Nyalleng Thibedi is popularly known for her role ‘Mpho’ in ETV’s soapie Ashes to Ashes. So far Miss Thibedi has shown Mzansi that she is a force to be reckoned with. She is not only beautiful, but is talented in every way. Agree right? We had a great honour to speak to Nyalleng Thibedi and in the following interview, she tells about her role in Ashes to Ashes, her personal life and future aspirations….
YV: How would you describe Nyalleng?
I am a dreamer, a go getter, highly ambitious, unstoppable, resilient and very strong. When I set myself a goal nothing can deter me. A typical dynamite in a small package. I love life and enjoy turning whatever challenges that get thrown at me into something good…….. Turning lemons into lemonade.
YV: How long have you been an actress? And when did you get started?
As a kid I used to take drama lessons at funda centre. It was then that I got bit by the acting bug. Little did I know then that my first paying job as an actress would be years later. I started out doing TV commercials and realised then that I needed to first immerse myself in theatre, so I can have authentic acting skills. I learned about the concept of the actors studio and decided to move to the Americas. I spent a total of SIX years in the US working, taking classes, being part of a theatre group and acting in any stage production I could get involved in.
YV: What challenges do you face on a daily basis in the industry?
I trained in an environment where art is highly respected and artists are viewed as influential people opposed to non game changers. Where art and intellect are not mutually exclusive. I find it very challenging that acting is not perceived that way in our country especially after investing so much. People still come up to me and congratulate me for an awesome performance and then go on to ask me what it is I really do. : (
YV: What are your strong points as an actor?
Honesty and vulnerability. I render myself completely to what is about to happen whether I am leading, supporting or featuring. I believe without the RELEVANT emotion for a scene it is difficult to establish truth. I like lee Strasberg’s method and use emotional memory to bring different things to life.
YV: Tell us about Ashes to Ashes, how is the experience like being part of the soapie?
I am grateful to Clive Morris Productions for giving me this opportunity , and to etv for creating avenues where people like me can use our gifts to bless others. Ashes to Ashes is truly a professional structure and I am privileged to work with such an awesome cast. I grew up watching some of the legendary actors on our show and now I get to exchange a word with them. My father is up at 4am every morning and his hard work inspires me, I come from a family of hard workers. I am very happy to be part of such a hard working and dedicated team. My main objective was to bring some of the skills I learned to the plate but while I was busy doing that I also got to learn from some of the best about how the Industry in SA works.
I am able to talk to Pat Shai, Nambitha Mpumlwana as well Menzi Ngubane about something I hold so dear to my heart and they have a wealth of knowledge not only about the industry in SA but acting as a skill and discipline. We also have a phenomenal group of young actors who I get to share the set with. My primaries are great actors and I love working with them .
YV: Who is your favourite SA actor or actress?
Gosh there are quite a few but watching Nambitha Mpumlwana and Pat Shai not only on TV, but watching them on set too can be a goose bump raising experience. Talk about the method. I also enjoy watching Mpumelelo Bhulose’s work.
YV: What has been your biggest achievement in the field of acting?
I pinched myself every time I walked the streets of New York. I put my Honours Degree down and did cocktail waitressing, cleaning and etc to be able to pay for my classes. That I was able to do that has been an achievement, because being a foreigner for so long embedded life lessons in me that I use every single day and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
YV: Where do you draw inspiration from?
From the source of my life. I wake up every morning and consult with the source to enable me to do what I don’t know how to do. I strive to outdo myself every single day. I do not draw strength from the outside but rather from what has been put inside of me. One of the things that makes acting resonate with my personal journey, is that one never ceases to stop learning and re inventing oneself. There is always room for growth. ALWAYS! I think it was Will Smith that said in one of his interviews that he still takes acting classes to this day. For me I can always do better I wake up every day thinking what am I going to do better today? Even if it’s just washing dishes or cooking. It is how am I going to make this stew better than yesterday’s one that keeps me excited about life. Everything I put my hands to I have to do it with excellence even if it has no personal gain. When I am an extra in a scene my thing is how am I going to be the best extra EVER! That’s how I stay inspired.
