Zandi Nhlapo on returning to TV - ‘It’s strange but I’m enjoying it’

She has been running her business behind the scenes for more than 10 years, but Zandi Nhlapo is now taking on a new challenge as an actress.
She has been running her business behind the scenes for more than 10 years, but Zandi Nhlapo is now taking on a new challenge as an actress.
Zandi Nhlapo/Instagram

It's been a while since she last had an acting gig and seeing herself on television again is strange. 

Former SABC 1 continuity presenter and businesswoman Zandi Nhlapo (46) has joined Imbewu. She recently debuted on the soapie on 18 October, playing the role of Nompi Khanyeza, who is Fikile's mom, played by Phindile Gwala. She shows up in her daughter’s life to reveal an uncomfortable truth.

Zandi last had an acting gig when she was 18 years old playing the daughter of detective Dick Sithole. But that was the first and last. 

So she's had some adjustments to make.

“Even when I was a presenter, I never used to watch myself,” she tells Drum.

“Back then we did live television, so everything was instantaneous, and I didn’t get a chance to watch myself. So, it’s strange. But maybe I will get used to it and criticise myself less.”

On Imbewu, Zandi plays a mom whose relationship with her daughter has been strained due to her strict parenting style. Nompi believes that children should be seen and not heard, and her return brings chaos.

Zandi’s parenting style with her three girls, 29 years old, 18 years old, and 10 years old is far different from Nompi.

“I’m a liberal mom. My kids are talkative, strong-willed and they are mama’s babies. Nompi and Zandi are opposites in their parenting perspective. Nompi is hard-hearted, unapologetic, and has a strong sense of character. She borders on mean and has a rather boxed way of doing things, maybe because she’s had to live with this damning truth buried deep inside of her for so long,” Zandi says.

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She has been approached for other roles in the past but had turned them down. Being back on television again means learning to adjust to being in front of the camera.

“I am looking forward to getting deeper into Nompi. I must say the emotional scenes were hard and emotionally taxing for me, but I’m appreciative that playing the character makes me revisit how I am parenting my girls every day.”

Zandi left the limelight and became a partner at a branding and logistics company before deciding to open Liquid Image Consultants company in 2010.

The last time she appeared on tv was in 2013.

“Fame and being accessible to everyone bothered me,” she says.

“I loved television. Even from a young age, I knew I would be on tv, but I couldn’t conscientize the impact of television. For me, it was a job and I realised later six million people were watching.”

At the peak of her career, she wanted to step down due to the pressure.

“Things just became too much for me. I loved the attention until it started turning negative. We became consumables but and no longer people. People would say anything to us, speak at you and not with you. I decided to withdraw and try other career avenues. The natural progression would have been to go into production but communications, public relations, branding won,” she says.

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Zandi believes show business has changed in both good and bad ways.

“I never considered myself a celebrity. I was always humble and ordinary. I never had celebrity friends, and I was just a girl from elokshin (the township) and nothing’s changed,” she says. But she misses the good old day when there were no social media. 

“People are just mean now. I miss the kindness and ubuntu of the good old days. There was less crime. Women have always been in danger but now it’s worse and it’s scary raising girl children. Everyone was kind and less confrontational. People are mean on social media and are comfortable with telling strangers mean things.”

Zandi has no regrets about the decisions she has made in the past and present but at the height of her career, she wishes she would have bought properties. “But I have no regrets about the way I lived, my decisions, and all I am is grateful.” 

Her secret to longevity and staying young are having a good laugh and drinking a lot of water.

“I try to eat right and take care of myself, but my body loves water, and it responds well to it.”

Whether or not she will take on more acting roles in the future, only time will tell. “I just want to do projects that are going to blow my skirt up and excite me.”

She wanted to jump into tv production but was offered an acting job. “To me, it feels like I’ve been channeling something to the universe, and it answered it differently. Maybe this is where I need to be first before getting into production. So I am grateful, and I will see where this opportunity takes me,” she says.

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