Thembiso and her road to the A-List

You can almost hear Thembiso’s voice, even over the static medium of text.  The smiley faces and exclamation points that dot her responses paint the image of  a young woman whose face that’s just as expressive as her voice.  You wouldn’t be wrong in thinking this: a recent graduate living in California, Thembiso’s planning on making full use of her social skills to propel her to an anchor spot on E! News.

“It’s (the constant moving) definitely made me really social and friendly because I was forced to put myself out there in order to make new friends with each move.”

Thembiso Mawema was used to travelling around.  “My dad was a diplomat so I travelled a  lot but moved to Malawi, Kenya and Zim.”  2007 spelled the big move across the ocean to the United States, but after moving  around so often it wasn’t anything new for her.  Schools were on winter break when Thembiso and her family arrived, but she started school almost immediately after settling into her new home.  “That was definitely the biggest change, from going to a Zimbabwean private school like Convent to an American public school! Major shock! I went from an all-girls school were discipline was a big deal to a co-ed school where kids would make out in front of their teachers like it’s  nothing.”

“I got the most ridiculous questions a lot of the time tho like ‘how did you learn how to speak English so fast’, ‘do you have cars in Africa or did you ride elephants to school’.” 

Apart from the usual comments on whether she lived in a hut or how could she speak such good English, she had no problems fitting in and finding friends.  Travelling and moving so often helped Thembiso hone her social skills and she’d learnt to adapt to new places and cultures.  She upgraded to university, where she graduated with a degree in communications this year.

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“My goal has always been to be a host on E! News, but I just love entertainment, & pop culture & fashion so as long as I’m doing that I’m golden.”

Thembiso had always been set in her career goals.  “My endgoal is to be a host/tv personality”, she says, and true to form for Zimbabweans the world over, she’s started laying the foundation for her dream.  It all started with one of the newer social media platforms, Snapchat.  “I just used it like anyone else & people always tell me how much they enjoy them & how I need my own show. I was just being myself too so it was nice to see that people enjoyed that I suppose.”  Thembiso laughs as she thinks back to where she started.   She’s continued with her Snapchat stories (hosting a #AskThembi every Sunday) and now has her own blog and Youtube lifestyle channel:

Whilst Thembiso has started the journey to create her own brand, she did meet some initial resistance from her parents, who didn’t see entertainment journalism as a legitimate profession.  They naturally had other plans. “My mum has dreams of be becoming a lawyer  which would definitely be my first choice if I didn’t want to be an entertainer.  So I would say they definitely prefer me to do something else, but they support me in what I want to do which is more than I can ask for. My mom gives anyone and everyone the link to my blog to boast.”

 

“I want young guys and girls, to live the life they want for themselves, to not be afraid to not want to be an engineer.”

Thembiso hasn’t been back to Zimbabwe since her family moved, and being away for so long has had an effect on her connection to her old home.   She arrived in California when she was 14 and Thembiso spent the all-important adolescent period in a new surrounding.  However, she never let go of who she was and what she’d learnt when she lived in Zimbabwe.  Her parents and friends (those who are still Zim based) are her touchstone.  “Being close with them and them keeping me grounded and reminding me where I came from is what keeps it (her Zimbabwean identity) going.”  Although she hesitates on whether she’d permanently move back to Zimbabwe, Thembiso’s firm in her resolve to maintain and represent her Zimbabwean roots whichever platform she’s on.AhrRisgu-Q5LU3fMBbH1YME-kOhE9tzBAGqrxhBPki0q

You can check out  Thembiso’s work at www.justthembi.com,  as well as her Youtube channel.

 

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Makabongwe and her dream to save the world

Makabongwe Ngulube is a firecracker.  The spark in her eyes and the joy in her smile bring her brand of energy to her surroundings and friends.  Her upbeat positivity is ingrained into her very DNA, that little piece of personality that makes her…her.   With an optimistic outlook and a genuine drive for helping out her countrymen, Maka’s story of life studying in the USA is a reflection of her open mind, a generous heart, and an invincible Zimbabwean spirit.

 Leaving Home

Maka celebrating her Ndebele heritage at a school event

Maka celebrating her Ndebele heritage at a school event

When Maka enrolled at St.Catherine’s University in Minnesota, she wasn’t really sure what to expect.  “Going to the US was the first long trip away from home”, she says, and for someone coming from a close-knit family, life without them was hard.  However, it wasn’t as hard as getting to know her new surroundings.  In Minnesota, a largely white community, Maka was for the first time acutely concsious of her skin colour.  “I’m very aware that I’m a minority.  You see white people in Zimbabwe, but they’re not in masses.  It was way too much in one go.”

Fortunately for her, she was not met with hostility in her new community.  Her host family showed her around, easing her into Minnesota life and getting her used to moving around the city.  She had to adjust to a foreign climate: temperatures during a Minnesota winter average -4 degrees celsius.  Compared to Harare’s average of 18 degrees, it felt like jumping from a hot tub into a pool of ice.  And she wasn’t ready for the food.  The potato-heavy diet, a staple in Minnesota, was something that Makabongwe couldn’t wrap her head around.    “When you’re out of your comfort zone, you have to completely adjust.”  So she held her breath, and dove head-first into the unknown.

Maka the Student                            

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Receiving an award at her university

Two and a half years on, and Maka has carved a piece of the American city for herself.  She’s made friends, has joined the local church, and is enjoying university life.  Going to an all-female university would be a nightmare for some , but Maka loves St. Catherine’s. “It’s not as bad as Convent (in terms of boys)!”  She has her books to keep her busy.  Studying International Relations and working at St. Catherine’s University’s Admissions Office takes up a lot of Maka’s time, and even during school breaks she stays active with internships and summer jobs.   She’s already mulling over life after university, with a career in diplomacy being a strong possibility.

 

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“It’ll Never Truly Be Home”

Maka loves her school, she’s made good friends, and thanks to a small Zimbabwean community in Minnesota, she isn’t completely isolated from her culture.  But for her, the convenience of American life will forever fall short of  Zimbabwe.  “It (Minnesota) will never truly be home.”  Maka hopes that the Zimbabwe she left is still waiting for her when she comes back, as sunny and welcoming as she remembers.  Only then will she truly feel at home, in a place full of hope, dreams, and love.