Star Hlubi salutes courageous women

TO START National Women's Month on a high-tea note for a good cause, South African actress Hlubi Mboya visited her former home last weekend to talk to parents of children born with a cleft lip and palate at an awareness event held at Slipperfields.

The Kwanobuhle-born and raised star, known as Nandipha, the character she played in Isidingo, now plays Sonto on the SABC1 drama series  Mfolozi Street and was a guest of Cleft Friends, which is affiliated to the international Smile Foundation.

Although the 36-year-old actress does not have children of her own or any immediate family member with a cleft lip or palate, Mboya has been an ambassador for the Smile Foundation for the past four years.

In her talk titled "Courageous Women", she honoured and applauded parents who have children born with a cleft lip and palate.

"Those mothers go through so much, they need to be celebrated and validated for their courage on the very hurtful journey.

"They need the support. They need to be told: We see your bravery and courage!" Mboya said.

Though it was Mboya's first time to speak at a Cleft Friends awareness event, she said it meant a great deal to be asked to attend such an occasion. "It was the first time, but hopefully not the last time I will be asked."

Her interest in charity work came about several years ago, when she portrayed HIV-positive Nandipha, a role which she played for about 10 years, at a time when open disclosure of the illness was taboo.

"Playing Nandipha made me want to do more than just act ... and that was the beginning of my whole life. From there good karma followed me. I became a beacon of light."

"I am passionate about life, passionate about the African child and especially the African girl child!" she said.

Other charities that Mboya is an ambassador of include the UN World Food Programme, Reach for a Dream, and the Mandela Bangle.

Asked about whether or not she was not threatened by the new generation of young talented women in the local entertainment world, she said: "There's enough place in the sun, everyone has a chance to shine.

"You have to be positive about your own path. If anything, my heart is open to mentor anyone starting out in the entertainment 'biz'.

"Consistency is also very important in a acting. I keep myself out there by still going to castings."

As well as her television work, Mboya also played the character Gugu in the Donovan Marsh directed feature film iNumber Number, which was released last year.

Although originally from Nelson Mandela Bay, Mboya's family now lives in Gauteng. "Our parents are in Pretoria and we live in Joburg."

In between her acting and charity involvement, Mboya still finds time to balance her studies. "I am studying towards a qualification in sports science through the Health and Fitness Professionals Academy."

Though she admitted to acting being her "first love" and charity work her "purpose", Mboya believes that education is equally important: "Studying is something to fall back on and besides I also love my sports, fitness and sports coaching."

Mboya, who is engaged to her business development specialist boyfriend of 13 years, Kirsten Arnold, said she hoped one day to have children of her own, and that "God will bless me and my little body with twins". - Balisa Ntloko