Johannesburg - Thando Thabethe’s point of view in the entertainment industry is inspiring, it’s original and it makes people’s heads turn. She’s a woman of many skills – a radio and television presenter, actress, club deejay, emcee and brand ambassador for the likes of Nivea and, most recently, Ciroc vodka.
Her rise has shown people you can be business savvy as an entertainer. It revealed the complexity of being young, gifted and a woman dominating the field. Thabethe has become an avatar for her thousands of followers, while remaining true to herself.
Why? Because Thabethe doesn’t hide her truth, her flaws, her dreams or her journey. It’s that authenticity and vulnerability that endear her to her fans.
Since the start of her career, which spans over a decade, the BCom accounting graduate has continued to evolve as a broadcaster, an actress, an advocate for women’s rights and as a person – and we’ve all grown with her.
On Monday, November 6, she wraps up the character of Nolwazi Buzo in Generations: The Legacy. She has played the role since 2014 and her character will be on air until January 2018. She’s also preparing for the launch of her long-awaited Thabooty’s Underwear and Shapewear range.
Her stint in Generations: The Legacy has catapulted her career as she kept millions of viewers company every night. Thabethe says leaving the show was the hardest decision she had to make this year.
“It’s a stable job, stable income, it’s a well-oiled machine and feels like home. I can just take a stroll across to do my radio show – but there’s also just the stability of working on a show like this.”
Mfundi Vundla, the creator of the popular soapie, said in a statement about Thabethe’s resignation: “The cast and crew of Generations: The Legacy wish Thando well. We will miss her great work ethic and her abundant talent. Thando Thabethe is one of South Africa’s most talented TV actors. She has a great future to look forward to.”
Her onscreen work includes feature film Mrs Right Guy, Intersexions, My Perfect Family, Kowethu, 1s and 2s, Club 808 and Single Guys.
When #Trending met her on set at Generations: The Legacy early one Friday morning, she was on one of her last scenes as Nolwazi, which only lasted for about two minutes.
“I came here just to get into bed for two minutes and then go about my day,” she says laughing, before adding how much she loves that fans adored her character on the show.
“But that’s why I had to leave. I felt like if I stayed too long, I would forever be Nolwazi because of how big this show is. It’s sad to leave, as you could see how amazing everyone that works on this show is. But I can’t hold on to her. It’s not why I do what I do.
“I’m lucky that I’m now in a position where I get to choose, so I do try to get characters that are different from the characters that I’ve played and that are different from me.”
ON THE MOVE
Trying to keep up with Thabethe is near impossible; she’s constantly on the move. She starts her day at Generations, then moves on to meetings and other projects before hosting her 5FM show The Thabooty Drive. On the first day we meet this is followed by a photoshoot for her intimates and shapewear collection, which will be unveiled this month.
And she does all of this beaming and with ease because, at the end of it all, she’s living her dream. If 2017 is anything to go by then there are even bigger things to come. While in make-up and running around on set making sure everything is in place and that everyone is okay, I ask her what time her day started.
“I was on set at 6am,” she says, smiling, while running to the other side of the Wynberg studio. The decision to launch Thabooty was sparked when Thabethe, like the rest of us, was unable to find the perfect underwear that compliments her body while still being functional and sexy.
She says she had the desire to create something that makes women feel confident when revealing what’s underneath their clothes.
“I was shopping for shapewear and it didn’t do what I needed it to do. It was rolling down and was uncomfortable, wasn’t seamless and just made me look bulky. I looked online and there wasn’t anything available here that’s affordable and fulfils what I need.
“Shapewear is very functional, but at the same time we tried to create stuff that’s not boring or that you would be ashamed to show when you’re taking your clothes off. With the actual underwear, I got to play around with colours and styles. You can even wear some of them as outerwear if you like.”
Thabethe says the collection will cater for women of all sizes.
“Bra sizes will go up all the way to a G-cup and other garments to extra large.”
Her comment elicits high-fives from women in the room. The Thabooty’s Underwear and Shapewear collection will be priced between R300 to R500 from thandothabethe.com and there are plans of partnering with a major online and retail store.
“I want everyone to feel sexy and feel good.”
