Editor Felicia Sithebe, Article by John-Otto Phike, Contributor Karabo Mokoena
With the height of unconventional business prospects, it’s inspirational to see some of our local talents expand their brands and reach, displaying a 360 engagement. These actors show that diversifying oneself is crucial to one’s personal and professional development.
It’s no secret, the South African entertainment industry requires actors to have multiple streams of income. Contrary to popular belief, performers in South Africa are not entitled to residuals, royalties or union representation which in turn leaves a state of vulnerability to financial strain and exploitation. Actors are expanding themselves beyond the call sheet, venturing into a new world, with some gaining winning status in entrepreneurship and innovation.
Here is a list of some of the South African Actors who have managed to immerse themselves in the world of business, starting and running successful ventures while juggling their careers as Actors.
Thapelo Mokoena wears many hats as a seasoned actor to a producer at his production company, Easy Sundays Productions. The 41 year old began his career in the early 2000s as an actor in television commercials then landed his first acting gigs in SABC 1, soapie Generations playing the role of Gabriel, Karabo Moroka’s bodyguard. From there his career elevated to him presenting South Africa’s Fear Factor and starring in various films and television shows such as Ayeye, High Rollers, Intersexions, Mr Right Guy to his recent work in the Netflix Film Fatal Seduction.
Besides his production company, Thapelo is also a founder of Hines & Harley and Bakoena Beard Care, co-founder of the Molitva Orthodox Mediterranean Restaurant, and wine producer and partner at Bosman Wines. Thapelo Mokoena has cemented himself as an entrepreneur and his business ventures streamline across different industries and warrant a variety of brand associations.
Keke Mphuthi became a household name in the film and television industry playing the role of Princess Dipuo on Mzansi Magic’s The Throne. Keke started out as a choreographer before transitioning into her career as an actor which came in hindsight in 2013. Her prominent appearances on tv launched in 2017 in one of the eKasi: Our stories as well as iNumber Number the series, she continued to star in Showmax’s Unmarried as Lesego and Netflix’s The Brave Ones as Funeka to name a few. She was born on 16th of February 1991 in the city Kimberly. She also studied at the London School of Business where she completed and obtained a Bachelor degree in Business Management.
Poultry farming can be very profitable in South Africa due to a large and growing market and Mphuthi is really great proof of that. The business truly lives up to its name Goyapele as Mphuthi continues to take meaningful strides in ensuring that the business grows and is sustainable. She also has stamped her mark in becoming one of Savannah’s ciders Brand ambassador as well as Johnson Baby brand ambassador.
Pearl Thusi is known to be a pioneer in the entertainment industry holding caps in Radio, Presenting, Modelling and Acting. Pearl Thusi, born on the 13th of May 1988 in Kwa Zulu Natal, launched her career in 2006 as a presenter on a Sabc 3 show called iCrew. Growing up, she participated in pageant shows such Miss Kwa-Zulu Natal then grew her career and started presenting on Radio at Metro Fm. Her first major acting role as Samkelisiwe Nkambule on Zone 14 and went on to star in various big South African shows such as Soul City, Rhythm City and Isidingo. Then took on presenting roles on Tropika Island of Treasure in 2012 and Real Goboza. She has appeared on various commercials for Vodacom, Edgars, Jet and other brands.
Pearl Thusi, is mainly known for her hair care range, the Black Pearl and has recently made a big business move acquiring ownership and equity in a premium gin brand Black Rose, adding to entrepreneurial accolades.
Mandla N (born 9 April), is a musician, producer, and entrepreneur. He is prominent for being a member of the music group Gang of Instrumentals. In 2001, he completed his studies at AFDA. During his time at the institution, he was a recipient of the Best Screen Actor Award. Post graduation, played the role of the rich Themba Khumalo in the SABC1 sitcom City Ses’la and continued the role in the spinoff series Ses’Top La. He has also appeared in other television series like seasons 1 and 2 of The Lab as a Business Analyst. He also appeared as himself in Season 5 of Zaziwa. Mandla N appeared in the second season of 4Play: Sex Tips for Girls. While graduating at AFDA, he formed a production company called Black Brain Pictures. In 2023, Mandla N has acquired many properties where he built sets for various production under Black Brain Pictures, such as Lockdown, Diep City, Black Door, Isitha and more to come.
Thato Molamu is a well seasoned actor born on the 2nd of December 1984 in Mafikeng. He graduated from Damelin college from a film and broadcasting course in 2005. He launched his acting career in 2011 on the hit primetime SABC 1 show Generations as Nicholas Nomvete. He starred in other shows such as Intersexions where he played the role of Tshepo and in other notable shows such as Greed and Desire as Maru Makhetha. Thato has a reputation in Radio as he hosted on East Coast Radio.
Thato Molamu has set his eyes on the world of production with his company, Gateway Media. Gateway Media is a 100% black owned marketing communications company which aims to transform brands through innovative and creative solutions. Molamu’s company quickly established itself as a pioneering media company in South Africa, making room for young creatives through a creative skills transfer program called Leaders In Motion. He also has his own foundation called Thato Molamu Foundation.
Zola Nombona was born on the 10th of March 1992, in Eastern Cape, Mthatha. Her career in acting launched on the series Intersexions then moved on to her role as Roxanne on the ETV drama Zbondiwe, she also starred in iNumber Number the series as Zee. Her major acting role was in the Mzansi Magic drama series Lockdown as Monde. In terms of her education, Nombona graduated from the University of Witwatersrand with a degree in Dramatic Arts.
In the past year, Zola Nombona launched her lingerie business which is very specific in its branding as shapewear for women. She describes the shapewear line, Lxve, as a range that girls as young as 13 and women over 60 can wear. She also is a brand ambassador for Foschini.
