Mohale Motaung on his budding acting career and his love for Somizi
Mohale Motaung (PHOTO: Drum)
Cape Town - We know him as the stylish young man who stole the heart of one of Mzansi’s most-loved entertainers. Since their romantic engagement in Paris last year they’ve been joined at the hip, earning Somizi Mhlongo (46) and Mohale Motaung (23) the nickname #Somhale on social media.
Yet Somizi’s bae is determined to shake the arm-candy image.
He wants to be a TV star in his own right and is stepping out of the shadows of his famous fiancé. Earlier this year he made his debut on Shuga: Down South, playing the role of confident gay economics student Odirile. Like his character in the MTV drama series, Mohale is studying economics at Wits University where he’s in his third year. While he has no acting experience, he didn’t get help from his famous partner to get the role.
"Somizi didn’t put in a good word for me," Mohale tells DRUM. "I had to prove I deserved the part." He certainly looks like a TV star, in a stunning red and white ensemble, when we catch up with him at our studio in Joburg. "I know people only know me as Somizi’s partner but acting has always been on the cards for me. It’s something I genuinely love," he says.
He took a few acting classes at the State Theatre in Pretoria some years ago and brushed up his skills with actress and coach Camilla Waldman when he landed the MTV job. He wants viewers to see a different side to him. "I’m my own man," Mohale says. "People will get to see me in action." It’s not the first time the part-time model has been on screen – he also featured on reality show Living the Dream with Somizi. "Maybe my relationship helped [get the role]," Mohale admits.
"But I had to prove through hard work and dedication that I truly can act." He got the job after responding to a call for auditions on Facebook. Mohale beat thousands of hopefuls to secure a screen test. He’s beendating the reality TV star and Idols SAjudge for two years. "I knew Somizi before we started dating," Mohale says, declining to elaborate on how they met. "I knew he was loud. He was a socialite and full of life."
Mohale, who says he’s the quiet one in the relationship, appreciates Somizi’s flamboyance. "I enjoy seeing what he does. I love watching him in action and the way he interacts with people. I never get bored around him because he keeps the spark alive." When they’re not slaying red carpets together or indulging in dream baecations, the couple love a quiet meal at home. Unlike him, I can’t cook to save my life," Mohale jokes.
"We also love going to church. It keeps me grounded and allows me to reflect." He can’t wait to get married and start a family. "I do dream about having kids one day, but at the moment I’m focusing on growing my career and having a stable business," says Mohale, who owns Glam Troupe, a company specialising in matric dance makeovers.
Being in a relationship with an established star does come with its perks, but it’s not always easy dating in the public eye. "Somizi advises me to stay true to who I am and never dumb down my talents. He tells me to always plan ahead and to be professional, carefully choose the work I take and research the people I’ll be working with."
When they first came out as a couple Mohale received backlash and was branded a gold-digger by social media users but Mohale says he found comfort in his close-knit family. His father, Sechaba, refuses to read any negative publicity about him, mom Lebo has always supported his dreams and his prosecutor sister, Palesa (31), and younger sister Motheo (19), who’s studying accounting, have always been pillars of strength. "I have a strong relationship with my family, they keep me grounded."
The Motaungs have given their blessing for their only son to marry Somizi. "My family supports anything that makes me happy and they trust my decisions." Simizi is said to be pulling out all the stops for their upcoming wedding. There have been reports the couple were to tie the knot in April at four different venues, with a possible TV deal in the pipeline.
But Mohale keeps his cards close to his chest. "People will just have to wait and find out," he says with a smile. Mohale grew up in Kibler Park, south of Joburg, never dreaming he’d one day marry TV royalty. While the son of comedian Ndaba Mhlongo and veteran actress Mary Twala spent his childhood touring with the cast of Sarafina!, Mohale was a teacher’s pet. "I was more of an academic," he says. Mohale knew he was gay from Grade 4.
"I dated girls for the sake of dating. I knew I wasn’t attracted to girls, but I didn’t know what it was called." It was only when he started studying at Tshwane University of Technology in 2016 that he became comfortable with his sexuality. "I was no longer under my parents’ roof. I was free. And I started exploring. I met like-minded people. I accepted I’m gay and started loving who I am."
Like his character on MTV’s Shuga: Down South, Mohale didn’t come out to his parents about his sexuality. "I didn’t need to," he says. "My parents could see and they didn’t treat me any differently to their other children." It was only when he started dating Somizi that people looked at him differently.
"People from church were judging me and strangers who didn’t know me had a lot to say. But I remained true to myself because I know the people close to me are the ones that matter the most. Somehow the criticism helped me to be stronger."
Mohale is a man on the move, chasing his dreams one role at a time. "I can’t wait to one day play the role of a teacher or a hands-on single father, or even a Kasi gangster," he says.