YV: What do you for fun?
I come from a close knit family. My sister happens to work in the industry when we are not working we spend a lot of the time talking about the acting from my side and the business side of entertainment from her end. I cook and we sit around the table talking and writing. My mother is a great motivator she lets us make our own decisions but when she opens her mouth she leaves my sister and I pondering. My father established a tradition of taking us on dates so I also enjoy catching up with him when I am not working. He is a ball of wisdom and I just enjoy listening to him. We love movies and watch a lot of them at home. I enjoy being alone a lot and when everyone is busy I go to the movies alone and walk on the beach alone. I used to do karaoke, the bowling alley as well as skate in central park in New York. I am hoping to get back into my outdoor type stuff and find a karaoke spot here home soon.
YV: Your favourite musician is…?
My taste in music is versatile. When I was home sick I would listen to the music of Mirriam Makeba, Letta Mbali, Hugh Masekela, Caiphus Semenya, Brenda Fassie, Rebecca Malope and really fell love.
Sometimes I listen to Soweto Gospel Choir, Shirley Caesar, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson.
Lastly I also enjoy hip hop. I think Kid X, KO are NAAK music are doing a great job!
YV: Are you in a relationship? If so, who’s the lucky guy?
No! I am in a space where my work and my family take precedence over everything. I have huge responsibilities. The guy that will be part of my life has to really love my family and be supportive of what I do. He hasn’t found me, so that’s not a priority at this juncture in my life. Maybe in the future and when I cross paths with this phenomenal guy you will be the first to know 🙂
YV: What do you enjoy the most, acting or modeling?
Acting is the best thing ever. To me it is an avenue to tell stories and potentially afford the next person (e.g Mpho) to look at themselves and change their lives hopefully for the better. The first monologue I ever did I was watched by approximately 7000 people two weeks later I bumped into someone in times square and they said,” you are that lady that did that did the monologue it really touched my heart, It made me think about my relationship with my father. That’s what I love about it. One word accompanied by an action and therefore reaction can change the course of the next person’s life . Fame is a by-product of acting but acting is about making an impact not the glitz and glamour. Lastly acting is about entertaining, this is awesome. Just to drive back from work and anticipate how Damien is gonna make you laugh. Acting is aweome!
YV: What do you think can be done to overcome the challenges facing the South African youth?
Before I address what can be done may say this; Progress starts first with self. It is important to first be in touch with your source. When you are in tune with this your purpose becomes clearer. That’s what brings joy. You live a purposeful life, so that even when things go wrong there is always that thing that centres you.
Once the individual has done that…….The youth needs encouragement, platforms of advice, upliftment and guidance. I was always in search of the right things, but there were instances where I needed a helping hand. Everything I have acquired I have worked hard for, but even for me to complete my bachelor’s at UCT it took someone saying, you know what this young lady is gifted, let’s give her a scholarship and help her acquire this honours degree in chemical engineering that she wants. The youth needs more forums where they can be inspired and told they matter and that they can be somebody. More resources need to be put in place to help with the acquisition of skills. We also need to instill a sense if pride in the different avenues young people choose to venture in. Lastly our youth need to be taught the concept of giving opposed to getting. Attaining your dream is a journey and often times one needs to give before they can get. No one owes us anything but we can give and in so doing our dreams may be realised. We need to instill a culture of servitude.
YV: Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
I feel like I have only just begun. I did theatre because I want to do movies, so I am definitely looking forward to that. I have a few business ideas that I am excited to implement and grow in the next few years.
YV: Any advice to young women who want to pursue acting in the future?
Yes first of make sure it is something you really want to do for the right reasons. As for me the measuring stick was: what kind of work would I do if I wasn’t getting paid. I did quite a few shows getting no pay, if I was lucky I would get a stipend. Secondly invest in it (time and money); equip yourself with the necessary tools for your craft, put in the hard work. Lastly a pinch of tenacity, patience, humility and a teachable spirit have yielded a tremendous amount of favour.