Zoe Mthiyane chats to us about motherhood and learning to live with fame

  • Zoe Mthiyane talks about using her mother’s passing to live up to the painful chapter and learning to live.
  • On motherhood, Zoe says she lives for her kids and forgets to carve out time for herself.
  • To curb mom guilt, she says she learned that her children are as individuals and as they are.

“You’re very tall!” exclaims TRUELOVE’S editor when former Generations: The Legacy actress Zoe Mthiyane joins our styling team at the kitchen at Gallery Momo, Parktown. A very graceful Zoe, who, in fact, has a lot of aura of whoever attends school, coyly admits that she gets a lot.

“It doesn’t irk me at all when people comment on my height because I understand that we look different on TV,” she says briefly, before taking on the day’s outfit options. Also, at 1,75 meters, with a perfectly chiselled face, you’d assume that she’s had a tenure as a model. That’s not the case, she says.

“Most people seem to think that I am used to a model. Yes, I’ve shot a few ads and modeled for a few designer friends, but I’ve never done it professionally. ”

Pop Star days

Zoe shot to fame as a contestant on SABC 1’s singing competition Coca Cola Pop Stars Back in 2003, and even though she didn’t make it to the top five, she went on to form the group Adilah, an album with her recorded EMI.

Dissatisfied with the musical direction of having a record label coerced into her, Zoe asked to be released from the contract, opting instead to perform corporate gigs and her worst, weddings.

“I hate singing at weddings, but I need the money,” she says in between a stifled chuckle.

Entering Coca Cola Pop Stars, Zoe says, was a springboard into the industry. “I come from Richard’s Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, where there are no opportunities for a young girl who wants to give this music thing a try,” she shares.

Given her shy nature, her decision to enter the singing competition raised many eyebrows. “I remember my mom and her friends asking how I planned to survive singing on TV because they listened hard to me,” she reminisces, adding that to the quell her shyness, her mom and the teachers she’s taking up drama She would step out of her shell.

“When I Came to Joburg, I Decided to Incorporate Acting My Singing Because I felt that the latter, alone, would not help me sustain myself. I was also on my way through tertiary, ”she says.

Zoe got into The Lion King South Africa, which took her to Australia. Following her two-year stint, she toured Europe and pursued other opportunities. In the music industry, Zoe says she’s no longer making music all over again.

Without giving any timelines, she adds that she’s been in talks with a few producers. “As a young girl, I walked into this industry headfirst and was gravely disappointed. I had a lot of hoops through the jump that I had until I had high expectations. I don’t have a particular sound in mind as I find labels very limiting, ”she says.

Life as an actress

The South African entertainment industry is notorious for being cutthroat and leaving many actors jobless and desolate.

Zoe confirms this and says: “You can go through six months of auditioning and not land a single gig. During this time, your bills just pile up. ”

She admits she has had many career highs in Europe, such as opening the Legend of Tarzan and traveling with other theater productions. Now, she’d like to replicate some of those international career highlights back home here.

“Internationally, artists get benefits like medical cover, insurance and freedom to join a union. I miss all of that, ”she says.

With that said, she lists acting on Generations: The Legacy as a big achievement. Following an audition and a few callbacks, Zoe joined Soapie as Zitha in September 2016. She was first signed up for three months, but as her storyline expanded, her contract was extended, too.

Commenting on her devious character, Zoe says she’s been playing a villain who has had an interesting turn of events – especially with the abuse storyline rolled out in the soapie in 2019 – because she’s mostly played the good girl.

“I’m lucky because there’s always something challenging, yet enjoyable about every character that I’ve portrayed. With Zitha, for instance, she’s almost schizophrenic, so I’ve had to dig deep to bring her to life.

“I wish I was as bold as her – but I’m moving closer to that goal. I no longer hold back, nor do I doubt myself. Before, I was the queen’s self-doubt. With time, age and experience, I’ve shed those negative layers, ”she enthuses.

Playing with such a challenging character comes with its share of negative energy that, if not controlled, can easily seep into one’s reality.

“When I leave set, I have to find the moments that help me replenish the positive energy that Zitha [sucked] out of me, lest I find myself sinking into a dark space. What really [helped was] My children are yelling, ‘MOM!’ ”

READ MORE | 8 Celebration Moms on What Motherhood Has Brought Them

Motherhood, my saving grace

Certain people and experiences lighten our load, making life that much more bearable. For Zoe, her children are breathing for her reasons, as the cliché goes.

In a typical instance of losing and then gaining some, Zoe became a mom six weeks after her mother’s passing in 2011. The entire family, she says, had been preparing for an out-of-town wedding, but a heavily pregnant Zoe stayed behind . Upon their return, her mother lost her life in a car accident.

“Imagine getting those type of news at 03:00. I don’t remember crying – my sister and I were literally screaming. My mom was the only parent I had left. When my dad passed away I was 22. She raised us on her own, was very strong and had a great-grandmother. My son’s birth and we’ve been spending a lot of time together to prepare for the gone home, ”she recalls.

