Give her a role in any language and she'll take up the challenge.
Right now she's playing a Venda woman in one show, a Pedi former teacher in another and a Xhosa security guard in a third one. It's safe to say former Our Perfect Wedding (OPW) presenter Vele Manenje's plate is full.
After more than a year sabbatical from acting, Vele (33) is coming for everything. She's booked and busy. She tells Drum that she is blessed and grateful to have all these opportunities all at once.
“Big opportunities at such a time. Who else do I look at and what else do I look at? I can’t say talent. It is a verification from God that my first love is what I am meant to do. If I am going to get bookings like this during time, then it is a verification from God that this is what I need to do,” she says
Vele is on three shows at the moment and her characters are so different on each that they are giving her a chance to show off her talent.
“Everything seems to be moving smoothly and organically,” she says.
On Skeem Saam she plays a Pedi woman, Evelyn, who is a former schoolteacher who is intelligent and well-spoken. She is also a zealous reader with a fondness for poetry and meets a man with whom she forms a deep romantic connection.
On DiepCity she plays a Venda woman who knows all languages.
In KykNet G.I.L. (Grobbies *Internasionale Lughawe) she is a Xhosa security guard. "I speak nine official languages fluently," she tells us. She was born in Venda but she grew up in Tembisa. She went to a public school in the township and that's where she was exposed to different languages.
She loves languages and has enjoyed learning them over the years, and they've opened her up to different roles.
Vele stopped acting just after winning a SAFTA for her supporting role on Ring of Lies. She did this to take the reins from Nomsa Buthelezi Shezi on OPW in 2019.
“Now I am back to acting but I must say that coming back was a bit nerve wrecking. You worry if people are going to remember your acting and if your machine is still moving. With acting, the more you do it, the more you get better at it,” she says. She was worried for nothing though as jobs have poured in.
“The love makes me melt. I think it is my work, I do my work so wholeheartedly, I put my soul in it,” she says. Even though she is embraced and loved by many, she says she does get a little bit of hate.
Vele says not everything one does will be received well. “You need the crocodile skin for the people that come out gunning out for you. There are people who come out and hate you without you doing anything to them,” she says.
She's had to develop thick skin. “You stand a chance of getting attacks. I have learnt to realise that some battles have nothing to do with me. Someone might show hate but it is not a reflection on me. Whatever hate they show me, it is not part of my journey. I pull myself out if because it is not my journey. We live in a funny world, you need to be able to calculate what is meant for you and what is coming to test you,” she adds.
She has so much on her plate that she's basically working around the clock. If she gets some free time, she spends it reading lines for her next call time on set. It is a job that requires a lot of discipline and focus.
“Sometimes, I kind of get lost in the characters that you forget that you need time for Vele. Then I remind myself that I need to find space in between to bring Vele.”