5 minutes with Moliehi ‘Didie’ Makobane - 'I learnt my true character when I wasn’t booking jobs'

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Actress Moliehi Makobane chats to us about self-love, breaking into the industry and more.
Actress Moliehi Makobane chats to us about self-love, breaking into the industry and more.
Andile Buka/ Lampost

Moliehi ‘Didie’ Makobane, or the #TheShortQueen as she’s dubbed herself, talks using her Sesotho accent to brand herself, never-ending height chronicles and self-love.

Humility and discipline are two of my most vital values. Discipline breeds consistency, and only then can you achieve the things that you set out to do. I cannot stress how important it is to be humble. I learnt these lessons from how my parents raised my sister and I. My dad is the epitome of discipline, consistency and not giving up — I think that’s where I get my resilience. I learnt humility from my mom.

I have dual citizenship. My dad is South African and my mom from Lesotho, where I was born. In 1995, we moved to Joburg so, to a certain extent, I identify more with Joburg as home than I do with Lesotho. Rightfully, home is in QwaQwa in the Free State, because that’s where my father’s from.”

My parents are proud Basotho. And that’s where my sense of pride stems from. I remember walking into the house as a teen using ‘ko’ in my sentences (fusing Sesotho with Setswana) and my mother reprimanded me. She was very firm when she said, ‘In my house we speak proper Sesotho.’

My Sesotho accent has finally stood me in good stead. Because I’m a Wits University graduate, I assumed getting acting jobs after graduating would be easy. I got the rudest awakening of my life when I realised there were many young actors all gunning for the same thing. I remember asking myself, ‘How the heck am I going to make this work for me?’ It was at that point that I had to find my X-factor. I thought, ‘Ke Mosotho, but is that even enough in an industry where most briefs that are sent out are for Nguni-speaking performers, and not that many Sesotho or Setswana briefs?’ I had to make one of the toughest yet, most rewarding decisions of my life.

I took Bosotho baka and made that my unique selling point. It wasn’t easy in the beginning, because there were times when I’d get briefs and producers would say, ‘We really wanted you for this role, and we weren’t even going to audition you for it, but it’s for a Nguni actress.’ I realised there weren’t that many local actors who spoke proper Sesotho and decided to fill that gap. I knew this would be that unique factor I’d been looking for and that, in a way, helped me stand out. Granted, the work didn’t come as frequently as it did for the others.

My biggest breakthrough was on Intersexions. My character was originally written for a Xhosa-speaking actress. But, not only did they change the language, they literally changed the character’s entire world to accommodate me. That, right there, was my Aha! moment. I remember thinking to myself, ‘If that can happen, then I’m on the right path and I’m sticking to my guns.’ To this day, I still get some roles tailored to accommodate who I am, what I do and what I represent.

I don’t want to be typecast as that ‘forward girl’. If there’s anything I’m paranoid about, it’s actually being typecast, character-wise. I don’t only want to play roles where I’m always that girl who’s tjatjarag. Language is not a factor — when people watch me, they already know that I’m going to whip out that perfect Sesotho. But, I’d like to attract other roles too. I want people to see my name on a new show and wonder what I’m offering this time around.”

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I learnt my true character when I wasn’t booking jobs. Firstly, during that time, I learnt how strong I am. Secondly, I learnt the importance of being selfish with yourself — not selfish in the sense of mistreating others, but knowing that I cannot give to others when my cup is not full. Furthermore, I need to be selfish to the point where my cup is overflowing, so I can give from my saucer, and not the actual cup.

Self-love can get you through anything. To me, self-love is the ability to give to yourself what you would readily expect the next person to give you. On many occasions, we seek love or validation externally. Then, when it doesn’t come to pass at the time that we need it, we go crazy. Whereas, if the love is inside you, even when you feel lonely as a single person, you are able to get through those days and get to the bottom of why you’re feeling iffy. I’ve learnt how to become a better person to myself.

I’ve decided to totally own and rock my height. I ended up branding myself #TheShortQueen because people are annoying [chuckles]. I’ve been short my entire life, so too is my mom. Because I look taller on TV, people can’t help but remind me how short I am when they see me in person. Growing up, I looked up to my mom because she wore her shortness with such confidence. As a result, I wanted to be as short as her [chuckles]. I’ve had my fair share of insecurities about my height, especially during my teen years when I’d get teased. But now when I look in the mirror, I literally don’t see a short person. It’s others that remind me of my height deprivation. I had a choice between allowing this to get to me or making lemonade out of it. I chose the latter option.”

I still maintain that having faith is a big deal when you work in our industry. I’m not going to take away from people who’re not spiritual, or who don’t necessarily put God first — I don’t judge them at all. God keeps me sane. I understand the need of having a thick skin as an entertainer, but your faith game must be on another level. I can tell you now, I’ve been rejected more times than I’ve booked work, but I’ve come to accept when an opportunity isn’t meant for me, instead of beating myself up about it.

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