Cover Story – The A to Z Of Khanya Mkangisa
The 30-year-old actress and TV presenter talks us through what every letter of the alphabet represents in her life, and the many lessons she’s embraced after 15 years in entertainment
Ais for acting. It’s a craft I have completely fallen in love with. It’s a skill I have always respected but started respecting even more once I got into it. My first ever acting gig was on the crime investigation drama series Mtunzini.com alongside Enhle Mbali Mlotshwa. My second acting gig was on The Lab where I played Nambitha Mpumlwana’s daughter. I got to share screen time with revered actors like Mothusi Magano and Fana Mokoena. My third and longest was Zone 14 where I played Jet Novuka’s daughter. I also worked with Jet on
Isidingo, and recently shot one of three films with him, under the Being Mandela umbrella. He’s definitely someone whose brilliance continues to inspire me. B is for book. My all-time favourite and life-changing book is Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. It helped me make peace with how the world is set up. Often we want to blame others for things not turning out the way we’d anticipated them to, or think God is not fair when He’s distributing blessings, but the book has taught me to remove the emotions we like attaching to disappointment. Even the 10 000 hours theory that is outlined in the book is true — if you constantly work hard at something, of course you’re going to be good at it. C
is for child star. It’s a title that won’t leave me alone [chuckles]. In high school, I was always in the top ten of my grade, and loved netball. I became a Yo-TV presenter in grade 10, and that meant I couldn’t commit myself to certain extra-mural activities. People assumed that I would change, so they, instead, changed and started treating me differently. It was such an eye-opening experience. More than anything, juggling school with a presenting job taught me the importance of sacrifice — that when pursuing your dreams, you have to allow certain things to fall by the wayside.
Dis for dad. I’ve never had a relationship with my father but at 21, he reached out and asked that we meet. I honoured his request but chose not to tell my mom until much later. When I eventually told her, she was happy that she didn’t influence whether I went or not, and how I opted to treat him afterwards was totally on me. I don’t harbour any negative feelings towards him, but his absence speaks volumes about his character. E is for evolution. A lot of people often ask me how I’ve managed to stay relevant because most child stars from my generation aren’t on TV anymore. For instance, there was no social media when I started on TV. We would urge viewers to send their comments via text, and those would be read out on-air. Now I see the impact social media is having on our careers. I enjoy how media is being lapped up, so it’s been easy for me to mould myself to fit into this new format. My Instagram is still very relatable, but I understand how I can make money off this platform because I like beauty and fashion. I’ve positioned my social media in such a way that I showcase what I’m known for, without changing who I am. F is for fame. Because I started out in this industry at 15, I’ve long gotten used to the stares and the picture requests. Some people are thrust into fame in their 20s when they are already set in their ways, and are forced to change their lifestyles.
Gis for God. I treat my relationship with God like I would a sacred and priceless possession. I definitely am aware of where all my blessings come from, and I’ve seen the grace and favour that He has shown me, personally and career-wise. My spirituality isn’t the rush-to-church-every-Sunday type — I’m always conversing with Him. H is for happiness. I’m a naturally joyful person. I’ve learnt that when you’re content, it’s easy to be a happy person. Being content simply means that you are aware that there’ll always be room for improvement. When you’re content, you inevitably attract so much good because you are grateful. I remember a phase in my life when I allowed someone to have more control than they should have, but I quickly realised that joy is too huge a task to place in someone else’s hands.
I is for independence. This is a trait that I appreciate because it’s taught me not to depend on the next person — not that there’s anything wrong with that. I never want to feel like I can’t do certain things because of someone, and that’s probably why I don’t have a manager. I was brought up in a single-parent household and went to boarding school at six. Being a boarder at such a young age, obviously, taught me to do things for myself. Boarding school aside, that I’d be independent was inevitable because I watched my mom raise, provide for me and change lightbulbs all by herself. I sometimes wouldn’t see her because she worked 12-hour shifts. J is for Jozi. While in boarding school in Grahamstown, my mom worked in Paddington, where my late maternal grandmother was from. Going home during school holidays only, and not every second weekend, was normal because everything in the Eastern Cape is far spread anyway. I completely understood the norm. In grade 6, my mom consulted me about moving to Johannesburg. I love that, from a very young age, my mom’s always included me in all her decision-making. We relocated to Joburg when I was 12.
Kis for Khanya. My name means light, to illuminate or to shine. My mom says she named me Khanya because when she was a student nurse, there was a lady at her college with a similar name who was beautiful and graceful. She just randomly decided that she’d someday name her child Khanya. I always try to live up to the meaning of my name by excelling in different areas of my work. L is for longevity. Long after I’d been on Yo-TV and before starting on Selimathunzi, I’ve never been one to be out there for the sake of being seen or relevant. I’m happier in my space — it’s weird because I’m sociable, but I’m also not [chuckles]. Obviously, because of Selimathunzi, I’m always out and about but even with that, I work, stay for a bit then hit the road. When it comes to longevity, staying true to myself has really stood me in good stead.
