Skeem Saam’s Mokgadi – Pebetsi lehlogonolo Matlaila is a South African Actress best known for her role on Skeem Saam as ‘Mokgadi’
An Interview with HightlightMagazine
Q. Let’s start with the most difficult question, Who is Pebetsi Nolo Matlaila?
Ans. Pebetsi is a daughter, Sister, Mother, Friend and A leader without a title. A woman of substance. Sereto Sa ka Ke, Mmankgatlengka di palamonwana, Mothepa wa go tseba sekgoa. Lehlogonolo is a God fearing woman, in search of God’s purpose for her life. Nolo is a Lioness, with a cunning spirit, intrepid, tenacious, bold and brave. At the core, she is a dreamer, a believer, a giver, addicted to self-development, philanthropy and purposeful living.
Q. At Primary and High school would you say people also saw you as the above description?
Ans. No. Actually, I think I turned out totally different to people’s expectations of me. I was a nerd (late bloomer, scared of boys) ,artistic ( was recognized as one of the best art student of my year) , very academic ( Higher grade Maths and Science student) and completely excluded from any sporting activities.
Q. Looking back at your high school life, what would you’ve liked to do differently?
Ans. Well, I enjoyed my high school, not much I would do different. Accept obviously push a little bit harder when it came to my academics. Also I would have loved to have a little bit more self-esteem.
Q. What do you know now that you wish you knew while you were still in high school?
Ans. I wish I knew much earlier what I wanted to do with my life after school, so I could harness the potential that was with in me from an early age. That way, I would have avoided the time wasted, deciding, try this and that.
Q. You found yourself in the states at a very young age, how did that happen?
Ans. I was intrigued at a workshop held at our school ( Capricorn High School) in my matric year , where they educated us about gap Year opportunities of living ,working and studying in the USA. So I enrolled, got the qualification pre-requisites and left for the United states , New York City in 2004 only at 19 , right after high school.
Q. How hard was it to be miles away from your family and friends, What did that experience teach you?
Ans. Being away from family and friends, living in another country ,where I didn’t know anyone , was a serious culture shock. First and foremost I was a foreigner, limited to certain citizenship opportunities. That’s where I learned to be a bicultural individual. I mean I had no choice, I had to blend into a new culture , different ways of living , eating , studying and even different ways of driving. Can you imagine coming from a strictly Christian black family to come live with a host family of a strictly Jewish white ethnicity? I had to adjust and I had to do it fast. In my 4 years of living there, I had more highs than lows, the only lows was missing my family , especially on those special holidays like Easter and Christmas. But I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Q. Being away from SA, did it make you appreciate SA more or you can’t wait to catch the next flight?
Ans. One thing for sure , was that , being away from home made me take more pride in being African . I learned that the Western culture has this ideology of being the Supreme and Sovereign nation. So they take pride in who they are ( as diluted as they may be) and they are well aware of the fact that most 3rd world countries highly esteem them and usually imitates them. Yet these , Americans , never forget to mention the wealth , beauty and richness of life that Africans are sitting on. That’s when I started reading books such as The Capitalist Nigger by Chika Onyeniand some of Marcus Garvi’s teachings.That’s when I learned to take pride in my own African uniqueness, as imperfect as it may be. That is why today I can’t stand xenophobia, black on black oppression , discrimination or even anyone who is shameful about where in Africa they come from.
Q. Your love for the media industry how did that come about?
Ans. Oh now that was totally unplanned. I always tell people that radio found me. It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I have always been a vocal individual, creative, involved in the arts at school , Choir , concerts , cheerleading ,talent shows and such. But when I was approached by a Harlem Community radio station manager at a charity walk , who offered to train me to be a radio presenter on his radio station , there was no way I could turn that opportunity down. I eventually joined the radio station (SARFM) promoting African music , engaging in Africa related talks. It was there that I interviewed artists from different parts of Africa . Exposing African music to the African loving community of Harlem , New York. I even got to interview popular Kenyan hip hop artist “ bamboo the African bantu” and had a telethon interview with our very own “HHP”. And that’s when the radio bug bit me. And once it bites you , it will never let you go , no matter where you go or what you end up doing. The rest is really development from one level to the next.
