Lerato Mvelase's big dreams

By Drum Digital
13 October 2010

LIKE it or not, she’s the kind of person who makes the rest of us feel ordinary. She’s attractive, stylish and talented, with a glowing CV and a brand-new nomination for a prestigious Best Actress International Emmy Award for her role in SABC1’s Home Affairs. And yet as far as Lerato Mvelase is concerned her real skill has not yet been recognised.

“Maybe people don’t get it,” she tells DRUM, “but I want to be known as a singer who can act.”It’s not hard to see why she feels this way. She cut her teeth as a singer on stage in hit musical theatre productions such as Grease, Moulin Rouge and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. But it’s as a smallscreen performer that we’ve come to know her over the past seven years, first as a continuity presenter and then as lonely theatre actress Katlego Mbatha in Home Affairs, a role she’s been playing to perfection since 2005.

But Lerato (28) is finally making her dreams come true by branching out of TV and – you’ve guessed it – singing as well as acting. She’s recording a top-secret solo album and starring in a movie called Life Above All, billed as “a touching mother-daughter relationship that reflects modern South Africa”.

The film has been shown at several international film festivals, including a recent one in Germany, and has been nominated by the South African Film Board as the local entry for next year’s Oscars.

As if this isn’t enough, Lerato runs a production company called Lelu Productions with her friend Vuyiswa Matomane. And all this while playing her most important role: that of mom to her adorable three-year-old daughter, Makayla, who is busy casting her spell on everyone in the DRUM studio.

“I like your earrings,” she whispers to the stylist before offering everyone a sip of her juice. Once her chatty mom is done with her make-up, the little girl informs us she’d also like her face done. She climbs into the chair and picks a pale pink for her lips and cheeks. “I think I’m finished now,” Makayla says after a few minutes, flashing another smile. Everyone’s so taken with her we’ve almost forgotten about her famous mother.

“Oh my gosh, ngwana o! She’s stolen my spotlight!” Lerato exclaims. But she doesn’t mind – she’s also under her little one’s spell. “You can’t say no to her. She just looks at you with these puppy eyes and it’s all over,” she laughs.

BORN and bred in Diepkloof, Soweto, Lerato had a typical township upbringing. “I grew up in a small house with lots of people. My cousins and I had to share everything and eat up all our food because others didn’t have. For a long time my biggest dream was to have my own bedroom,” she recalls.

Her brother, rapper and Idols presenter ProVerb (29), grew up in Kimberley with his mom while their eldest brother, Mpho (34), was raised by their dad in Bloemfontein. Despite the distances between them, the three are very close.

Lerato’s earliest memories are of singing at school. “In crèche I was asked to sing the angel’s part in the annual play. So I knew then that I had a strong voice – it was while I was singing that I discovered I could act. Many people can be trained to act but not everyone can sing,” she says with a smile. She went on to Madibane High School in Soweto but completed matric at Sacred Heart College in Joburg.

Read the full article in DRUM of 21 October 2010

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