Mis for mental strength. I participated in the last season of Tropika Island of Treasure Season 8 which took place in the Maldives, alongside Tumi Voster, Melinda Bam, Sbahle Mpisane, Naymaps Maphalala and a few other celebs. People underestimate me all the time because I’m tiny, and a lot of the activities were very physical. I went there with a weave and long nails, and people assumed I was in it for the frills, not knowing that I’m very competitive. If I lose, I want to lose knowing that I gave it my all. My approach to life in general is to always do my best so I’m not mad at myself at the end. Much to everyone’s surprise, I made it to the top three. That experience taught me that physical challenges aren’t so much about physical strength, but are more a mental challenge. N is for Nonhle, a character I played on the SABC 1 drama series Forced Love. At 22, it was inspiring to play such a carefree spirit. O is for only-child. I often get asked if I didn’t have a lonely childhood but the truth is, I liked being an only child. If I were to have a kid now, I’d probably only have one because I turned out fine [chuckles]. Sometimes, I pick up on my selfish tendencies but now that I’m older, I’ve learnt to adjust and work on them so that everything isn’t always about me. Turning 30 this year helped me become aware of how I react to things. I’m, now, much more calmer and at peace but this obviously comes with years of witnessing how life operates. P is for property. I became a full-on adult when I bought my property at 25 — this remains one of my biggest achievements to date. I enjoyed going to viewings and had, thankfully, saved a lot of money, which I pumped towards my home. From transfer to tax costs, that apartment-purchasing process taught me a lot of lessons that I had to internalise quickly. My mom has my spare key and I still go home often to sleep in my old bed, and when I run out of cupboard space, I take the stuff to my mom’s house [chuckles].
Qis for the questions that I’ve been battling with. From time to time, I also get the typical ‘when are you getting married and having kids?’ Those are questions I’ve also been asking myself [chuckles]. I’m interested to know how that area is going to play out, but I’ve also made peace with the fact that it could go either way. One of my greatest fears is to marry or have a child by someone who’ll show me a different side to them, should we separate. I want whoever fathers my child to be someone I can fully depend on even when we’re not together anymore. R is for Rockville Season 3. If Intersexions didn’t solidify my acting abilities, then Rockville certainly did. I played Nolitha, who later became Cleopatra and ended up dying from a drug overdose. To this day, when people speak about my standout role and performance, Rockville is always mentioned. When I left, Shona Ferguson was adamant that we had to work together again. S is for Selimathunzi. I’ve been on the show for three years. The back story here is that, after they’d just announced that Zizo Beda was leaving the show, I knew I’d be the perfect fit so I approached the relevant people and asked to be auditioned. T is for the name of a local series whose cast I recently joined. I can’t divulge much about it yet, because my character makes her debut on the 8th of January 2019. When this role came along, the executive producer called me directly to tell me about the new direction the writing team was taking. Because my last big acting role was on the e.tv drama series Harvest alongside Vatiswa Ndara and Masasa Mbangeni, I didn’t want to audition for just any role, even though I understand that as actors in Mzansi, we don’t really have the luxury of turning down jobs. This new role is on one of the most watched shows in the country currently, so what better show to make my acting comeback on. U is for unique. I believe my outlook on life sets me apart. I always approach situations with a positive mindset. I believe I exude good vibes which in turn makes me relatable. I also adapt easily to most situations.
Vis for my mother, Vuyokazi Mkangisa. She doesn’t dictate, instead she’s super supportive. To this day, she watches every single show I’m on. She’s very quiet and reserved, but leads by example. Even though I don’t have as much leeway, I could never do anything humiliating because of the type of family I come from. My mom — a professional midwife — has worked so hard to give me the best of everything; it just wouldn’t be fair of me to throw all of that back in her face. W is for work ethic. This is something people always point out about me — that I work hard and I’m a pleasure to work with. This is also a trait I got from my mom. I’ve never heard my mom complain about working insane hours because she fully understands going the extra mile to reach one’s goals. I believe in little things like honouring my call time because it’s the least you can do, to be considerate to colleagues.
X is for Xhosa. If I were to have a child now, that child would be fluent in isiXhosa — it wouldn’t be open for discussion! I apparently refused to speak isiXhosa at some point when I was young, but the onus is on parents not to give up on teaching children their mother tongue. If we were never confused by learning multiple languages, then the kids of this generation Z will also be fine. Y is for Yo-TV, the show that officially introduced me to my passion for the arts. is for Zanzibar. Because I’d been to a few islands, I didn’t expect it to blow my mind. It’s now one of my best holiday destinations. When it comes to choosing vacation spots, I’m an island girl — but that’s probably because I’m originally from the coast and Pisces; there must always be some water in my travels. A BIG thank you to the stunning Hertford Country Hotel in Elandsdrift, Lanseria for hosting the True Love team for our December 2018 cover shoot.