She plays the tough-as nails wife of a power hungry taxi boss. Glamorous, driven and dangerous – that’s Beauty Ngwenya in a nutshell.
She’ll stop at nothing to keep her family happy, including turning a blind eye to her husband’s ruthlessness as he builds the family empire. Bringing the brutal Beauty to life brilliantly is actress Thuli Thabethe.
She’s kept audiences on the edge of their seats as the Ngwenya matriarch in Isibaya. It’s a role she relishes, the 33-year-old tells DRUM.
“It’s very exciting to play the wife of a taxi boss. I draw strength from the older women in my life and women I’ve come across. From my mother to my aunt and women on the street, Beauty is all of them combined.”
The actress was handpicked for the role by Menzi Ngubane, who plays her husband, Judas, on the soapie. The TV couple have grown so close over the past few years that Thuli was there to witness Menzi wed his sweetheart, Sikelelwa Sishuba, in Ladysmith.
Actor Abdul Khoza, who plays Thuli and Menzi’s on-screen son, was a groomsman at the star-studded wedding. The Ngwenyas are a family both on-screen and off, Thuli says.
“There’s respect. To get on a bus to Emnambithi to support a colleague shows the connection we have with each other.”
Family is important to her character, and equally important to single mom Thuli. The actress lives for her 10-yearold son Ruri, whom she shares with former radio DJ and owner of Touch HD, Thabo “Tbo Touch” Molefe (37).
Thuli’s social media pages are peppered with pictures of her adorable son, and she often posts about the joys and struggles of motherhood.
“It’s natural to post good stuff even though motherhood isn’t easy,” Thuli says. “But it evolves over years,” she adds.
“I try to be his friend and be the best reference because if he turns out bad, people will blame me. And if he turns out good they’ll still ask who his mother is. So I’m constantly working to be his good reference.”
She’s not just a role model for Ruri – Thuli and Tbo Touch are also co-parenting goals for their scores of fans.
The two celebs ended their engagement in 2010 after six years together, yet they’ve remained friends for the sake of their son. They often send shout-outs to each other on social media, bucking the trend of bitter battles between exes.
Recently Touch, who has another son with wife Nandi, took to Twitter to share a clip of Thuli showing off her rapping skills.
“Just popped by to say hi to Ruri and Mom. Life is too short, bring laughter [rather] than tears,” he wrote.
Touch also sends her birthday and Mother’s Day wishes, and Thuli does the same on Father’s Day. They have each other’s backs and she’s quick to defend him from social media trolls.
“I refuse to be part of the people trying to pull him down,” Thuli says. “I’ll support him because he’s the father of my son. I will publicly stand up for him.”
But in private she’s not afraid to tell her ex when he’s done something wrong. Judging by their social media accounts Thuli and Touch seem to have perfected the art of co-parenting but Thuli says it’s not nearly as easy as it looks.
“I’ve never wanted to advocate for perfection as we’re still learning. I’m not going to stand on pedestals and lie. I refuse to be a face of co-parenting and go on like I’m perfect. It’s not easy or perfect – we only post the good stuff,” she says with a laugh.
Co-parenting may not be easy but Thuli is determined to make it work.
“Our child is going to be a part of our lives for at least 21 years,” she says.
“It takes a man and a woman to make a child and it takes a man and a woman to raise him. If my son turns out to be a druggie, I couldn’t live with the fact that I didn’t get along with his father. “I needed to check myself and get over myself for this child.”
Thuli and Touch share parental duties and Thuli says Nandi (28) plays a pivotal role too.
“Co-parenting is all about putting your best foot forward. Nandi makes it so easy for me, she shows up for me. When I can’t take Ruri to a soccer match due to my schedule, she does it for me.”
Her relationship with Nandi had a rocky start, Thuli admits.
“It took time for Nandi to accept Thabo and I are friends. Even my partner doesn’t get it. “When he’s angry, I’m like, ‘Ruri and Thabo were here first’. It’s not like I’m his second wife or something, but they were here first, that’s my family.
“People need to know you can be in love with someone, break up and go through humiliation but that doesn’t mean you don’t love each other,” she adds.
Initially Thuli also had difficulty adapting to their blended family but says she has her mom to thank for guiding her.
“I was like, ‘I’m the one with the firstborn.’ But my mother knocked some sense into my head. She taught me to be assertive and not aggressive.”
The women learnt to put their differences aside for the sake of their children.
“We have two kids with the same man and hating each other and causing drama isn’t going to help us,” Thuli says.
“We came to realise we’re raising two boys who will grow up to be someone’s boyfriend or husband and fighting won’t do anything for us.”
These days the women are incredibly close.
“I have late-night conversations with Nandi. We’re doing this because we know kids are f***ed up out there. I refuse for my son to be a pity party of a teenager crying he turned out bad because his mom and dad were not living together, like some stupid excuse. I refuse to have a son who falls by the wayside – not on my watch.”
Thuli and Nandi have vowed to raise the brothers in line with the African saying: your child is my child.
“If ever something were to happen to me, Nandi is going to be responsible for my son. Whatever happens to Nandi, I’m going to be there for her son. “We have two kids who are brothers,” she adds.
“Should we die, the last thing I want is for them to feel like one had it better because he was the firstborn or the other because his parents lived together.”
To prevent either child from feeling left out, the women include each other in every big celebration. In December Thuli, Nandi, Touch and their boys headed to Mozambique for the holidays.
While there Thuli took time to ask God and the ancestors to guide her in the year ahead. Her plans, she says, include growing her brand strategy company, Thorough Group, which she owns with her sister, Mbali, and hosting a seminar on women empowerment with Nandi.
She’s living proof that when women support each other, incredible things happen.