Of all the television personalities who became popular in the late nineties, the elegant and confident South African TV host, Zandi Nhlapo, remains one of the most relevant in the industry to date. Having appeared on television shows since she was a teenager, Zandi Nhlapo has gone on to blossom into one of South Africa’s most treasured show business personalities. Her career efforts have gone beyond just one field and have been felt in entertainment, modeling, and most recently, the movie industry.
Zandi’s natural beauty and poise – especially at a time when young black women were neither seen nor heard in certain spaces – has inspired millions of black South African girls to take up careers in those industries. It is not an overstatement to say that this woman shattered a lot of glass ceilings back in the days and to date, she is still regarded as one of the first female pioneers of television presenting in the country.
46-Year-Old Zandi Nhlapo Was Born in Johannesburg
Zandi Nhlapo was born just a day before Christmas, on the 24th of December 1975 in the city of Johannesburg. We do not have much information on the identity of her father but the woman that birthed Zandile has been identified as Nonhlanhla, a Soweto native. The name ‘Zandile’ means ‘They have multiplied’ and the actress has explained that the reason she was given that name was that her mother had fervently prayed for a mini-version of herself before she (Zandi) was born.
She is the first daughter of her parents and the overall second child, as she has an older brother. Unfortunately, the exact number of siblings that Zandi grew up with remains a mystery to date. The veteran presenter wasn’t born with a silver spoon and she grew up having to trek long distances because she couldn’t afford basic public transportation. Her experiences as a child were also influenced by the apartheid that was popular at the time as black-skinned people were quite disadvantaged.
In spite of all these challenges, she wasn’t deterred in her quest for stardom as she knew she was born to be a television star. She joined a Soweto dance group called ‘The Whizz Kids’ and would trek all the way to the YMCA in the city, for their theatre performances. She was never a key member of the group, but she gained quite a bit of experience while she was with them. Information about her other educational achievements has not yet been made available to the public.
The Soweto-Born Actress Was Just 17 When She Participated in Her First Reality TV Show
There is a saying that the beautiful ones are yet to be born, yet it was Zandi’s beauty that thrust her into the limelight at such a young age. When she was only 17, Zandi got her first television role in the CCTV game show dubbed TRIO in 1992. This was only the beginning of an illustrious career that would be spent in front of numerous cameras and flashlights. This earned her the title, ‘Mzansi’s IT Girl’.
Zandi was quite ambitious. After deciding to have a go at modeling, she competed in various beauty pageants, including Miss 707, Miss Orlando Pirates, Miss Sundowns, all of which she emerged as the winner. During her modeling career, she was featured on the covers of high-end magazines such as Y Mag and True Love. She also continued presenting on TV and worked as a production assistant for a music show called Midday Breeze.
While she was still with Midday Breeze, she met SABC head of channel, Keith, who was impressed by Zandi’s charming persona and looks as well. She was hired on the spot and worked with the SABC for over 10 years. During her stay at the premium broadcasting company, she presented shows for high-profile events like Eastern Mosaic, Continuity, Miss South Africa, and the South African Music Awards (SAMA).
Zandi Nhlapo Quit the Entertainment Industry at the Peak of Her Career, to the Surprise of Many
A lot of us are all too aware of the perceived perks and bonuses that come with fame, unfortunately, many of us tend to forget that famous people are also human beings. In Zandi Nhlapo’s case, she began to feel like an object meant to gratify others, without much consideration for her feelings. After the feelings of dissatisfaction got to a head, she decided to leave her prestigious, well-paying job and went underground to focus on herself and her family.
The ex-model told DRUM magazine that when she was at the SABC, she began to feel scared and paranoid because she was bothered that over 6 million people knew who she was. She also felt uncomfortable with the fact that people had become impersonal around her and it had led to lots of negativity and jealousy from her peers. By this time, she had had enough and decided it was time to step down.
She Tried Her Hand On Show Production And Entrepreneurship
After leaving the SABC in 2003, Zandi decided to try other career ventures and picked communications, branding, and public relations. First, she briefly worked as the executive producer for the show, ‘Zooming in on Men’. Later on, she decided to go into entrepreneurship and partnered with Vavasati Logistics Company after which she went on to open her own management and logistics company.
Her last onscreen gig before she went AWOL was as the host of e.TV’s Cooking Gospel in 2013. On the show, Zandi hosted a different celebrity each week while cooking to the blast of gospel music. She didn’t stay too long on the show, however, and before long, she went underground again. In 2017, she started an exclusive children’s hair salon business called ‘Mini You Mini Me’. The salon was conceived from a realization that most adult hair salons were inappropriate for kids, mostly because of the kind of conversations that usually went on there. So Zandi took up the challenge and was able to create a great conducive environment for kids, where they could play while waiting their turn.
Zandi also started a media and marketing company called Liquid Image Consulting which was initially a 360 events management company. It is very obvious that even though the former beauty queen was no longer seen much on-screen, she was still as busy as ever. Zandi Nhlapo is a truly industrious woman and it is very encouraging to see that she hasn’t lost the hustling spirit that once brought her out of poverty.
Zandi Nhlapo Has Landed a Supporting Role on Popular Soap Series, Imbewu
Earlier in 2021, it was announced that Zandi Nhlapo would make a major comeback to our television screens on the popular e.tv soapie, Imbewu: The Seed. It seemed like the mother of three had finally come to terms with the fact that television was her home (yass!). While this is Zandi’s biggest movie role yet, it is however not her first. She made her acting debut way back in 1995 in the television drama, Dick Sithole, in which she starred alongside actors like Themba Hlatshwayo, Lindi Kubheka, and Dally Mokhethi. That was her first and only role… until now.
Almost 26 years later, Zandi is set to play the role of Nompi Khanyeza, the mean-spirited mother of Fikile (played by Phindile Gwala). She made her comeback on the 13th of October, last month on the popular show which featured superstars like Thembi Mtshali-Jones, Leleti Khumalo, and Muzi Mthabela.
Speaking about her new acting gig with DRUM magazine, Zandi said she initially wanted her comeback to happen off-screen, in the production department but was instead offered an opportunity to join the cast – an opportunity she decided to take. After seeing a short sneak peek, hundreds of viewers were excited to finally see their favorite television personality back on their screens.
Zandi Nhlapo’s Major Achievements To Date
- Zandi Nhlapo is the founder of Liquid Image Consulting, a marketing and communication services company. She runs this business with her first daughter, Ntanda Zikalala.
- She has had a very illustrious career, having hosted high-profile events like the Miss South Africa beauty pageant and the South African Music Awards (SAMA), all before the age of 27.
- Zandi Nhlapo got her first job as the host of the game show, Trio, when she was just 17 years old.
- She is regarded as one of the It Girls of the nineties because of her immense success in television and radio hosting, modeling, and media production.
- She is one of the most foremost and respected female media personalities in South Africa at the moment with an experience of over 25 years.