Although her character Imani on SABC 2 soapie Muvhango has a head full of hair, underneath the curly wig, she spots a clean shaven head as a sign of new beginnings.
Actress, model, and new It-girl Zonke Mchunu (28) says the year is headed towards greatness, and shaving off all her hair gives her a fresh start.
“Imani has hair. But Zonke is bald because I just wanted something new, fresh, and a clean start to the year,” Zonke says.
She started the year off on a high when she recently shot the ‘I Am My Story’ campaign with fashion designer Quiteria Kekana. Zonke was chosen to be one of the models alongside Datlego Danke, Simphiwe Ngema, Didie Makubane and Lala Tuku, to name a few.
“This campaign is a big deal for me, it cements my position in the industry,” she says.
"I have always been the quiet girl on Muvhango, but this time people are noticing that maybe I might have something special. But I am in no hurry for fame, I am just taking my time and allowing people to see my growth,” Zonke adds.
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This year marks seven years since she joined the soapie.
“Time flies,” she says.
“Last I remember was me coming to terms with being a new actress in a big tv show like Muvhango. And now I can barely walk down the street without being recognised,” Zonke says.
A lot has happened to her character on Muvhango.
Vuyo, who was Imani’s old office flame, has come back to pick up where they left off.
“Vuyo and Imani had an affair some years ago, but he got arrested after leaking their sex tape. He became obsessed with Imani, started stalking her and making threats if she refused to be in a relationship with him. So, she had him locked up,” Zonke says.
Vuyo returns while Imani is at a crucial point with her relationship with James Motsamai, played by Dingaan Khumalo.
“Imani is a homewrecker. James was engaged to Marang (Sharon Seno) who is one of Imani’s best friends. But she couldn’t bear to see Marang happy, she cheated with James and he ended up falling for her and leaving Marang,” Zonke says. At the time Marang was pregnant, and she lost the baby.
“Marang has turned into her worst enemy. But Imani is fighting for what she believes belongs to her and she will not rest.”
Zonke has very little in common with the backstabbing Imani, and it took her time to learn and understand the character.
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She had had small acting roles on Uzalo and did a few adverts but nothing as big as Muvhango. In KZN, she had done a handful of theatre productions at the playhouse and was doing her last year at the Durban University of Technology when she had to drop out and move to Johannesburg to start her job on Muvhango.
“It was either I continued with my studies or I take the role and I chose the latter,” Zonke says. But she is left with one module before she can declare herself a Theatre and Drama graduate and she plans to complete it soon.
Zonke recalls the young and naïve actress who only wanted to act.
“I was never in it for the fame,” she says.
“For me, acting has always been a passion and I have come a long way.” When she started acting on Muvhango, she was a little intimidated by the experienced actors.
“I was working with experienced actors like Sindi Dlathu, Lillian Dube and they helped me to relax and to be a better actress and I couldn’t have been more privileged," Zonke says.
“Being a well-known actress comes with so many expectations. There are certain things I cannot wear, and places I cannot go to. I can’t be in a taxi even when the car breaks down,” she says.
“And I am an ordinary girl from next door who enjoys the simple joys of life, but I’ve had to make a few changes because some people can’t tell the difference between Zonke the artist and Imani the home wrecker. But everywhere I go, I remain humble and remember that I am nothing without the viewers,” Zonke adds.
The mom to a four-year-old son says her job might be tough, but she still looks forward to getting on set and telling everyday people stories.
“At times I don’t spend enough time with my son, but I know it's all worth it building a legacy for myself and my family,” Zonke says. The biggest lesson she has learned is to remain true to who she is.
“I’ve learned that it’s my authenticity that will get me far in life and that I shouldn’t succumb to the pressures of wanting to be someone else,” Zonke adds.