Fame is very dark. I went through a lot of doubting and depression – Chichi Letswalo
The Isithembiso actress reflects on how fame led her astray and how she’s come back stronger and more confident.
You’ve been off-screen for a while now, what have you been up to?I focused more on doing corporate gigs and I’ve also been in New York studying at the Theatre, Film and Television in Chelsea. I was studying acting, filming and directing. I sort of over-stayed my welcome and did some travelling while there. I came back home and tried to figure myself out. When I got back to SA I did a lot of corporate commercial and training videos for Barloworld, MTN and Standard Bank and more. I needed some downtime and a chance to figure myself out and that’s why I did those. In having that time, it made me miss acting. It’s hard to pinpoint how long I was away for as I was in and out of the country, but I think it was for three years.
You’re now on Mzansi Magic’s Isithembiso, are you enjoying acting again?I longed to be on set with an amazing cast with brilliant actors, new and old. Isithembiso is actually what I’d prayed for and at the end of last year the opportunity to play Claudia came and in the first week of this year I got to play her on the show. The universe clearly manifested exactly what I’d asked for; I’m having the time of my life now. The cast is sensational, the script and storyline are interesting. There’s lots of mystery, Isithembiso is exactly the show I would watch. I’ve never played a role like this before; where I’m a mother of three and married to the wonderful but not so wonderful Banzi (played by Hamilton Dlamini).
Would you say Claudia is, somewhat, a reflection of society today?My character is living the magic in misery. She reminds me of a lot of black women right now, which are so smart, so beautiful and can run things on their own yet attach themselves to these men that just bring them down and lead them astray. They have to put on the façade that they’re living the life – she lives in a mansion and drives the fancy cars, wearing the shoes and clothes meanwhile it’s all smoke and mirrors. It’s not real. I love playing Claudia because she’s the antithesis of me, I would never sacrifice my soul for money and material things. Claudia’s very materialistic and assumes the role of a power couple with Banzi – when behind closed doors everything is amiss. They’re always fighting which as a result has convinced me to not get married.
So you don’t want to get married in real life?No, it’s not for me. I don’t want to get married and I don’t want kids. It’s a definite no from me for those things. The reality is, it’s not for everyone. It’s my choice, in fact so many people are married and not happy – you get so many terrible husbands, wives and couples. We aren’t all made for marriage nor to have kids. All my friends who were married are now divorced. It all begins with knowing thyself – I know myself and I know that I’m not designed to be married or have children. I’m also very moody; you have to know the good and the bad sides about yourself and I embrace both. They make me who I am. I also don’t like following the set life paradigm of going to school, getting married thereafter, be a doctor or whatever and have kids. You shouldn’t be a squirrel in someone else’s life looking for a peanut either. I want to be the cake with the cherry on top! The reason I hold Claudia so profoundly is that we need to realise that you can be the man in your life that you want to be with. Once you are both things then you attract the right things. It’s all about self-love and not being in a place of desperation.
Did being away from the limelight have any benefits?I spent a lot of time self-reflecting while away. I got so lost in the entertainment industry back then. Fame is horrible, very confusing, it’s an illusion – it doesn’t exist. The people who are fans and love you, they don’t really know you. It’s also an industry that feeds you lies, if you don’t know who you are then you start believing all those things other people say you are and then it creates a monster and a beast. When then the fans pull you down, it rips you apart and you also start believing you are those horrible things. In the entertainment industry you need to know your core from the onset and you mustn’t be affected by insults and flattery – everything must come from you. I’m now able to acknowledge exactly what I want. I’m my own motivator and critic. I’ve had to learn all that. I was so young when I was in the industry and I got so lost in it and I got to a place where I didn’t know who I was – I didn’t know if I was a girl or bicycle. I went through a lot of doubting and depression. Fame is very dark.
If you had to have coffee with anyone in the world dead or alive, who would they be?Grace Jones, American author, Deepak Chopra and definitely TD Jakes – these are the people that feed me and keep me alive and going.