Thando thabethe is an all rounder in the entertainment industry where she is known as an actor, radio DJ and MC. The talented actor was born in Soweto on the 18th of June 1990. Thando began her radio career in 2008 at UJFM then transitioned to YFM in 2011. She is popularly known for her role on Our Perfect Family as the bratty sister by the name of Thando Nkosi. She then joined Generations: The Legacy from 2014 where she played the role of Nolwazi Buzo. She also recently played Beauty Sello on Netflix’s How to Ruin Christmas as well as Linda Ndlovu on Mzansi Magic’s Housekeepers where she played the role of Linda Ndlovu. She has other prominent works in other shows such as Intersexions that launched her career in acting.
Thando Thabethe has been in business since 2017, with her company Thabooty. The underwear and shapewear brand sold online for about 4 years until a physical store was launched in 2021. She also was the first brand ambassador for Nivea in Africa and runs her own production company, Redwood Productions, that celebrated its debut reality show, Unstoppable Thabooty, showing on BET.
Enhle Mbali Mlotshwa
Enhle Mbali was born on the 3rd of March 1988 in Johannesburg. The South African award winning actor and fashion designer launched her career on SABC 1 drama series Tshisa in 2006 and went on to get a big role on the South African series Mthunzini.com. This saw her continue to star on shows such as iNkaba, Moferefere Lenyanlong, Soul City, Rhythm City, Rockville and many other shows. In her recent work, she plays the lead role of Kenzie Miyeni in the Netflix film, Homewreckers.
Mlotshwa entreprenueral skills are evident as a fashion designer with her fashion brand, Essie Apparel. Enhle Mbali’s Essie Apparel made a collection debut in 2020 at SA Fashion Week. The brand consisted of fashion-forward designs for Women and includes a maternity line, SE Preggos. The actress continues to make strides with her designs under Essie Apparel.
Moliehi Makobane hails from Maseru, Lesotho and she was born on the 17th of August 1989. She studied at the National School of Art and went on to graduate from The University of Witwatersrand with a BA Honours in Dramatic Arts. She started her career as she played the role of Thuli Mabena in eKasi: Our Stories then in 2013 and went on to land a role in Intersexions. She appeared in the SABC 2 show Lithapo as Mantwa and her recent work is in SABC 3 telenovela The Estate and Mzansi Magic drama series, Entangled. In 2021, Moliehi Makobane launched her sunglasses collection under House of Didie in collaboration with Black Edge. This year saw her through another launch under House of Didie. She has designed a cosmetics product, Didie Lips, which is a symbol to promote self-acceptance and uniqueness within the make-up and Beauty industry.
Thomas Gumede was born on the 6th February 1986, he hails from Kwa Zulu Natal then relocated to Johannesburg from the age of 13. His acting debut took place in 2005 when he acted for a Volkwagen commercial. He appeared on A Place called Home which played from 2006-2009. He presented on a teenage programme called the Cypher on SABC 1. He then moved to hosting reality shows of which one of them was Forever young where he also produced the show. After the inception of his production company Parental Advisory Productions he began to produce and direct the Sunday hit show on Mzansi magic Abomama Bomthandazo to his recent work as a director and producer on Nikiwe.Thomas Gumede started Parental Advisory in 2011, along with Lungile Radu, Siyabonga Ngwekazi and Simphiwe Mhlongo. Parental Advisory Productions is the company behind the hit reality shows Forever Young and MoLove. Both of which were aired on Vuzu in their 1st seasons in the same year and claimed number one spots on the channel. Recently, shows like Nikiwe on e.tv, Abomama on Mzansi Magic have been helmed under Parental Advisory.
A SPECIAL MENTION
Connie Ferguson is a South African actress best known for her role as the beautiful yet tragic Karabo Moroka on the long-running SABC1 soapie Generations, from the first episode on 4 February, 1994 to October, 2010. She also starred as Marang Lebone, a helicopter-mom and the matriarch of the Lebone family, in the M-Net soap opera The Wild, from 2011-2013. On 30 April, 2010 Ferguson mentioned that she was leaving Generations after 16 years to “go out into the world.” Since then, Ferguson has played lead roles in What If, Crime Reporter, Maitemogelo, Cape of Good Hope and Soul City 1, 2, 3 and 4. Made a guest and cameo appearance on Okavango, Danger Zone, Matswakabele 2 and 3, Lesilo Rula 2, On The Right Track and Surbuban Bliss to name a few. Her television appearances include presenting on Eduspectrum, Molomo Radiopotso, Is’godi, Topscore, Handy Hints, Studio Mix, and Plascon Change Your World. Ferguson has also appeared in advertisements for Ellerines (between 1990 and 1991), Ultramel Custard (1992, 1995), Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion (1992) and Black Like Me (1998). Her work in the stills advertising arena includes numerous fashion and beauty shoots for Wella Sheen, Eskamel, Black Chic, Vodacom Billboards and Connie M Eyewear.
In 2013, Ferguson produced and starred in the Mzansi Magic drama series Rockville, under her production company with late Husband Shona Ferguson, Ferguson Films. She has managed to position herself as a business mogul beyond the family business Ferguson Films. She has branched out into skin care with Connie Body Care. She personally designs the lotions, driving all stages of product development. She also launched her own fragrance True Self that she and a team of scientists developed from a combination of imported French oils.
These actors are a few of many examples of how actors branch into different ventures for various purposes, be it financial reasons, passion or wanting to try new things. As an actor, it is important to not limit yourself to one form of artistic expression, but also to not solely focus on a singular stream of income. Diversifying your portfolio, is crucial to an actors sustainability in the South African entertainment industry.