” she says, sip­ping her cap­puc­cino.

“The most ful­fill­ing thing about my wed­ding was both of us say­ing our vows to each other. It’s such a big com­mit­ment and re­spon­si­bil­ity when you vow to love each other through ev­ery­thing. It be­comes so real when you start your life to­gether. Ni­cola and I wanted the wed­ding to be about us. Ev­ery­one wants to be part of the fairy­tale and plan­ning of the wed­ding, but no one is there be­hind closed doors. It was im­por­tant for us to cre­ate our own cul­ture, our way of how we want things to be done in our fam­ily. But, nat­u­rally, there were dis­agree­ments about what we wanted to do.”

The re­al­ity of mar­riage

Mam­pho says her opin­ions about mar­riage be­fore she got mar­ried were in­flu­enced by her sur­round­ings, her par­ents’ di­vorce and so­ci­ety in gen­eral. “We grow up with these so­ci­etal rules that we have to be mar­ried by a cer­tain age, or you will not be re­spected as a woman. There are so many rules cre­ated for women, for­get­ting that we also have a choice if mar­riage is not what we want. We also ne­glect the fact that mar­riage is con­stant work and com­mit­ment. No one tells us that to stay in love is dif­fi­cult; you see it with friends and oth­ers around you. Peo­ple don’t tell you the truth about mar­riage – they sell fan­tasy. Mar­riage can be joy­ous, but it’s also chal­leng­ing at times. My par­ents had a ter­ri­ble di­vorce, and from that ex­pe­ri­ence I knew I wanted some­one who would be an in­cred­i­ble fa­ther to my chil­dren. I wanted some­one I could sub­mit to and hon­our be­cause of what he puts into the re­la­tion­ship,” she says.

Even though Mam­pho un­der­stands that a happy mar­riage is a work in progress, she is in a happy place. “Our first year of mar­riage was bliss. We were in the hon­ey­moon phase for a year. Our love was so easy and un­com­pli­cated.

Jacket, Neville Ma­sondo; Jeans,

Top­shop; Heels, Castello.

“But it’s more dif­fi­cult now be­cause we fight about small things, like how to dis­ci­pline our daugh­ter, and some­times get on each oth­ers’ nerves. We have this idea of what mar­riage is, and that it’s per­fect, but you get in it and then re­alise that there are those days when you both an­noy each other. But my hus­band is too smart for me be­cause he just says sorry when he knows I’m pick­ing a fight,” she says with a know­ing smile.

Ad­just­ing to new ideas

To­day there’s a new fam­ily mem­ber in the Bres­cia house­hold, and things have never been the same. Mam­pho ad­mits her daugh­ter has def­i­nitely shifted the way she re­lates to her hus­band and their mar­riage in gen­eral.

“So much has changed in our home be­cause there’s now a princess. Rainn’s the new queen of the house. All these years life re­volved around me, but not any more, and it’s been in­ter­est­ing to ad­just to that. I have also be­come less self­ish, which is a good thing. My pre­cious Rainn has brought so much joy, light, love and ful­fil­ment into our lives. We en­joy spend­ing time with her,” says Mam­pho.

In the same breath, the ac­tress quickly ex­plains that their lit­tle mir­a­cle is in her ter­ri­ble twos, and her dad is find­ing it dif­fi­cult to set rules for her and lets her get away with al­most any­thing. “Some days I’ll get home only to find Rainn play­ing with my make-up, and of course her daddy doesn’t mind. My hus­band adores our daugh­ter, and she adores him as well. But he is too le­nient when it comes to dis­ci­pline. Un­like him, I’m such a dis­ci­plinar­ian. Rainn gets away with ev­ery­thing, and I tell Ni­cola that say­ing ‘no’ doesn’t make him a mean daddy.

“We en­joy do­ing fun things to­gether as a fam­ily like watch­ing car­toons and read­ing to her. She does a lot of ac­tiv­i­ties with her dad. He has a keen in­ter­est in mu­sic, so you’ll of­ten find them con­nect­ing through mu­sic in the stu­dio.” Mam­pho says the great­est joy in her mar­riage is wit­ness­ing her hus­band fall in love in his new role as a fa­ther. “His tran­si­tion to fa­ther­hood has been such a joy. It’s al­ways beau­ti­ful watch­ing him con­nect with our daugh­ter,” she says, be­com­ing silent for a few sec­onds to re­flect.

