When movies like Winnie Mandela, Cry the Beloved Country, and Sarafina! are being talked about anywhere in the world, no other place but South Africa comes to mind. Another thing or rather a person that also comes to mind and has become famous as a result of her appearances and outstanding performances in the movies is actress Leleti Khumalo.
The Durban native, who was born in Durban’s KwaMashu Township in 1970, was raised by a single mother following the death of her father when she was three years of age. Despite the hardship she had to face as a result of her growing up in a racially divided country, the young girl channeled her energy into what would later turn out to be a successful acting career.
Khumalo’s journey to stardom began in her teenage years when she joined a local small and unknown dance group called Amajika. While her role there did not directly put her talents on front and center stage, it proved to be a good launching board as her performances with the group was noticed by actor and writer Mbongeni Ngema, who went on to write the lead role of Sarafina in the musical of the same name for her.
How Leleti Khumalo Became One of the Top Actresses in SA
The actress achieved worldwide fame as a result of her performance in the role of Sarafina. The musical, which was based on the 1976 Soweto youth uprisings that were propelled by Afrikaans being made the medium of instruction in local schools in South Africa, tells the story of a young schoolgirl who fights for her rights and inspires others to protest after her inspirational teacher is imprisoned and murdered by the apartheid regime.
Sarafina! was first performed in 1987 in South Africa, at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. The following year, it moved to Broadway and the young actress received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. In the year before that, she had received an NAACP Image Award for Best Stage Actress for the same role. The musical would go on to enjoy a two year run on Broadway before the production embarked on a worldwide tour. It received Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography, and Best Direction of a Musical during its run.
By 1992, Hollywood producers opted to turn the musical into a feature film that starred other actors like Whoopi Goldberg, Miriam Makeba, and John Kani. Leleti Khumalo reprised her lead role in the film that was distributed worldwide and became the biggest film production to be released on the African continent, thus making her one of the most famous people in SA and on the continent.
A Look At Some of Her Other Notable Works
Leleti Khumalo’s next high profile appearance came in 1995 in Cry, the Beloved Country, a movie based on a novel of the same name by Alan Paton. Although she played a minor role as compared to her previous one, the movie, which starred James Earl Jones, was very successful, both locally and internationally.
In 1997, Khumalo starred in Sarafina 2, which was made by Ngema. Not much was subsequently heard from the actress until 2004 when she appeared in both Hotel Rwanda and Yesterday, two very successful and highly acclaimed movies. In the following year, she appeared in the movie Faith’s Corner and was added to the cast of the Soap Opera Generations, which ran from 2005 to 2008.
Some of the films and TV series she has appeared in recently include Invictus (2009), Hopeville (2009), Africa United (2010), and Winnie Mandela (2011). Others are Soul City (2011) and the SABC1 telenovela Uzalo (2015 -2018). She currently plays Mazulu on e.tv’s Imbewu.
What Has The Actress Been Up To Lately?
In addition to acting, which she continues to do to this day, Leleti Khumalo has tried her hand at a few other things, including music and radio presenting. Her first album, which was released in 1993, was titled Leleti and Sarafina. There have been a few reports that she is working on a new project, but nothing has been released so far. In 2015, Leleti took a two-year hiatus from acting so she could be with her family.
Surprisingly, reports began to circulate in 2016 that the well-loved actress was dead at the age of 46. The story began as a hoax online but spread like wildfire on social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter. The Twitter handle for the show Uzalo, however, dispelled the rumors. Later in the same year, 2016, she starred as Maria in Free State and Zenzi in Cry of Love. Since 2018, she has been appearing in Duma Ndlovu’s Imbewu.
What Happened to Her Skin?
Despite being a well-known figure in the South African movie industry, Leleti Khumalo is also known to be suffering a rare skin disease called vitiligo. This skin condition is characterized by parts of the skin losing their pigment. There are patches on the affected area, which usually turn white, with sharp margins. While the hairs on the affected area may become white, other places such as the nose and mouth are likely to be affected.
Although the sickness can be treated with makeup and sunscreen, vitiligo is not curable. Lelelti Khumalo has had vitiligo for several years, and since then, she has learned how to manage and live with it. That notwithstanding, the ailment has never stopped her from achieving her dreams as she has remained undeterred in her acting career. Presently, she has joined millions of people who are publicizing and advocating for those living with the ailment around the world.
What We Know About Leleti Khumalo’s Husband And Family
The award-winning South African actress has been married twice in her lifetime. Her first marriage was with Mbongeni Ngema. The couple got hitched in 1992 and were together for a little over a decade before going their separate ways. Ngema is a South African theatre director, producer, writer, and a backing guitarist. He is popular as one of the writers of the multiple award-winning political play Woza Albert. Leleti Khumalo’s relationship with Ngema came to an end in 2005, and they both went their separate ways. They had a child in their marriage.
Soon after their divorce, the actress began another relationship with South African businessman Skhuthazo Winston Khanyile. Nothing much is known about their relationship. However, we do know that the duo tied the knot in a small intimate ceremony held in KwaMashu, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal in 2012. After their wedding, the couple welcomed a set of twins on May 24, 2013. Leleti and her family currently reside in KwaMashu.