Mother, musician, actress and entrepreneur Thembi Seete has been an inspiration for more than two decades, and she’s still going strong – with a few surprises up her sleeve!

It’s a sunny Johannesburg morning when I meet Thembi at the Cradle Moon Lodge in Muldersdrift. She’s in high spirits despite battling flu that had her bedridden for the past couple of days. The fact that she honoured her commitment is testimony to her strong work ethic.

Thembi rose to fame in the mid-90s as a member of kwaito supergroup Boom Shaka. It all began at the age of 13, when she moved to Hillbrow – the heart of the entertainment industry – with her mother and brother, Moagi. ‘That was to be the start of my life,’ she smiles. ‘I learnt a lot about myself. There was no other place like it. Everything we admired was there. It was the Hollywood of Mzansi.’

Thembi says she kept herself busy with music and dance practice. ‘I had a lot on my hands, and I didn’t have time for boys and parties,’ she recalls. ‘I was always rehearsing.’ She says her bandmate and best friend, Lebo Mathosa, who died in 2006, was a great teacher. ‘Lebo was too talented,’ she says. ‘She helped me discover talents I didn’t know I had.’

Little did they know, back then, that those rehearsals would lead to super-stardom. ‘We didn’t know that we were going to make history when we rehearsed,’ she smiles. ‘We started trends and created timeless music.’ Boom Shaka dominated the SA kwaito music scene for close to a decade.

When they split in 2000, Thembi launched her solo music career and branched out into acting. ‘Starting my own journey was the highlight of my life,’ she says. ‘No one can take that away from you – being able to do things for yourself. I will always be grateful for the opportunities and the people who helped me along the way.’ Her secret to success? ‘Have the right attitude and understand why you do what you do.’

Her first acting role was in the hard-hitting SABC 1 drama series, Yizo Yizo and shortly after that she featured in the film Hijack Stories, followed by a role in SABC 1’s Gaz’lam. She has since played in a host of TV shows and movies, from Crossing the Line and Zone 14 to’s Rhythm City. She was also one of the choirmasters on Mzansi Magic’s Clash of the Choirs South Africa, and presented SABC 1’s music dance show, Jika Majika, for its first 10 seasons, among others.

Most people would have been content to stop there, but Thembi recently added entrepreneur to her long list of achievements. Together with her good friends, media personality Mbali Nkosi and Sharon Kuzwayo, she co-founded Azuri Beauty Bar.

‘We are strong in different areas,’ says Thembi, ‘and that works for the business.’ She believes friendship is essential as one needs openness and trust in business partnerships. ‘Women can make things happen,’ she adds, ‘but we tend to look for reasons not to. We need to break that circle. Let’s find solutions and make things work!’

The beauty bar opened in 2018, and the three partners launched their own cosmetics brand a few months later. Thembi admits it wasn’t all plain sailing. ‘Laying the foundation is hard,’ she says. ‘It’s been a test for us. January was hard and February even harder. You never know until you experience it – but next year we will handle it better.’

Her advice to other entrepreneurs is to do what you love, then research and persevere. ‘You need a couple of years for a business to stand alone and be strong. Don’t give up – treat it like a baby and nurture it.’

Last year was a monumental one for Thembi. Not only did she launch her business in 2018, but she was also announced the face of the Pond’s Age Miracle range – and most importantly she became a mother!

‘It’s all I talk about,’ she laughs. ‘Motherhood has been the best thing in my life. It softens my heart and makes everything okay. You become so grateful and the little things make you happy.’ Her face lights up when she speaks about her son, Dakalo, who is now a year old. ‘His love is consistent and his hugs genuine,’
she says. ‘He keeps me going. He drives me.’

When asked what she most hopes to impart to her son, Thembi says she hopes he will grow up to value love and giving back, as well as hard work, independence, and earning his way – principles and values that she says are fundamental to her.

‘Motherhood has been the best thing in my life. It softens my heart and makes everything okay.’

Asked about the most significant motherhood lesson she has learnt, she pauses and says, ‘It’s all about making time and being present.’ She says she learnt this from her mother, Rebecca. ‘Her strength is admirable,’ says Thembi, adding that she spends a lot of her time with her mother. ‘She raised us single-handedly and did so very well. We are here today because of her.’

Another vital lesson her mother shared with her is that family comes first, she says, which is why she spends a lot of her time with her family. ‘It’s my best time,’ she smiles. ‘We eat and travel together. They represent a quality life.’

In 1993, at just 16, Thembi was introduced to Mzansi and the world as part of Boom Shaka. She and Lebo founded the group with Junior Sokhela and Theo Nhlengethwa. Before long they were one of the hottest groups in the country. ‘It was the dawn of democracy in SA,’ recalls Thembi. ‘We had a new president and our songs were influenced by politics. We praised our leaders, embraced our languages and cultures. We represented freedom.’

The members of Boom Shaka went their separate ways eight years later, and Thembi established herself as a solo artist. ‘It was a blessing in a way,’ she says. ‘It pushed me to test myself and start doing things on my own and not depend on anyone else. In a group, there will always be the strong ones and the not-so-strong ones. But one has to stand alone at times, because you are stronger when you do.’

When asked what she has planned for the near future, Thembi reveals: ‘There is a Boom Shaka biopic coming up,’ she reveals. ‘This will allow us to go to different cities and scout for talent.’ We wait with bated breath to see who will land the role of filling Thembi’s very impressive shoes!

Clearly delighted about the venture, she adds that there’s also been talk of a Boom Shaka reunion. ‘It’s a huge possibility,’ she says. ‘We have support from our former colleagues and people we worked with over the years. We are really excited about that.’

So are we. Keep watching this very interesting space…

* I love travelling.
* Give me Asian dishes or seafood any day and I am happy.
* Currently on my playlist is Sjava and Kwesta.
* My phone, powder and lipgloss are always in my bag.

Twitter: @iamthembiseete
Facebook: @thembiseete
Instagram: @thembiseete


THEMBI SEETE: BORN TO SHINE THEMBI SEETE: BORN TO SHINE Reviewed by Jet Club on July 25, 2019 Rating: 5
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