Q. Briefly explain your journey in the radio industry (how you started, sailing through it and where you are now)
Ans. After returning to south Africa in 2008 , I thought I was the “ish”. I thought I could approach any radio station with my international experience, but that soon became a wishful thought. After being turned down by a couple of radio stations , I didn’t give up on what I had quickly developed a passion for. I enrolled into a presenting, acting and production school , called On Cue Communications, to qualify myself in the media industry. My first radio gig in S.A was on UJFM in 2010 , I was then quickly swooped up by Capricorn FM in 2011 , Co-Hosting on a drive time show 3-6pm daily. I then took a few years of to have my first child “The ORabs” and to finish my UNISA Bachelor Degree. In 2014, I joined a communication project by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, called Ubuntu radio. Later the same year, I also joined a Christian Based radio Station in the Tswane area called Impact radio. In 2015, I will be joining a national, joburg based radio station (cant mention names yet) which will cement my name in the radio industry after the many years of chasing it.
Q. You landed a role on the popular drama Skeem Saam, take us through that experience?
Ans. Skeem Saam…That’s actually a funny story. You know God has a huge sense of humor. I heard about the auditions in Hamanskraal and Johannesburg via Social media. I then decided to go to Hamanskraal, to not only try my luck but to have fun and also get a chance to see the likes of Wallet and MmaKunutu , since I am such a big fan. Those who follow me on social media will tell you how I never missed an episode and I would tweet about it. I finally managed to audition and to my surprise I got a call back. It is a whole new experience for me , I have a new found respect for actors now. It is not as easy as we all think it is. It is certainly different from radio. With radio I could go do a weekend breakfast show in pajamas , for example. Today I play Mokgadi Matloga, the journalist who falls in love with Leeto Maputla.
Q. What would you say is the 1 thing you didn’t know about TV that you’ve learned after joining Skeem Saam?
Ans. Aside from learning that it is important to know when to separate yourself from your given character, I have since learned that , it’s an industry or an art that involves a lot of professionals .Styling, make up , camera men ,lighting, directors , script writers , translatorsetc. So it’s important that everyone respects each one’s profession and accounts to all their given responsibilities as required. No One is there to babysit, or spoon feed another person/professional. For harmonious work , each professional has to play their part. As an actress, my job is to keep the image they want me to portray and to come to work prepared with my lines. That’s what I have learned so far.
Q. What are some of the things you had to overcome on the path to where you are today?
Ans. sho, that’s a challenging question. I would like to first mention that God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers. With that said , let’s all remember that , it’s difficult to understand why you have to be the one that goes through a particular situation , especially while you still going through it. We all have to go through challenges at some point in our lifetime.But when you overcome that challenge or situation , you then realize that what did not break you , made you to be better , wiser and stronger. Things I had to overcome on my journey are basically the consequences of choosing the road less taken in life and chasing my dream. To mention a few, I had to overcome poverty, failure , rejection, frustrating stagnation , heartbreak , pain, setbacks , humiliation , disapproval , the challenge of finishing university, tackling single parenthood and a test on my faith.
Q. How hard is it for a beautiful lady to make it in the entertainment industry (or gender is not an issue, the playing field is level..)
Ans. In the TV industry , gender does not really play much of a role. Besides, for it to work , we need all genders. However , because radio was initially a male dominated industry , it was a bit had to break through into that medium. Yes , of course you do get mistreated sometimes even taken advantage of. But that’s where I learned how to develop a thick skin. Because no matter what , you can’t keep a good woman down unless she wants to stay down. Halla!
Q. One would say you’ve done it all, what more would you still want to achieve?
Ans. Done it all ?….Not even close . I fear lying on my death bed one day when I am 90 something and think my life was just mediocre. The late Dr Myles Monroe said that the richest place on earth is the cemetery/grave yard, because that’s where unwritten books, unsung songs and undiscovered talents are buried. I still have to host a talk show (phela, I am Oprah Wanna-be). I still have to travel the world again. I have to finish my book before I turn 30. I still have to Get a PHD , so I can get that Dr title before my name. Establish a home of safety or orphanage home , get married and have 3 more children and the list goes . Note that , in all I am mentioning , there is no materialistic goal. I believe in living purposefully and all else will follow. Mathew 6:33.
Q. When you are in the media industry people always believe they “know” you, what’s the 1 misconception that people have about you?
Ans. I am easily misunderstood, story of my life. Weather on TV or in real life. Because I am one interesting book to read that you may never finish. Honestly, so far ,there is no misconception that I have picked up yet. But I will deal with that or cross that bridge when I get there.
Q. Any message to kids that would love to be where you are now?
Ans. Very simple. Believe in your capability. Don’t be in competition with anyone, run your own race in your own lane. Harness your own talent, P.U.S.H for your own passion. Nobody said it would be easy , but don’t give in or give up on your dream , regardless of how long it may takes you to get there. It took me 10 (a decade) years before I could get a solid recognizable radio Job.
Q. How can people get hold of you?
Well I am Nolo Matlaila on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram. Otherwise drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org