South African actress, Pearl Thusi is one fierce African woman that is breaking boundaries and winning many hearts.
Pearl Thusi is ready to be Africa’s ‘Khaleesi.’ It was a given after tackling the lead role in the upcoming fifth edition of the action movie franchise, Scorpion King. According to her, “I learned that I’m actually good at action movies and I didn’t know it until this film. I have never in my life [been able to declare myself as something], apart from saying I’m a really good mom or that I’m something I can prove. It’s hard to say I’m a good actress, because I haven’t played every person in the world.” Not yet, at least. She seeks to tell the stories she would have loved to see as a child. “I could cry, actually,” she says, reflecting on her childhood in Durban. “I didn’t think the dreams I had were valid. They weren’t ever possible—so it was much easier to just dream.”
Thusi has been performing since she was in high school, first as a drum major and then as a model in the township. “There I started doing local pageants, you’d win a pack of glasses, or you’d win a little plastic crown. You know? Very much like what is still happening here, where pageants are very popular,” she says. At her integrated high school, which she notes was still predominantly white, a model agent discovered her and took her through training to model professionally. Thusi came in second place at Miss SA Teen at 15, where she was the youngest contestant. She continued to model in commercials, and after falling in love with storytelling in high school decided to study drama.
Working in the entertainment industry at a young age helped Thusi financially support her family and herself after her mother passed away. Thusi then enrolled at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg to study speech and drama. All the while she maintained her modeling career, pushing her agent to get her acting roles.
However, Thusi’s life drastically shifted when she discovered she was pregnant. She eventually had to leave school. “They wouldn’t let me work and study at the same time,” she recalls. “They essentially were saying to me, get educated or feed my child. I tried to survive but I couldn’t. And at the time, I didn’t want to depend anymore than what I already did on my daughter’s father.” Although her circumstance drove her to focus solely on her career, she did so with grace and fervent determination—a combination which subsequently brought her to where she is now.
Today, she has not only made a name for herself, but she has also made a living doing what she enjoys. Her first big gig was her role as Patricia Kopong on the 2009 show, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, starring Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose.
As the host of Lip Sync Battle Africa, Thusi has been able to meet and collaborate with a good number of creatives from other African countries, including Nigerian artists Patoranking, D’Banj and TiwaSavage. When she’s not in front of the camera, Thusi co-owns a natural hair care line, Black Pearl Hair, and plans to continue to give back to her community through Black Halo, her charity that will focus on women, children and education.
Culled from OkayAfrica