She’s always wanted to be an actress but first she had to convince her mom that it was a viable career. Now Nelisa Mchunu (27) is living her dream, starring as Fikile on SABC 1’s Uzalo.
The actress speaks to Move! about her career and her loved ones who support her.
IN THE BEGINNING
Nelisa was raised by her single mom in Wartburg in KwaZulu-Natal along with her siblings. Her father lived in Clermont and she had 10 siblings from his side.
Her dad died when Nelisa was four, but she has fond memories of visiting him during holidays.
When she was in Grade 8 Nelisa and her two brothers had to move from the suburbs in KwaZulu-Natal to a township in Inanda to stay with her grandmother because her mom was having financial issues.
“It was a very difficult situation to adjust to. I had to wake up at 4.30am in the morning just so I can get to school on time. I also had to use public transport when I was used to my mom dropping me off and picking me up. I had to stop my sports activities because I’d get home late when using the bus,” she says.
The best thing about that time was her seamstress granny making all her clothes. “I used to enjoy that a lot, it was so much fun. She passed away when I was in Grade 11 and it is a pity she hadn’t taught me how to make my own clothes.”
Right after high school Nelisa went to study media studies at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits). It wasn’t her first choice – she wanted to study drama, but her mother didn’t approve.
“I went to study media studies because it wasn’t too far from what I wanted to study.” But when she was in her third year, she had to make some tough decisions.
“I had to drop out of school because my mom could no longer afford the fees,” she explains.
An optimistic Nelisa became a waitress then later worked as an assistant for a PR company. The star then landed a job as an extra on SABC 3’s Isidingo.
“One of the directors told me I’m good and got me to become a featured extra, which means I would have more screen time and would get one or two lines. It felt really good and it made me feel like I was getting closer to my dream.”
One of her sisters is award-winning actress Londeka Mchunu (25). She plays the role of Snegugu on Mzansi Magic’s Isithembiso. Nelisa says she and her younger sister are very close.
“When I joined Uzalo in 2016 my family was quite excited. When Londeka joined Isithembiso a year later it became a very big thing for our family,” she says proudly.
“It feels good to have someone who understands you and with whom you can share challenges you face.”
They are lucky to be working in the same industry but doing their own thing. No one has compared her to her sister yet. “That would have been very frustrating,” she says.
“We are both happy for each other and are on two different paths.”