NOT many people are familiar with the name Penelope Jane Dunlop. But the minute you mention the name PJ Powers, who is also affectionately known as Thandeka, people know exactly who you’re talking about.
INSPIRATION IN HER LIFE
True to her name Thandeka, this star is loved by many. Even the late Nelson Mandela was her biggest fan. When asked how the name came about, she explains that she got it during the apartheid days when she was part of a band called Hotline. “We went out there and sang our hearts out during a festival. The crowd loved the performance and started calling me Thandeka. The name stuck,” she recalls. But it’s hard for her to pin-point one emotion with regards to Madiba being her biggest fan. She says Tata was and continues to be an inspiration in her life. PJ Powers, who has a musical career that spans more than 40 years, attributes her staying power to authenticity and never forgetting where she comes from. “Staying true to yourself and surrounding yourself with good people helps,” she says. “I have a very close relationship with my mother who is now 92 and she helps me stay grounded. It’s so easy to lose yourself in this industry.”
DEALING WITH ALCOHOL ABUSE
But it has not been smooth sailing for the Jabulani hitmaker. She has also struggled with alcohol abuse. She looks back at it and says it was the lowest point of her colourful showbiz career. She says when a certain supermarket chain store used her name to promote alcohol, she felt insulted and hurt. “That they would make light of something so serious and real fornot only me, but many people in this country was wrong and uncalled for,” she points out. The matter was put to rest through legal action and the advert was later discontinued.
The award-winning musician has partnered with Khulisa Social Solutions to run a mentorship programme for young people from underprivileged backgrounds. The mentors impart wisdom and resources where they can to support and encourage the youth to excel in their studies and future pursuits. “I’m a huge believer in educating and helping other people. This is the perfect opportunity to do exactly that,” she says.