Pri­ori­tis­ing hap­pi­ness

There’s no doubt Mam­pho is liv­ing her dreams and is ful­filled in many ways. Her ra­di­ance gives it away. But how does she man­age to bal­ance her ca­reer and her fam­ily? When she’s not shoot­ing, you’ll of­ten see her trav­el­ling with her BFF, Terry Pheto (whose In­sta­gram photos we some­times live vi­car­i­ously through).

“I’m al­ways on the road; I have end­less shoots and am al­ways busy,” says Mam­pho. It’s im­por­tant to pri­ori­tise your time, and I’m so lucky be­cause I have the most un­der­stand­ing, sup­port­ive and com­pas­sion­ate hus­band. We sit down and dis­cuss how we are go­ing to ded­i­cate time for fam­ily. I love work­ing, and right now I can’t imag­ine my­self be­ing a stay-at-home mom. We make time for im­por­tant things. My hus­band sac­ri­fices a lot for me. My hap­pi­ness is his pri­or­ity.”

Be­ing a celebrity comes with peo­ple want­ing to know more about you, and many are cu­ri­ous that Mam­pho has mar­ried a man of a dif­fer­ent race, de­spite it be­ing 2015. She re­veals that she some­times gets in­ter­est­ing re­ac­tions from peo­ple when she’s with her hus­band. “Yes, I am mar­ried to an Ital­ian man, but there’s more to my hus­band than just be­ing white. I don’t un­der­stand why one has to em­pha­sise that I’m mar­ried to a white man. He is a hu­man be­ing. Why not re­gard him as a hu­man be­ing first?” she asks.

“I don’t think it’s such a big deal, though. I’m never shocked when peo­ple look at me dif­fer­ently, be­cause through­out my life, I’ve been judged for the choices I make for my­self. I get judged for a lot of things – for my ob­ses­sion with make-up, my life, for this and that. Peo­ple judge me be­cause they think I have ev­ery­thing in life, but that’s not true.”

With all these mis­con­cep­tions, Mam­pho is not fazed by what peo­ple think of her. She says she’s grate­ful to have a part­ner who loves her whole­heart­edly de­spite all her im­per­fec­tions. “I’m mar­ried to an al­most per­fect man. He sees me for who I am, sup­ports me, and I feel so cher­ished by him. Our mar­riage is a roller-coaster ride for him be­cause I’m pretty un­sta­ble. I’m an artist, and when I go to work, ev­ery part of me is work­ing. I have to get on set and be some­one else and then get home and find my­self. Some­times he won­ders which char­ac­ter he is deal­ing with. One time I came back from work and he won­dered if Mam­pho or Iris just walked into the house. I think to a cer­tain de­gree he en­joys the crazi­ness and gets a kick out of it,” she laughs.

The sweet­ness of work­ing to­gether

“De­spite my crazi­ness, my hus­band still loves me for who I am. You have to be with some­one who em­braces you for the per­son you are, and be loved for be­ing you. If there’s one thing I have learnt in my mar­riage, it is that you need to be loved for who you are. You also have to learn to com­pro­mise, be­cause life is not all about you. The great­est ac­com­plish­ment in my mar­riage is the sweet­ness of be­ing able to work and func­tion as a unit and not be­ing com­pletely self­ish.”

She ad­vises new­ly­weds to al­ways com­mu­ni­cate, say­ing that it is key in any re­la­tion­ship. “No one re­ally knows the for­mula, but I do know when there’s a deep sense of re­spect that goes be­yond even love.”

Even though she’s been mar­ried for 10 years, Mam­pho is still ex­cited about the phys­i­cal side of her re­la­tion­ship. “I’m hop­ing we can al­ways have great sex,” she says. “I never want that part of our life to be bor­ing.”


Dress, Neville Ma­sondo; Sneak­ers, Su­perga.

Shirt, Tik Lee; Skirt, Neville Ma­sondo; Bra, covergirl’s own; Heels, Castello.

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