Zama Ngcobo is arguably one of the most recognisable faces in the South African entertainment industry.
Starting out as one of SABC 1’s Simunye continuity presenters to becoming a fan favourite taking the runner-up position for the SABC 3 Top Billing Presenter Search Competition and further playing spicy Thabitha on Generations, the personality has surely secured her role as a South African veteran.
Moziak had an exclusive sit down with her.
She has just wrapped up shooting SABC 3’s Leading Citizens, a show she has been co-producing and hosting.
“Wow Palesa it has been so stressful girl!” She laughs.
“It has been a learning experience and quite a journey, but more so, I think it has been filled with excitement and a lot of learning. A serious master class!”
The show has been a serious fan favourite due to its nature of getting the story behind the man or success story.
Breaking the current age we live in and narrative of what we often see on Instagram of people of influence “Securing the bag” and asking how they did it and what their struggles were.
“It’s like a new baby, there is the teething phase and I think that’s where we were at.”
Looking at Ngcobo’s career, learning is one trait that has kept her relevant for over 10 years.
From presenting, acting, being a business woman and hosting one of the biggest radio shows, she has carried that spirit throughout.
“The word relevance scares me!” She laughs.
“It just keeps popping over and over again and I honestly never planned it.”
“It’s funny because I don’t work hard at it, I do what I love and the media space is what I love, I love acting, presenting and doing radio so I think I made a decision quite a long time ago that I will not do or engage and spend time doing anything I do not enjoy.”
She credits it having been her life plan all along as one of the reasons she did not struggle as many have and still often do.
“I know a lot of people struggle in the industry but I always wonder if it is their life plan, I have always known since I was a child so even with the pressures of not getting a role or whatever it’s never lost for me because this is what I planned to do so there’s no alternative for me.”
With the industry having been so good to her, she created Leading Citizens in the hopes of giving back to it and showcasing what she has learnt throughout the years.
“At some point you need to look at yourself and say okay I have been given quite a lot but what can I give back?”
She also credits her longevity to the idea of aspiring to be an artist rather than a “star” or celebrity.
Although she is honest about the many opportunities she has gotten from the entertainment sphere, the question about overexposure often comes up, especially with her being so multitalented.
“With what we do, especially if you are talented in different mediums you suffer overexposure, for me luckily every opportunity that has been presented to me has always complimented the other. For instance, when I started with television presenting, then radio came around, so I wouldn’t have gotten the radio opportunity if it weren’t for television,” she says.
“They liked the way I sounded and the way I spoke my Zulu and that in it brought something else even with acting they had a role for me because of what they heard on radio.”
“The jump was not hard for me. I know a lot of people do that but then suffer overexposure and then by the end of the day we actually don’t even know what they are good at and are confused about what they do. “
She often had to turn down work because it was not in line with her vision and believes in the notion of only taking work that is in line with your plan and not just because it is available.
Although presenting was the first thing that landed in Ngcobo’s radar, when asked what she enjoyed the most, acting was the answer without any hesitation.
“I am an actress before anything else! I am satisfied with what I have done with Leading Citizens and what we have managed to achieve but now I can go back to my first love as well because I know people have been asking for a while now,” she laughs.
She gave us a taste on the hit show Isithembiso earlier this year and had us all wanting for more.
The actress got her big break through a national audition search with over 35 000 people and although we still have those, she recognises how times have changed with not only young people having agents for closed auditions but young people casted through means of social media, which often rubs veterans up the wrong way.
“Funny enough for me I am so grateful for how I feel, I am very open-minded about it,” she says.
“If people can have career without having to show up on a television set or even audition that says something, that means they have the power to influence people and gain a following and we need to learn from that.”
She laughs about how she only got an Instagram account for the show Leading Citizens because her producer forced her.
“I don’t mean alter the old school way but we can blend the old and the new because the old paved the way so I always say let’s not be critical let’s not be quick to criticise lets appreciate people for what they offer and I really feel if you are confident in your skill set, your talent will speak for itself.”
Her optimistic view on things is driven by the fact that she believes she left no stone unturned. She went for every opportunity and is therefore open to the younger generation and what they have to offer.
“I think most people are upset, angry and unemployed because of the attitude of not focusing on the work. I know it can be frustrating, but we need to learn to do things differently and understand there’s a new world order. That’s just how I feel about it.”
With all the work she has done this year she looks forward to a relaxing festive season with her family in her home town Durban.
“We are going to Durban and going to be in Umhlanga, we can’t wait to fly and do nothing at the beach!”
She also took some time to share her Christmas and New Year’s wish list.
“I am happy, but I would like to be happier, you can never have too much happiness, especially for my family. I am content, but I would like to be more content! I would like to work a little bit more than I did this year and grow even deeper and marvel. I am a very spiritual person you know and my journey with God for is so important.”
“I need Him to show me more and teach me more. 2018 has been amazing because of the lessons and everything He has put me through, let’s do it again in 2019!”
Leading Citizens plays on Monday nights at 20:30pm on SABC 3.