Brenda Ngxoli on quitting showbiz, finding peace in the Eastern Cape and what brought her back
Brenda Ngxoli (PHOTO:Drum)
Brenda Ngxoli on quitting showbiz, finding peace in the
Eastern Cape and what brought her back
She thought she was done with showbiz. There were reports
Brenda Ngxoli packed her bags and headed home because like many actors, she was
unhappy with the cut-throat industry.
Others said she was broke. But when we speak to the actress
about why she took such a long break, she sets the record straight. She’d been
thinking about leaving for a while, she tells DRUM.
“It’s funny seeing those stories about me as I didn’t leave
because I didn’t have money, or because I was angry with the industry. “I
didn’t leave because of an alcohol or drug problem. I followed my heart for my
own physical and spiritual growth.”
Though the 39-year-old stepped out of the spotlight for a
while – seven years to be exact – Brenda quickly got back into the swing of
things. She’s been sizzling up screens in Mzansi Magic’s Ithemba. “I didn’t
sleep for this role or bribe anyone, and I don’t judge people who do, but I
always audition for my roles,” she jokes.
Brenda plays Nomonde, a woman who is abducted by a cult
operating on the land her late mother owned and left in her name.
The cult members want her to give them the land. “The
storyline is about the unspoken world of dark forces and light; it’s not
comedy-driven. It also came at a time when spirituality is at the top of my
mind. For the first time I’m doing something because I want to It’s everything
I’ve learnt about spirituality.”
The award-winning actress doesn’t shake hands or hug anyone
who greets her, we notice. Instead, she claps twice and says “Camagu” as a nod
to her ancestors.
“Yes, I went through the sangoma initiation process called
ukuthwasa,” Brenda says. It’s not something she wants to discuss at length, but
she is proud to have answered the call. “I encourage people to explore our
I believe we all have those senses, but some choose to
exercise them at church because we’ve been conditioned that way.”Her journey to becoming a sangoma is part of the reason she
left Joburg. “Things were going well for me and I was happy. But it got to a
point where I questioned my being and my origins,” she says.
She needed to clear her head. “The Eastern Cape has always
been close to my heart. Growing up in front of the camera wasn’t easy, I needed
to cool my head,” she says.
So Brenda packed her bags and headed home to Xolobe, even
though her friends thought it was a bad idea because her career was peaking.
“I yearned to see those hills of the Eastern Cape. And there
was no amount of money that could satisfy that yearning.”
She got by on savings and royalties, she says. “It’s a bit
of a process but it’s not too much work.” She used the first paycheque she got
from SABC1’s Tsha Tsha to build her mother a house.
“And with the money I got from the show Home Affairs I
bought furniture. I was always working for a home.”
Brenda revelled in small-town life. “In the city we call it
being green but, in the village, agriculture is a way of life. If you don’t
have a kraal, your neighbours look at you in a funny way.” She enjoyed not
having to buy meat or vegetables, she boasts.
“If a chicken or a goose looks at you funny, you slaughter
it,” she says laughing. “You don’t starve in the village. When they say your
life is in your hands, it’s not a lie.”
During this time Brenda says she was contacted by several
production houses with job offers, but she always made excuses.
“If it wasn’t about bad network signals, it was money
problems. I would lie because I didn’t want to be rude, but I really didn’t
want to come back. I had told myself I was done with acting.”
She loved waking up in the morning to the crowing of
roosters and exploring the land that belonged to her forefathers. It wasn’t
easy to give up her peaceful village life and head back to the city.
“It’s all because of producers, Percy Vilakazi, Phathutshedzo
Makwarela and the Fergusons they brought me back,” she tells us.
Percy, she says, convinced her to take on the role of
Dambisa Dikana in The River. “They transported me to Joburg, which was very
costly. I don’t know what motivated them because I was really not up to it, but
they were persistent.”
Back on set, Brenda realised just how much she’d missed
acting. “The bug bit me again. I had a blast there.” And as much as she loved
the rolling hills and peace and quiet of home, the bright lights of the big
“I had to love me and put Brenda first. I decided to put on
my weave and head to Joburg,” she says with a laugh. “Now I’m in the city
full-time.” She knows her views on the Fergusons may not be popular.
The couple were recently put on blast when veteran actress
Vatiswa Ndara penned an open letter to minister of arts and culture Nathi
In the six-page missive, Vatiswa referred to an offer she
was made by Ferguson Films, owned by seasoned actors Shona and Connie Ferguson.
She spoke of actors who were bullied and intimidated while
working in hostile conditions where producers prioritise profits over the
welfare of the cast and crew members.
Brenda’s experience is vastly different to that of her
former co-star. About a month before Vatiswa penned her letter, Brenda thanked
several producers, including the Fergusons, for her role in Rockville.
“After I wrote that post I was accused of singing for my
supper. It’s fine, let me sing, but I will forever be grateful to them,” she
She used some of the money she made on Rockville to buy
water tanks back home. “If you decide to take that one cent, be responsible for
taking it. Because you have a choice.”
With 18 years in the industry, she knows how cut-throat
showbiz is and just how tough it can be to survive which is why she chooses to
focus on the positive.
“Once you start viewing things with a negative eye you won’t
see good in anything. There are places we can improve, but I am so over the
whining.” For now, Brenda is enjoying her good fortune and has big plans to
celebrate her 40th birthday next year. “I wouldn’t like to be 45 sitting at
some bar looking for a man,” she quips.