There’s a belief in psychology that we’re attracted or find admiration in people that share qualities that we find attractive in ourselves.
So when Ayanda Thabethe mentioned that the fearless and phenomenal women she looks up to are Oprah Winfrey and Khanyi Dlomo, we knew that she too possess these qualities of strength and everythingness. Having experienced her magic in front of the camera for the cover shoot, we couldn’t wait to explore the nuances that sum up the super sayian verson of the girl next door, that is Ayanda Thabethe.
Being raised by a single mother of 5 daughters, Ayanda Thabethe comes from a background that she describes as a “survival approach”. Her fearless mother exceeded and outperformed her role, by being creative and occasionally sewing clothes, selling items and essentially doing everything she had to do, to ensure the well-being of her family. Ayanda has carried this strength in her pocket of super powers, which has emblazoned her into the inquisitive and astute woman she is today.
You’ve often been described and often celebrated as a fearless woman, where do you think that comes from?
“I think it comes from that fact that, like a cat, I myself have lived multiple lives and carried out various roles. I started off as a junior marketer at Johnson and Johnson and later promoted to the role of sales rep for many years, selling medical devices and diagnostics and eventually landing the role of brand manager at L’Oreal. Before entering the entertainment and philanthropic arena in 2015. I’ve been a model, I’m a TV presenter, businesswoman and CEO of my very own marketing agency, Buzzworthy. I’ve worn many hats and firmly believe in the notion of trusting the process and emptying your talents.”
As a woman where does your strength come from?
“My strength comes from knowing without a shadow of a doubt, that we’re all blessed to be a blessing. I believe and depend on the higher power daily for direction. I believe that we have a predestined destiny and God’s way (or the universe or higher power) is truly the only way in living a fulfilling life. My single mother raised 5 girls on her own, without ever having a pity party for herself, but she got up and did it. Ultimately, life has to be gotten and you need to get it and do whatever it takes because this is your life. This is it! Believing and knowing that, gives me strength.”
Being in the age of feminism and celebrating ‘WOMAN’, what does this say to you as a young South African woman?
“It feels so fulfilling and I believe I am the truest form of feminism. In the new age, you’ve got the power to be at the forefront of empires, have careers, break boundaries and achieve new heights. The possibilities are simply endless and limitless. In the past, women had to fight to claim their place in the world. But today, as woman, I’ve got a voice and choice over the direction of my life. Buying a house, dating who I want and having the freedom to define myself however I please.”
Kylie Jenner has been named by Forbes as being the youngest self-made billionaire with an estimated net worth of $900m. What did that mean to you, especially with her being part of the Kardashian/Jenner clan whom many might not consider as businesswoman, because of their “extreme fame leverage”?
“First of all, this gives me goosebumps, because despite how she made it happen, she did it. Many people cite her as nothing more than privilege, someone from a rich family etc. While some of that is true, the entertainment industry has shown me that in order to make in life, you use whatever resources you’ve got around you. Your fame, your contacts, your friends etc. everything is part of the building blocks that complete the whole picture. Top billing has allowed me the opportunity to leverage that success into doing more corporate MC gigs. So, for me, Kylie Jenner did just that – used her resources and achieved the impossible. And that’s commendable.”
Who are some of the women you look up to as sources of inspiration and aspiration?
“We are so fortunate to live in a time where we’ve had so many trailblazers to have come before us. But since high school, I’ve always looked up to Khanyi Dlomo. She exudes so much class and grace and what I most admire about her, is her quiet strength. I admire people who let their works do the talking and I see this quality in myself. Another woman I vehemently admire is Oprah Winfrey. She’s just the GOAT – she has defied countless difficulties and all odds to become the powerhouse that she is today and I guess ultimately, that speaks to purpose. That we’re all called for a purpose that we spend our lives defining.”
Have you figured out your purpose?
My purpose lies in people. In my personal capacity, I’m very good at connecting with people, at making people feel good, validated, celebrated and even acknowledged.
What is your superpower?
