It’s always special to interview someone ahead of their birthday, but today we had the opportunity to speak to actor and influencer Lerato Walaza on her special day and the mood could not have been more vibrant.
The multi-skilled creative has a lot to celebrate — as does anybody who made it through 2020 in one piece! — and you could sense from the moment that we kicked off our conversation that the mood was only heading in one direction.
Lerato has made a name for herself in South Africa as the star of productions such as MTV Shuga and films such as the highly acclaimed Letters of Hope which was directed by Vusi Africa. Along with that, she has grown her influence on digital platforms and is emerging as one of the most exciting South African creatives specialising in urban fashion and beauty content online.
Ahead of her new year and new chapter, we asked her to take a moment to reflect on her successes, lessons and triumphs for a one-of-a-kind interview.
Lerato Means Love
A little birdie tells us it’s your birthday! Happpyyyy. How will you be celebrating a new year and a new chapter?
That’s correct! 26! I’m very grateful for the gift of life. As for my plans, some meditation, some self love and just generally just having fun. I am very grateful to be at this point and I am just looking forward to all challenges and blessing that the new year will bring.
It’s been a hectic 2020 but you’ve had some notable highlights including working on MTV Shuga Alone Together and an exciting new role on Scandal. How does it feel to be working during such uncertain times?
2020 has been a year that nobody could have ever anticipated. When the year started we all had goals that we were working towards but this pandemic changed everything and changed the narrative of how 2020 was supposed to unfold for many of us. It forced us to really introspect and figure out how we will make it. I was also scared, but being able to work on MTV Shuga: Alone Together really kept me going. Those who had jobs were anxious, those who were unemployed were anxious, but being able to work during those tough times was a real highlight for me.
My new role on Scandal has also been an extremely big highlight, even just thinking about it right now just brings so much joy! All of this has made me realise to simply never take anything for granted. It can come that easily, and slip through your fingers that easily.
Of course the big headline news was you joining the popular soapie Scandal as Gugu. How has the eTV/Scandal community welcomed you both online and on set?
If anybody knows me, then they know that eTV and Scandal is one of the biggest items from my dream list! I’ve always wanted to be a part of Scandal from its early stages, I remember when I was in high school and I started watching the soapie, I was in awe! I was taken by their unique form of storytelling which I had never ever seen in South Africa before. I was intrigued with the acting, and everyone who was on set knew why they were there.
When I arrived on set I was welcomed with so much warmth, everyone is so professional, everyone knows why they are there, everybody was just extremely talented and giving off great energy. You know when you arrive somewhere and know that it’s where you are meant to be? That’s how I felt the moment I arrived.
Tell us a little more about your character Gugu and what she brings to the show?
uGugu Masuku is a very ambitious girl who is not easily understood by the world. She strives to speak for herself and speak about self expression in a way that society is just not used to. She reminds people of who she is and where she comes from. She expresses herself in a way people are just not used to. She’s got loads of tattoos and piercings but she doesn’t want to be boxed as a certain type of person just because of her physical appearance. I believe she will spark real conversations about self identity through her role on the show.
How different/similar is Gugu from Lerato?
I believe that there are more similarities than differences between myself and my character Gugu. I also encourage people to always get to know the next individual better rather than simply judging or drawing conclusions based on appearances. But if you sit down and try to understand people from the inside you will be able to know that there are so many beautiful souls that we are quick to shut down simply because we don’t understand them.
Those who know you know how hard you’ve been working between productions and learning your craft. How important is it to keep your acting skills sharp as an actor?
I pride myself on being a hard worker and I try my best to push myself beyond my limit, beyond what I think I can do. That’s the first thing I thought of when I wanted to find out how I can expand as a creative. That’s why I worked behind the scenes as a camera assistant, and I have to commend the people who work on crews because they get to work early, lift heavy loads, stay on their feet – they work HARD. But it’s the true love for their work that sees them push the limits and that’s one of the things I took in when it comes to improving your craft, working tremendously hard.
I also work hard by meditating and ensuring that my body is always fit and ready to stretch itself to whatever the character is demanding of it. Mentally, it also has to do with how I think, how I practice, how I observe.
What is one thing that people don’t know about you when it comes to your profession?
Everyone knows about my passion, but one thing people don’t know about me is just how much of a talent I am. I am a ball of talent! You can pick anything you wish to challenge me with and I will execute it. I will commit to ensuring that whatever you chose for me, I will kill it beyond!