Leleti Khumalo is a South African Zulu actress who is well recognized for her role as Sarafina in the popular movie and stage play of the same title; Sarafina.
Leleti is also known for other major movies that she has starred in such as “Hotel Rwanda” and “Yesterday” as well as TV shows including Uzalo and Imbewu: The Seed. She has been active in the film industry and other entertainment fields since 1988 and continues to act to date in spite of some of the challenges she has faced.
The Early Life Of Leleti Khumalo And How Sarafina Made Her Famous
Leleti was born on March 30, 1970, in KwaMashu Township, north of Durban in South Africa. She was brought up alongside her three siblings mainly by her mother, Theressa Tanyiso-Khumalo as she lost her father at the age of 3.
Although she grew up in abject poverty with a domestic laborer mother trying to make ends meet for her and her siblings, Leleti found joy in performing since she was a very little child. In fact, she was described as a born performer. To develop her skills in performing, she joined a youth background dance group known as Amajika.
She auditioned for the Mbongeni Ngema musical in 1985, which was to be the global blockbuster Sarafina. Leleti performed the role of Sarafina on stages in South Africa and on Broadway. Her excellent performance won her 1988 Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. She was also awarded NAACP Image Award for Best Actress in 1987. The dynamic performer recorded all these achievements when she was still a teenager.
In the 1992 film version of Sarafina by Darrell James Roodt, Leleti Khumalo featured alongside Miriam Makeba, John Kani, and Whoopi Goldberg. The movie was well-received internationally, making it the largest film production to be released on the African continent at the time. After the movie, Khumalo released her first musical album, Leleti and Sarafina in 1993. The album was dedicated to Mohammad Ali.
Sarafina tells the story of a student in 1976, who managed to rise up against apartheid in Soweto. It also includes horrible accounts of youths being tortured by the South African police where some even disappeared and have never been heard of. Until Leleti got into the auditions of the play, she had rarely considered the injustice of apartheid. She thought that it was normal and natural for a black person to stay poor. This film gave her much of the fame she has until today and earned her several awards. Leleti also starred in Sarafina 2 in 1997. The movie was re-released in South Africa in 2006 to mark the 30th anniversary of the youth uprising in Soweto.
In 2004, Leleti Khumalo starred in Hotel Rwanda, which is an American historical drama film based on a real-life story during the Rwandan genocide during the spring of 1994. In the same year, she starred in ‘Yesterday’, a film which tells the story of a young mother (Leleti) called Yesterday, who was faced with AIDS. The film “Yesterday” scooped an award for the Best Film in the Pune International Film festival in India. The film also received good reactions in Toronto International Film festivals.
After the film Yesterday, Leleti worked on a TV soapie called Generations, which she joined the cast in the year 2005. This soap is greatly known in South Africa and has been one of the most successful films of its type in the region. It is also one of the longest-running South African soap operas. In the soap, Leleti played Busiwe Dlomo, who was a serious refined woman heading her own publishing company in Cape Town.
Her most recent appearances were in works such as Free State and Cry for Love which were both released in 2016 as well as the TV show, Imbewu: The Seed in 2018.
After her exit from Generations, Leleti secured herself a presenter job in one of the South African radio stations called Vuma FM. She is now working as a radio presenter at Vuma FM.
What Happened To Her Hands and Face?
When Leleti Khumalo was only 24, she realized that some parts of her body, most especially her hands were beginning to change color; becoming white. The award-winning actress later realized she was suffering from a condition known as Vitiligo; a disorder that ruins skin pigment cells, causing the loss of skin color in blotches.
She has had this disease for many years now and over the years, the disorder has gotten more serious, affecting her skin appearance, especially her hands, face, and other parts of her body. When she first started having the issue, the actress revealed that she used to hide the white patches behind makeup.
However, she has since come to accept it as who she is and she now walks proudly with the condition as a way of educating young people about what it really is. More than just walking without hiding the patches, she has also decided to be giving talks about the condition.
She Once Had A “Disgusting” Marriage
Leleti had been married to a producer Mbongeni Ngema, who is a playwright and the writer of Sarafina, the work that brought Leleti Khumalo to the limelight. The couple met when they were working on the film.
Not only was the playwright 15 years older than her, but he was also married at the time. Nonetheless, that was not enough to stop their affair which would lead to a marriage in 1992. On the day of the ceremony, the wife of the playwright made an attempt at stopping the wedding but she failed.
The couple stayed together almost fourteen years before divorcing and parting ways in 2005. She revealed that the marriage was rather disgusting as she was denied almost all her freedoms by her ex-husband who did not allow her to go anywhere or even take roles in production she got. One night, she woke up and decided she was over with the marriage. The actress revealed that she called her mum and told her she wanted to end the marriage and that became one of the happiest days of her mother.
Leleti Khumalo is now remarried to Skhuthazo Winston who is two years younger than she is. She met Skhuthazo while he was working as a cabin controller for SAA and they began dating a year after their first meeting. After six years still together, Leleti and her husband sealed the deal when he paid Labola; bride price.
Meet Her Kids
Leleti had two miscarriages before she had her twins that she discovered she was carrying on November 2012, two months after getting hitched. The twins were born early at almost 32 weeks. Her husband Skhuthazo was out for business when Leleti went for delivery of their twins. This was one of her best moments in life. As it stands, Leleti Khumalo’s children are two (the twins) with Skhuthazo and one from her ex-husband, Ngema
Quick Facts about Leleti Khumalo
Leleti Khumalo is also a well-known singer. Apart from Ngema’s international musical magic at 4 AM, which was dedicated to Muhammad Ali, she also starred in another Ngema musical mama in 1996, which toured Europe and Australia.
Other accomplishments of Leleti in the film industry include; Cry, the beloved country in 1995, Voices of Sarafina in 1988, Invictus in 2009, and Winnie Mandela in 2011. Leleti Khumalo is one of the biggest figures in the film industry in South Africa.
Here’s a Full List of Her Movies
|1988||Voices of Sarafina!||Sarafina||Documentary|
|1995||Cry, the Beloved Country||Katie|
|2010||Africa united||sister Ndebele|
|2011||Winnie Mandela||Adelaide Tambo|
|2016||Cry of Love||Zenzi|
|2018||Imbewu: The Seed||Nokubonga Bhengu||274 episodes|
Although most of her movies are significant in a way or more, Yesterday is considered to be one of the most impactful as it brought South African consciousness to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country.
She is largely admired by many aspiring actresses and actors and has been a big inspiration to the upcoming youths. Many of the upcoming actors attribute their successes to her.