I think I possess quiet strength. I’d like to believe that I have the kind of strength that doesn’t boast. Intrestingly, because of my frame and when you take a look at me you wouldn’t expect it, but I’m a go-getter, I am fearless, I am strong.
Some might describe you as a conservative woman. You went on to portray a risqué character on season 4 of Rockville, which makes her your polar opposite. As a woman, what did you love about her?
“Yes. I enjoyed playing the role Aliyah, for various reasons. But mainly her unwavering spirit to hustle for her family. I’m incredibly close to my family and would do anything for them, so that part of Aliyah resonated with me and although I may not fully agree with her methods, I love her intentions.”
“Acting is not something I consciously thought about, but as a risk taker, I felt compelled to try something new. I had my first taste of acting being cast in the local dance film ‘Zion” with Gail Nkoane Mabalane, who was part responsible in me being cast on Rockville.”
How did that come about?
“Shortly after my first movie premiered, Connie Ferguson called me on the eve of filming season 1 of Rockville and asked me to audition for a role. Turns out, she had asked Gail about her experience of working with me which was positive. This is why I believe in being kind and in the phrase “don’t burn your bridges” you never know who will be campaigning on your behalf. Unfortunately I was quite cemented in corporate at that point, I wasn’t ready to leave. However in 2015, after taking a leap to really invest in my deepest desires, I reached out to Connie and Shona just as Rockville season 4 was about to begin filming and that’s when the role of Aliyah was offered to me.”
You’re famous now – people know your name and people feel they know truths about your life that you might have never shared. How has fame affected your life?
“I’ve always been incredibly fortunate in landing opportunities that help celebrate different aspects of myself. And with each opportunity and with each stage, I’d learn something quite fascinating about myself. I got into the entertainment arena at a much older age than most of my peers, but I got into this industry with the maturity of remaining true to myself. This maturity came from knowing myself; from knowing how to utilize the vehicle of fame to better myself and enrich my dreams. I was so well versed with who I am and what I liked and the space that I want to carve for myself in the world. So being more recognizable on the streets and more people knowing my name didn’t affect me or dilute my core truths.”
Travelling has a way of revealing something about yourself – like forgotten passions, new interests and the simple joys of life. What has travelling made you realize about yourself?
“Travelling has a way of reintroducing you to yourself. I’ve travelled extensively by myself, with brands and even Top Billing. The one thing I’ve learned is that you are more you in a foreign place. Travel has a way of drawing you deeper toward yourself. This understanding of myself helps me engage, celebrate and connect with people with better ease, something that I consider to be one of my strengths.”
You recently celebrated your one-year experience with Top Billing, how has that journey and experience been for you?
“Top Billing has got to be the most challenging and most rewarding job I’ve ever had. It forced me improve my worldly knowledge and to constantly better how I articulate myself. I’ve met so many incredible people and witnessed so much beauty in my year as a presenter and I’m so grateful for that.”
We’re 8 months into the year, whats next for you?
“My marketing company is growing steadily. We are busy with a project which has been in the works for the past three years with links to the likes of Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu. Without saying too much just yet, this project will collaborate with different sectors in South Africa in an effort to eradicate poverty in the country.”
Ayanda Thabethe’s success lies in being rooted in the belief that her existence serves a bigger purpose. She’s been gifted with the courage of listening to her inner authentic self and knowing when to start over or conclude the vast chapters in her life.
Her story is like the real-life version of connect the dots: Her innate ability of connecting with people, led her to become a successful sales rep for many years. She honed that skill by selling medical diagnostics, which ultimately led her to become a sought after TV presenter; a job that requires connectivity on an even larger scale. This proves once again, that everything happens for a reason and all we need to do is deepen the understanding of our inner self enough and to learn to trust the process. But first, we must embody her essence of bravery, to ask ourselves reflective questions. To help steer clear of complacency and to keep our innate sense of wonder and imagination always burning.
Interview and article by Khotso Ramorwesi & Lwazi Hadebe | Hair by GlamPalm | Makeup by Laura Mercier from Skins Cosmetics | Styled by Oliva Harlow and Kay Khanye | Photographed by Lawrence Manyapelo at SLOW in the City