South African beauty Nomzamo Mbatha is the official ambassador of the 2017 ESSENCE Festival Durban, taking place this fall from September 26 to October 1.
A rising starlet in the entertainment industry, the 27-year-old actress currently has a lead role on the popular S.A. soapie, Isibaya, and has starred in two films. She is also the co-host of BET A-List, a weekly lifestyle and entertainment magazine show on BET Africa. On the modeling front, she is the face of Neutrogena South Africa, a L’Oreal Paris hair advocate, and an ambassador for both Puma South Africa and Audi.
Simply put, she’s poppin! Scroll through to get to know Nomzamo a little better with these 9 interesting facts.
“She was a woman of so much wisdom," Nomzamo told ESSENCE. "So much wit, joy and laughter and she acknowledged every human being that crossed her path. Just watching her being that way taught me to walk on the same path. She always said to me, ‘Zama, abantu bafana njengeminwe esandleni sakho. Abalingani, abafani, kodwa kufanele ubaphathe ngendlela efanayo,' which means, "People are like the fingers on your hands, they may not be the same length or look the same but you must treat them equally."
She was raised by her grandmother in KwaMashu, a township on the Northwest of Durban.
“When I connect the dots, I realize that this is where I was supposed to be all along," Nomzamo says. "Being an only child in the house, because I only started living with my siblings later on, I always had a lot of time on my hands after schoolwork and chores. I would go in my dad’s room and sit in front of the mirror reenacting things, like a sad situation, maybe. I would recount what happened, respond to myself and spontaneously start crying. Then I’d wipe the tears away and think to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, that was really good.’ Now I see that what I always thought was just me being weird was my love for the arts. I’m grateful to know that I didn’t stumble into acting by fluke, it’s something that was innate in me even back then.”
She never had dreams of becoming an actress.
Nomzamo and Issa
In July of 2012 while still deciding what she was going to do with her life after college, a friend dared Nomzamo to enter the MTV VJ search. “I took the dare and before I knew it I was in the top three," she says. "I was on TV and asking friends, family and strangers to vote for me. I was like, ‘This was supposed to be a joke, what is going on?’"
Her entertainment industry journey began when she placed third in the 2012 MTV Base VJ search.
Nomzamo posed for the magazine in her birthday suit to raise funds for Baphumelele Children’s Home, a home for AIDS orphans Khayelitsha, a township in Cape Town.
“People ask, 'Why do you have to pose naked though,' but it’s not about being naked to sexualize women’s bodies," she says. "It’s about owning this vessel that I have and feeling empowered even if I’m not wearing any underwear. If I can use that to do good and raise money for my charity, then I will do it.”
Her passion for spreading awareness about the eradication of HIV/AIDS stems from her close exposure to the effects of the disease early on in her life. “When I was 13, I helped take care of two children who were orphaned when their parents died from AIDS and came to live with my grandmother and I. The oldest one had taken care of their dying mother and the youngest had contracted HIV from the mother at birth. So, growing up in that environment propelled me towards Baphumelele Children’s Home. It was the calling of my heart.”
She covered the MarieClaire South Africa naked issue in July 2017 and broke the Internet for charity.
"I am an African girl and I am comfortable in being that girl," she says. "I want to showcase South African designers. I am all about cultivating and investing in the talent that we have in my country. My job is to change the narrative that Africa is only about HIV/Aids or poverty. I want the world to know that we are talented, we are fly, we are woke and informed, we can hold an intelligent conversation."
She makes a conscious decision to wear African designs on international red carpets.
“When I experienced ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans for the first time this year I didn’t expect that kind of energy," she says. "I thought, of course, there would be a lot of great music and we’d have fun, but it wasn’t until day one where I saw so many happy black people who were just there to soak in all of this culture that I knew that this was something I wanted to be a part of back home."
She's elated to be a part of ESSENCE Festival Durban 2017.
“I have a big family and I don’t come from a lineage of wealth, so the plan was to study accounting and become a chartered accountant because I had to be able to take care of my family,” she says.
She will soon graduate with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting degree.
"Definitely a HUGE stage but I felt at home," Nomzamo said of the experience. "Great crowd and AMAZING atmosphere."
In July 2017, she stole hearts in New Orleans when she made her ESSENCE Festival debut hosting interviews on Centerstage.
“I am very happy that this industry has not changed me," she says. "I don’t live with the notion that I have arrived because I know that there is so much that still needs to be done. I am very aware of the responsibility I hold for the young black girls back home, whose lives I still need to change, influence and touch. I want to somehow have a hand in pushing them forward because I want as many as possible to experience, if not everything, but maybe even a glimpse of what I have experienced. My feet are always on the ground because I can’t be boastful about my life when there are so many young girls who still want that one chance. Also, my ugly feet keep me very humble.”
Despite her meteoric rise to fame, Nomzamo is still the quintessential ‘Jenny from the Block.’