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Get To Know ESSENCE Festival Durban Speaker Nondumiso Tembe

The actress shares her excitement for the very first ESSENCE Festival in her home country.
Get To Know ESSENCE Festival Durban Speaker Nondumiso Tembe
Alberto E. Rodriguez/2011 Getty Images

Nondumiso Tembe is a Durban South Africa native who couldn’t be more excited about ESSENCE Festival’s very first international experience. 

Tembe, who became somewhat of a household name after appearing on True Blood as Mavis during season 4, is slated to speak on the Empowerment stage and here are five things to know about the talented actress.

1. She grew up in South Africa and New York.

“We moved to New York, and I had a magical, very creative childhood in New York, just bursting with creativity. Then we moved back to South Africa when I was ten years and old, in 1994, at the end of Apartheid. That was really special for me and my parents to be part of the dawn of our liberation, helping to and participating in building our new country and democracy, and being part of the healing process. I was blessed to spend my adolescence in South Africa. I went to middle school and high school there, and then when I was seventeen, I moved back to New York by myself for college and to pursue my education and my life as an artist.”

2. She was born into a musical family.

“My parents became the first black professional opera singers from South Africa, and the first black South Africans to go to the Juilliard school. They’ve gone to become very successful, world famous opera singers, and now arts administrators, and really been pioneers and broken major boundaries. They wanted to pursue their craft at the highest possible level, and get an equal chance to pursuing their purpose and their potential. They got into Juilliard together, believe it or not, which never happens. It’s sort of unheard of for a couple to get in at the same time, especially such a competitive and prestigious school.”

3. She is attended the Yale School of Drama.

“You look back and you think, I was really lucky to have that, and to have been part of a community of, as you said, wonderful people, Lupita, and so many who came before us. Angela Bassett, Meryl Streep, and the list goes on and on. To be part of a community, not just the Yale community, because let me tell you something, the Yale mafia is real, it’s a real thing. Bulldogs are ridiculously supportive of each other, and I’m telling you the network is amazing!”

4. She is shy. 

“I think, and this is something I’m just discovering now as I’m getting older but I feel like I’ve always my whole life been such an extrovert, really engaging with people and I enjoy people. I’ve never been shy, but I feel like as I get older I’m getting shy. Part of it could be that the more successful perhaps you become, or the more in the public eye you get, maybe there’s an element of, I don’t want to say self protectiveness, but you’re just aware, maybe, that people are watching or that there’s some sort of scrutiny, and so you become a little bit more careful. You maybe choose your words, or you’re just more self-aware. I don’t know, girl, if that’s exactly it. It’s just something that’s been stirring in my spirit, where I just have these experiences. I feel shy, and I’m like, ‘Where is that coming from? I’ve never felt this before.’ That’s maybe not the most fun anecdote, I suppose, but I think maybe that’s something that people would not expect of me, is that I’m a little bit shy.”

5. She is excited to share the stage of inspiration.

“Sharing the stage with some people I’ve respected and just really admired for a very long time, like Reverend Al Sharpton, Steve Harvey, Yolanda Adams, and some South African speakers whom I know personally and have really admired and looked up to for a long time, who are also are just formidable women and pioneers themselves. Ne-Yo, I’ve loved forever. Black Coffee, one of our best exports, a really successful South African artist. Then I’m a lover of gospel, so of course, Yolanda Adams and Mary Mary, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, also world famous South African group who’ve been really flying the flag very high for us for a long time, and were an integral part of the artists movement in the fight against Apartheid. That’s going to be a lot of fun.”