Refilwe Maitisa wins top awards at New York University, the third top acting school in the world

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Refilwe Maitisa is flying the flag high in New York. Photo: Supplied
Refilwe Maitisa is flying the flag high in New York. Photo: Supplied


Refilwe Maitisa, a 24-year-old South African actress, singer and model, is flying the country’s flag high in New York, US.

She recently graduated top of her class, summa cum laude, at the prestigious New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in drama and a minor in the business of entertainment, media and technology.

Maitisa was also awarded the Drama Banner Bearer Award for top student in leadership and academics, Outstanding Achievement in Studio Award for acting, University Honours Scholar Award and was selected by Tisch as the student representative.

After Maitisa gave her graduation speech,Nathan Flower, the associate chairperson of the drama department said: 

It is clear that Refilwe has exemplified the artistic, collaborative and community values and ideals that our drama community strives to practice.

Asked Daniel Spector, the director of The Classical Studio: “Will there ever be another like her again?”

Last year, Maitisa was nominated for the Princess Grace Award, a national award recognising extraordinary emerging artists in the US. In 2019, she made her off Broadway debut in the original musical Humanity’s Child staged in New York.

Maitisa can be seen in the South African blockbuster film, Zulu Wedding which won the Pan African Film and Arts Festival 2020 Award for best narrative feature. She played the role of young Lungile Sabata.

Before the Big Apple

After completing matric with six distinctions in 2015 at Crawford College in Lonehill, Maitisa left South Africa to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles and received an associate degree in drama before transferring to NYU.

In high school, she was named a top 10 vocalist at the SA Talent Championship in 2014 and chosen to attend the 64th Actors, Models and Talent for Christ Shine Conference in Florida, US. She finished third in the Female Teen Actor Award and third in the Teen Singer Award.

She was the first student to win the Crawford’s Got Talent show in 2011 aged 13 and she later wrote the school’s first official song. Maitisa applies her creativity in various artistic ways. She was awarded the Josh Goldfaden Award at NYU for her leadership, impact and contribution to writing. She later directed and staged a new play in less than 24 hours at the annual 24-Hour Play Festival at Tisch.

Maitisa said: 

I’m passionate about creating and being part of projects that empower, encourage and enlighten people to rise above where they are into something better. I choose to do this through singing and acting. I’m motivated by the innate desire to see a vision come to life. A vision coming to life means that there is transformation and transformation means that lives are changed.

She is currently auditioning for roles in both South Africa and the US while taking classes to keep her acting sharp.


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