There was a time she, like many South Africans, was reluctant to take the Covid-19 vaccine.
Like many, Pearl Thusi had concerns about what exactly she would be injecting into her body and the safety of the vaccine.
But the beloved actress, model and presenter debunked her fears with thorough research and is now encouraging others to do the same.
Pearl has partnered with Viral Facts Africa, a WHO Africa initiative that was created earlier this year to combat dangerous health misinformation, on their #BeASaver campaign.
She, like fellow ambassadors Springbok rugby player Faf de Klerk, comedian Riaad Moosa and Bafana Bafana player Thulani Hlatshwayo, will use her platform to combat vaccine hesitancy.
“To some people, my opinion matters more than others’ and I want to use that influence outside of the world of entertainment,” Pearl tells us.
“I want to be a piece of the puzzle that leads this country to a picture of perfect health.”
The most important tool to tackle vaccine hesitancy is heeding the research of credible scientists, Pearl says.
“If anyone has felt pressured or bullied into taking the jab, I have been there,” she says.
“Block out the noise and get the right information.
“I did the research and that helped me grow from the opinion I had, which was littered with fear and misinformation.”
The perception that the vaccine is killing people or responsible for the further spread of the coronavirus are two of the biggest myths she’s come across.
“For some people, the fact that the vaccine has been quickly developed worries them,” Pearl adds.
“But 30 years of research has been applied to this vaccination and as much as it’s been quick, scientists needed to act quickly instead of sitting back and watching people die.”
The reason why Pearl is so passionate about encouraging people to get the shot is because the pandemic has deeply impacted her life.
The second season of her Netflix original series Queen Sono was cancelled due to the pandemic. Pearl says thinking about how Covid-19 has affected her career makes her emotional.
“It’s been heart-breaking,” she says. “I’ve only been able to do one film this year. The trajectory my career was taking before the pandemic was a very different one compared to now.”
Last year she also lost her father, Bhekizizwe Thusi, when he suddenly died.
“Although it wasn’t due to Covid, all these combined emotionally distressing events in my life were tough.”
Pearl says she often found herself confronting “pockets of depression”.
“Dealing with my kids’ frustrations, having to pay my staff and finding creative ways to keep up financially has been psychologically damaging,” she says.
“I have been in and out of dark places and went through periods where I couldn’t get out of bed.”
Therapy enabled her to work through her emotions, Pearl adds.
“Seeing all the death happening around you and people that are really struggling makes you realise that you’re not in a position to feel sorry for yourself.”
The heartache of the past year is the reason she’s urging people to play their part in helping the country overcome the pandemic – but to do so with empathy
“We’re all human. Be empathetic towards one another so that people are willing to learn and listen,” Pearl says.