WITH A CAUSE
During the early days of her career, Thabethe started the #TakeBackYourPower and #MakeItStop movement – empowering young women through the Thando Thabethe Women’s Day netball challenge, which was about creating awareness about issues affecting women and raising funds for a worthy cause.
During the first two years of its inception, the challenge raised about R150 000 for Bethany Home, a shelter for abused women.
“We’ve had different beneficiaries over the years, the Nisaa Institute for Women’s Development was the beneficiary for this year and the previous year and Bethany Home for the two years before that.”
The actress grew up watching her father abuse her mother. He committed suicide when Thabethe was 13. She’s taken the difficulties of her past and used them to help women come forward and break the silence.
“I’m an activist, feminist and huge supporter of women’s rights.” She is happy to use her voice for important causes, especially those that affect her.
“We are all so busy within our own lives that we forget how we can make a difference in other people’s.”
Thabethe has hosted some of the biggest awards ceremonies in the country, like the SA Music Awards and the SA Film and TV Awards. This year she scored one of the most sought-after chairs in radio – the drivetime show – making her the first woman to host one of these on national radio station 5FM: The Thabooty Drive from 3pm to 6pm.
THE ATTAINABLE STAR
In the entertainment industry, there’s intense pressure to conform to create an easily marketable product. But if you pay attention to the projects that Thabethe tackles, learn about her Women’s Day netball challenge or witness her life, you know that she’s not a product of anyone but her family and her truth.
Jarred Doyle, of Jarred Doyle Consulting – who worked with Thabethe during the early stages of her career – says Thabethe is one of the most down to earth people you’ll ever meet.
“I saw something in Thando from the moment I met her. She’s one of the most hard-working people in the industry and has always made good moves. She’s funny and friendly – a real girl next door without the need to establish herself as an unattainable star,” he adds.
Thabethe says it’s important to choose which brands she aligns herself with.
“You don’t want to sell a lie. People are able to tell when something isn’t authentic – so I make sure that it’s always brands that I love or feel something towards, therefore I am able to translate that into the way I engage with the brand and deliver whatever it is that they need me to deliver.”
Earlier this year, Thabethe melted the hearts of fans and followers when she spoilt her mother with a new car. Her proud mother, Bongi Thabethe boasted to #Trending about her daughter: “We’re so proud of how far she’s come in her career and we know it’s only gonna go uphill from here ... She’s always been determined and never afraid to take on anyone who says no to her. She may be tiny, but don’t let the façade fool you ... She’s a legend waiting to bloom.”
THANDO BARES ALL
Thabethe is already working on 2018 with a film that she’s starting to shoot this month and her upcoming talk show – a first for her. A few months ago, it was announced that the broadcaster extraordinaire would join international channel TLC Entertainment to host Thando Bares All, to be aired early next year. The eight-part series will show off Thabethe’s sassy, straight-talking and charming talk-show style.
“I worked with TLC for their Next Great Presenter search. I was supposed to just be a judge and ended up, sort of, hosting the show. This is probably the first African-produced TV show that will be on TLC, which is dope.”
On the show, she will encourage her guests to be open about things that society might be afraid or embarrassed to address; like body image, outrageous style, naked attraction, polygamy and superhuman achievement. Nothing will be off limits.
“When TLC approached me to present, I was ecstatic. I’m a huge fan of the channel and this for me is a step in the right direction. I can’t wait to start filming Thando Bares All and finding out what South Africans think about the topics that really matter,” she said in a statement.
With Thabethe leading the studio elements, the show will be co-presented by TLC Next Great Presenter winner Carissa Cupido. She will front immersive breakout pieces, finding out what the public thinks about the subjects that will be discussed in each episode.
THE NEXT PHASE
“I speak a thing into existence and it actually happens ... It’s the weirdest thing,” says Thabethe. She describes herself as more spiritual than religious.
“We all overthink things sometimes and because I love what I do it doesn’t feel like work.
“Life experiences, the good and the bad stuff, have made me the woman that I am today. Life is trial and error and you figure out your way through it – but the people you surround yourself with are very influential in who you ultimately become and the decisions that you make.”
Thabethe’s gifts are unquestionable, rich and true. But her importance in the entertainment industry and her ability to identify opportunities are what mark her for greatness.
(Photos: Supplied/City Press)