When the discussion around ‘IT’ girls comes up, it is nearly impossible not to think of Nonhle Thema who once spent her days living between South Africa and the United States as an O-access presenter and Dark & Lovely global ambassador.
Although the star has had a tumultuous career - extreme highs and extreme lows - she’s managed to reinvent herself and has made a return to our TV screens as the sassy Cleopatra ‘Cleo’ Mofokeng on Mzansi Magic’s popular drama-series, Gomora.
All about Cleo
“Cleopatra is such a cool character. She’s there to cause a bit drama and make quick money," Nonhle tells TRUELOVE.
"She uses her beauty and charm to lure people in. She dresses very well and that’s one of the things I love about playing her. The way she dresses makes people think she’s loaded and that’s how she lures them into her web. But underneath all of that, she’s a very smart girl whose a schemer and is very street smart – a typical kasi girl."
Even though she’s never been involved in pyramid schemes, Nonhle says that it was easy to play Cleo because of the similarities she shares with the character.
“I had to draw a little bit of me and what I thought a scammer would be like,” she says.
“It was easy to bring her out because I also have a kasi vibe since I’m from Soweto. I speak a lot of tsotsi taal when playing her and that’s something people haven’t really heard me speak. We’re very similar in the sense that she’s very smart and ambitious and knows what she wants. I’m also like that and I calculate everything that I do.”
Starting a talent coaching academy
After last appearing on TV in 2018, the 38-year-old says that she’s glad to have taken the one and a half year long hiatus.
“It was good for me to be away; I think sometimes it’s good for people to miss a person in life. In that time, I started my own talent company which I’m very proud of,” she says.
“We’re nurturing young people who want to be in the industry – from aspiring models, actors and actresses who all want to be in the space. What better way for me to share my experiences than with young talent? I’ve been in the industry and I know exactly what it takes. I give classes on all of that - even social media etiquette, how to handle yourself and how to follow your dreams.”
Having been exposed to the limelight at a young age, Nonhle admits that she didn’t really understand how to navigate the industry and didn’t know who she was. She hopes that her talent company, the Talent Coaching Academy will prevent her students from making the mistakes that she made.
“When I was extremely successful at a young age there was not much mentorship around me or guidance. Therefore, when you’re young and have to navigate everything by yourself, it becomes a little trickier. So, I’m there as a big sister to my students so that they can have a mentor and I can coach them on how to manoeuvre themselves in the industry.”
Finding her voice again
Talking about picking up the pieces of her life after nearly ruining her career with her controversies, Nonhle says she had to take some time off from the 'scene' to discover herself, grow and to get in touch with her spirituality.
If you’re wondering whether you’ll get to see the star presenting again, you’re in luck because she currently has an online show that she hosts.
“Now that I’ve fallen back in love with the television industry again, it would definitely be nice to be a television presenter again. Television presenting was always my first love and I’d love to go back to it. But for now, I’ve been doing stuff online. I’ve got an online Instagram show where I deal with stuff in entertainment.”
Being a mother to her nearly 8-year-old daughter has also helped the actress to remain positive.
“My daughter is really really smart; she’s my little best friend and I’ve been enjoying motherhood," she says.
"She’s growing up and I’m loving every moment of it. I’m staying positive and enjoying family life as a whole. I’ve got a very wonderful partner and I’m in a good mental space. Physically as well I’m the fittest I’ve ever been. I workout and have changed my diet.”
She also says that she’s got her fans to thank for the support they’ve given her over the years.
“I love my fans and thank them so much for always writing to me and supporting me after all these years. They’ve watched me evolve from when I was a child. I want to engage with them more and be accessible to them and assist through my coaching school. They’re more than welcome to learn from me and to speak to me whenever they want to.”
Catch Nonhle as the sassy Cleopatra on Mzansi Magic’s Gomora at 19:30 every weekday.