In retrospect, Zoe says that going into motherhood after burying her own mother gave her a new sense of strength and a different outlook on life.

“It was during this period of time that I needed to move on to my mother. Feeling lost, I clung onto my firstborn. I was just concerned with surviving, ”she says, tears almost clouding her eyes.

She quickly regains her composure and continues, “I haven’t gotten over my mother, but I’ve learned to bargain and live with the pain. Losing a parent is just about losing them in physical form. It is a lost comforter that you call at 04:00, telling them that things are going well, and someone will pray with you over the phone. ”

By clinging onto motherhood, perhaps as much as a form of solace, Zoe says she didn’t commit to the biggest mistake that most mothers make.

“I lived for my kids and would have forgotten to buy myself stuff, or even go out. We, moms, often feel guilty about wanting time out, forgetting that these rare moments should never trump all the good. To curb mommy guilt, I’m learning and my children are as individuals and attending to that, ”she explains.

If I had to read one book for the rest of my life

It would have been an autobiography. I’m more of a listener, than a talker. I’m drawing people’s lives and learning from others’ stories.

My life is titled this chapter

Forgiving And Centering Myself, Finding Clarity And Putting Less Focus Into Negativity. I don’t have a single name to encapsulate how I’m feeling, but this is my current state of mind.

Meals that I can’t live without

I love homely meals – I’m not big on fast foods. I eat a lot, and exercise regularly. I think where most people go wrong is when they start starving themselves and lose weight, when in fact, it makes the body go into survival mode.

On a Sunday morning, you’re likely to find me

Drinking coffee. My day does not start before that – it’s very important as a mom. I like to ease into the day, spend time with the children, clean up and maybe go to church because my son enjoys Sunday school.

On regrets

I’ve survived many hardships and came out feeling the other side. If I hadn’t gone through what I did, I wouldn’t know what I was doing. I’ve had some nice knocks along the way (chuckles).

On her lowest moments

When my career was stagnant, I once called my late mom and told her that I wanted to move back home. She’d always remind me that the road to success is pricey, tell me to hang in there, and insist that I come home for the weekend, and then return to Joburg.

On what keeps her afloat

I’ve had a lot of friends on the cut-down. Prayerful women with whom I am now surrounded by a prayer baton who are always happy to run. I know I can count on my older sister and cousin at any moment. At home, I try to create a completely loving space.

On What’s Inspiring Her Right Now

For the longest time, I was driven by wanting to be a role model for my kids. Now I finally understand that life is too short – I’m pushing myself to do the things I’ve always wanted. This was inspired by my mother – how she was here one minute, and gone very soon.

On motherhood

I’m a perfectionist who wants things done according to my plan. Motherhood has to be flexible and never cry over spilled milk.

On her bucket list items

Most of the things I think I have achieved are those that I set out to do. For example, I never thought I’d be able to sing in front of a large crowd, then I went and sang in front of 13,000 spectators at Wembley Stadium, England. I like to tap into fashion, at some point, because that’s what I actually studied.

Game of Fame

Zoe starts off with her answer to what the fame has to say, “sjoe”, followed by a big sigh. She sounds like someone who’s either been burnt by a fame, or who’s looking forward to her end of the piece.

“I didn’t go into this looking for fame, even though I knew that the two walked side by side,” she says, even mentioning that the fame has been tricky to navigate. Judging by how graceful Zoe is and her nonchalant attitude towards the limelight, one cannot help but wonder why, at one point, her personal life and character were tabloids in a recurring subject.

“The worst is reading a made-up story, and the sad thing about being in the spotlight is that people gobble up whatever negative story they are. It’s tricky because you want to fight back, but that takes energy, ”she says, her tone clear in the air.

So, how did she keep her head up amid a raging sea of ​​negative publicity?

“As a black woman, it is already difficult for me to survive or sustain myself and my career. There is absolutely no reason for the mud to be dragged on, “she says.

She’s had a shift focus and, she says, seek solace in the truth of those who know her.

READ MORE | The harmful Huggy Wuggy game against the Ayanda Borotho warns – plus how can you protect your children

Lessons learnt

The tabloid chapter of Zoe Walked Out empty-handed – she’s got a few strategies that keep her sane. The first is to never read any negative story written about her. Secondly, she refuses to discuss her love life.

“I spent so many years preparing for my career, studying and hustling, only for my efforts to be reduced. I’ll confirm if I’m in a relationship or not, but that’s where it ends, ”she says resolutely.

And adds: “Initially, I was telling my side of the story to the right thing, until I learned that a tabloid journalist calls you, they’ve already decided on an angle and in most cases, the story is written. ”

At first, when the negative publicity of the pits in thrust, Zoe would ask her family to cry and pray for her space. Her biggest epiphany came when a friend reminded her that if she could survive her mom’s passing, then she could tackle any problem.

“Pain is never in vain. Those are tough moments, too, reminding me to thank God for the big thing He’s preparing for me, ”she says.

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