Manaka Ranaka on family, love and three decades in the entertainment business

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This year she celebrates 30 years of highs and lows as an actress and reality show star.
This year she celebrates 30 years of highs and lows as an actress and reality show star.

It's only been a few weeks since they have been back on TV and the family has already been criticised on social media.

The Ranakas are back and with the return of the reality show, their lives have again been under scrutiny. 

Manaka Ranaka (42) speaks to Drum about the new season, family matters, love, career, and motherhood.

Without giving away too much Manaka says, “This new season is very exciting to me, not that we haven’t had exciting seasons but what viewers can expect is more life lessons and overcoming certain aspects of family.” 

She's not worried about the online criticism.

“We grew up around criticism. Growing up in the 80s wasn’t the easiest.” Sometimes Manaka does take offense when jabs are thrown at her family, especially at Dineo but she believes everyone is strong enough to handle it.

“I take offense a little bit, but I am very much positive that my siblings are able to handle it. That is how we grew up. We grew up handling it.”

This week, it was reported that Metro FM suspended Dineo Ranaka for misconduct after dancing on top of office furniture at the SABC studios in Auckland Park while doing the #UmlandoChallenge.

“Dineo is my baby sister, I have a soft spot in my heart for her because she is the last born of the girls. She is very strong; she can handle herself. Where she is, I am not too worried about her.” 

Manaka doesn't take the criticism seriously. 

“I just read the comments for entertainment in most cases and laugh away and think, “Ga ba motsebi Dineo. Ba nagana ba moetsi” (They don’t know Dineo, they think they know her). I don’t take social media seriously; people are hiding behind their phones and computers. How do you take such serious? People like talking big and yet they are way too small. Sometimes I will entertain it but in most cases, I don’t.”

Manaka says, “People can say a lot of bad things but when you see them, they are not that bad. Once that happens, I tend to reach out to my goals and things already planned and remind myself, I have work to do.”

Manaka says she understands all her siblings and their different personalities.

"All my siblings are seen differently by people to how I see them. I give all of them their individual attention and if I don’t have energy, I don’t. They are good people but sometimes bad. Dineo is a good sister. She was the one who was spoilt the most by our dad, so sometimes that gets to me. I also got the same, but it was difficult to control them when they were under my care,” she adds.

If Manaka was forced to choose her favourite in the family, she would choose her eldest daughter, KG

“I don’t want to get into trouble. I don’t have a favourite but if I were forced, I'd say KG because she is my daughter, and watching her overcome life challenges is such a blessing and I get to see the hard work my family and I put in raising these children.”

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This year, Manaka is also celebrating 30 years as an actress and entertainer.

“I am celebrating three decades. I started when I was six years old. It’s been quite a ride. The first thing that I did was act for a music video for Dalom Kids. That was my first time in a professional setting. Professionally it has been 22 years and my biggest lesson has been working with different people,” she says.

“Everything can’t always be about you. You have to be very accommodating. Having worked on different projects with diverse actors and people, having to adjust to every single personality was a great lesson for me.” 

She has overcome many challenges but has not given up.

“Living is a challenge, just living” she jokes.

“You’re born dependent and you grow up and become independent then you need to start adulting. Career-wise; being fired was a challenge. But also putting my foot down and saying I am not going anywhere because I was promised I will be barred from the industry and never work again by not one but two or three producers. Having to stand my ground and stick around in an industry where you’re made to feel that you are not wanted is an achievement. Acting chose me. I got bitten long ago by the acting bug. I tried running and it didn’t work. It is what it is.”

This year also marks seven years since she has been on Generations: The Legacy playing the character of Lucy.

“Lucy has grown, she came from an eight-year prison sentence and had left the shebeen her brother was running, took back the reigns, and grew to learn to become a mother again. I can’t say she is the best mother, but she is hardcore. She grew in business and her friendships. Her thuggery never stopped and now she is a private investigator, can you imagine?” she says.

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Besides hard work, family is important to Manaka.

She looks up to the loyalty that she sees in her parents’ relationship and she wishes the same in her own relationship.

“My parent taught me loyalty. My mom and dad’s loyalty towards each other surpasses a lot of things and them being able to work together is amazing to see. I believe that sometimes one needs to be allowed to spread their wings and do things they want to do on a personal level. But loyalty above all else.”

She is currently in a four-year relationship with the father of her 14-year-old and is happy.

“Besides being in a 42-year relationship with myself, there’s an almost 4-year-old brewing with someone else’s son,” she says.

“My partner and I have been in a relationship before. We have a 14-year-old daughter and Sibongiseni (her youngest). Things happened and now we are here. What I want most is focus on now and for us to focus on achieving our goals and not to have stumbling blocks,” Manaka adds.

“I want my partner to reach his dreams man and to be that supportive partner as much as he is. Everything that comes with being in a relationship is a given; honesty, happiness overall, success, wisdom, health, trust is extremely important, and we trust each other. I am free to do whatever, he is free to do whatever.” 

But motherhood and being a grandmother to Mpho, who is a little over a year, has helped her to see life differently.

“Motherhood changes as years go by and kids grow. It has been good to me. I haven’t lost touch with my children,” she says.

Her kids are Katlego, also known as KG (21), Naledi (13), and Sibongiseni , who turned one recently. 

“My biggest issue is not spending enough time with my kids because of work. But I choose to do better this year. Watching the kids, seeing them achieve and sometimes at their lowest and having the patience of getting into their headspace.”

Manaka doesn’t feel like a granny, and she is nothing like her grandmother.

“I don’t feel like a granny. Nothing has changed, except us welcoming Mpho to the family. No one can ever compare to my grandmother, she was special. She used to steal cheesecake and tiramisu from work and put them in a foil and bring them home and those were just some of the funny memories.”

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Last year, Manaka lost a close friend, and before that was the tragic accident where lives were lost and Akhumzi Jezile, Thobani Mseleku, Siyasanga Kobese in 2018 died, just after she was learning to accept the passing of make-up artist and stylist Iko Mash in 2017.

“Maybe there’s something to learn about grief, but it just hits differently all the time. Losing loved ones is not an easy journey for anyone. Sometimes plans were made, and death disrupts them, and there was just a damper. But with that said, acceptance is the biggest thing anyone can learn from grief. They are gone, not to be seen again, and the easier it is easier to move on,” she says.

“It is important for us the living and those who have passed. They would want to see us carry on with the legacies, they left behind. When Iko passed I took serious offense. I was questioning God why bring people into my life, only to take them away. The Akhumi and Siya accident happened and then boom, another friend was gone. I just got to know Siya and enjoyed her company, she was magic ready to happen. Then last year, Thabo Mashego, he had just had a baby and not only are you gone but what are we going to do now with this one-month-old child? Grief is not an easy thing, but acceptance is the one gift you can give yourself, so you can move on,” she adds.

This year, Manaka plans to be better than the year before.

“My resolutions are the same every year; work harder, do greater and grow more than the previous year and be wiser.”

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