Women’s Month highlights the challenges women face as well as their successes, talents and the contributions they are making to bettering our society. Various actresses, such as Zenande Mfenyana, Liopelo Maphathe and Rami Chuene have wowed us with their on-screen presence and stunning performances that have kept us tuning into their shows week after week.
Here we find out what they have to say about facilitating women in the entertainment industry, having their voices heard, mentoring other women and so much more…
Zenande Mfenyana (34) has made a name for herself as a talented actress on programmes like The Queen and Generations. While she has had the opportunity to play a range of powerful roles, she believes women’s voices have not yet been adequately represented on screen, but with time, believes our stories will be given the spotlight to shine.
“The steps towards representing women’s voices in the creative industry are on a slow but steady climb,” says Zenande, who hails from Kagiso in Gauteng. “As more female writers emerge, our stories as women are being written down and being told through storytelling. As you give one woman the power and the platform to shape the narrative of how women’s stories ought to be told, you inadvertently give permission to many other women to have the courage to speak up about the issues women face on a daily basis.”
Zenande is speaking up and making her personal voice/ideas heard through the big following she has on different social media platforms, which have given her the chance to voice any joys or grievances she may have regarding women. “Being a voice to the voiceless is a powerful tool, which I’ve managed to use adequately thus far,” she says.
Across the country are young women yearning to be like Zenande and use their skills, talent and passion for acting to tell an array of different stories. Her advice to other women who would like to take up space in the creative industry is that it is vast and there are so many avenues to be explored. “They should do their own personal research to equip themselves with enough knowledge for the field they want to go into,” explains Zenande. “It’s so important to really dig deep and ask yourself hard questions about why it is you want to be in this creative space. It’s not for the faint at heart, you need to have a strong backbone and be able to withstand whatever challenge is thrown at you.”
Zenande loves mentoring young actresses who are just cutting their teeth in the industry. Through young women engaging in job shadowing, she has been afforded the opportunity to mentor many of them. “It warms my heart when you see the passion in those who are open to learning,” says Zenande. “Having a teachable spirit is so important. It takes nothing away from you and your talent to guide and help shape someone else’s dream. I’d love more opportunities to mentor. I speak from experience and I always keep it real.”
Liopelo Maphathe (38) is well known to audiences through her roles on popular shows like Muvhango, Gaz’Lam and Scandal among numerous others. Her work has also involved presenting shows such as Afro Café and In Your Defense as well as being part of a string of commercials for various brands including Standard Bank and the City of Johannesburg.
So, with the focus on Women’s Month, does she think women’s voices and stories have been adequately represented on screen and behind the scenes (in production, screen writing, etc…)? “I feel women’s voices are growing much quicker than their stories,” says Liopelo, who is originally from Lesotho. “I believe as women, we hold each other back by not supporting and nurturing one another for obvious reasons, i.e., competitiveness, which could be positive if used well. But, it’s almost as though there are a lot more underlying issues among us, which I am looking at unpacking in order to support, grow and create a much better vibe/relations for us to get along.”
Liopelo adds that this competitiveness affects women in all spheres, but mostly in the entertainment industry. “As society looks to entertainment for influence, edutainment, support, relaxation and rehabilitation, we as women need to resolve the issues among ourselves to be well on our way to greatness.”
She feels the minute women can freely trust one another to be vulnerable among each other, we will be well on our way to growing together, healing and supporting one another and just from that more stories will prevail that will lead to happy endings and positive influence. “As women, we are at an advantage because we are emotionally intuitive, smart and caring, over and above the education and skills we attain.”
Liopelo believes that the next most important step we all need to take to facilitate women’s development in the entertainment industry is to be cognisant of one another in the different spaces within the business. “We need to sensitively attend to one another by making time to create dialogues, Lekhotla la basadi; chats, talks, parties and high teas, you name it,” explains Liopelo. “With our nurturing spirit, we could surely get into our best depths and learn how to deal with one another, respect and care for each other as just by being women, we know how best to.”
Going forward, she would like to mentor other women, believing that is her calling. “I would like to touch and impact a few people’s lives to make a difference and be the change we all want to see,” says Liopelo. “Nothing gives me pleasure like seeing another person persevere, grow and succeed, especially a woman.”
Her advice to other women who would like to take up space in the entertainment industry is to seriously ask themselves if they want to get into it for fame, passion or love. She would also inform them of the responsibility of being a woman in the entertainment industry, and lastly that they need to find out how committed they are to acting.
“Becoming an actress is like going into a love affair that one nurtures in the hope of getting into a marriage without ever divorcing!”
Not only is Rami Chuene (45) a popular South African actress, author, MC and voice-over artist, but she also recently launched her own foundation. The Rami Chuene Foundation is aimed at helping and supporting vulnerable women, disadvantaged children as well as HIV/AIDS and cancer causes.
Although Rami has had a long and varied career, she feels that in general, women’s voices and stories have not been adequately represented onscreen and behind the scenes. “There have been a few opportunities for a few women and that’s a step in the right direction, but we need more room, more space and more opportunities that are specifically and intentionally reserved for women,” she explains. “Also, the process shouldn’t be made hard for them to flourish in the industry.”
In her many years as an actress, she has never stopped voicing her thoughts and opinions – although it hasn’t been easy. She has also never been afraid to be persistent about knocking on doors and never giving up.
In fact, her advice to other women who would like to take up space in the creative industry is to never give up and to not stop pushing the boundaries and showcasing their talents and abilities. “It does get tough sometimes and one can be discouraged but always remember that there’s a place and space for you,” she adds.
Always ready with great advice and motivation, she would consider mentoring other women, especially as mentoring these days has been made easier through technology, which allows one to reach more than one person at a time. “With technology, one doesn’t have to be there physically to mentor others, which can also ease the mentoring process,” she concludes.
With their raging talent, focus and passion for acting, it looks like we have a lot to look forward to from Zenande, Liopelo and Rami!