It is like the biblical verse, 'the stone which the builders rejected, became the chief cornerstone,' when Winnie Ntshaba and her colleagues were unceremoniously fired from Generations in 2014 for taking part in an industrial action and demanding a wage increase, she wasn’t sure she would work on TV again.
Few years down the line she’s once again one of the most sought-after actresses in Mzansi.
Playing the character of an ex-convict who’s been released from prison after serving a 20-year term for murder, Winnie (43) is making waves in Mzansi Magic show Isithembiso.
The actress is also earning a bad name for herself on set, in the eyes of the audiences as an evil witch who loves success at all costs in The Herd, and in Isibaya she plays the town’s local mayor.
Her current roles are by far the opposite from that of Khethiwe, the down to earth character she played in Generations which saw her shooting to stardom.
But Winnie enjoys playing different roles in line with her many characters. During an interview with Move magazine, she threw her head back laughing when the name Khethiwe was mentioned.
“Oh, those were the good old days when Winnie could walk into a Pick n Pay store without being noticed.
“There’s something fulfilling about playing an evil person,” she told Move in reference to her current roles;
“Especially when you’re the complete opposite – it’s therapeutic in a way. And you get to live some of your crazy fantasies.”
She said Khethiwe was so popular with fans, to the extent that whenever she got in public places, people would stop her to ask about her character even long after she had left the soapie.
“I don’t try too hard to be remembered or to stay relevant. I’m not very active on social media. But I think it’s my spirituality that’s made me memorable.
“I’m a strong Christian woman whose faith gets restored with every challenge in my life. But it’s funny how all my roles have always had an evil side to them,” she said.
Lihle, her character in Isithembiso, is trying to restructure herself for the better after murdering her cheating boyfriend’s mistress. She’s trying so hard to be a better person, but it’s a tall order. “Lihle has an incredibly dark side to her. I love it,” Winnie said.
THE TOUGH TIMES
The seasoned actress admitted that she lost confidence in herself when she was fired from Generations. To make matters, she further sank deeper into self-doubt when she was rejected from one audition after the other. “I spent many months not working or acting. I’d only get adverts and short stories,” she said.
For a while Winnie had to make ado without a salary. “I don’t know how I got by. I think it was all God’s grace. Every time I desperately needed money, an advert I shot six months ago would be renewed and I’d get enough money to survive for a few months.
“But I won’t lie, it hasn’t been easy,” she admitted.
As if that was not enough, things got tough for her when the awards show she’d launched to celebrate local talent flopped. “I started the Royalty Soapie Awards to celebrate acting excellence in soapies. I wanted to commend the actors, cast, crew – even the drivers – on a job well done,” Winnie said.
However, she was forced to dump her project after failing to get funding. “I was criticised and humiliated for having a no-show. People celebrated my failures but I knew that when I came back it would be with a bang,” she added.
Finally, Winnie has secured some funding for the Royalty Soapie Awards, which is set to be revived in November. “I’ve learnt resilience, strength and willpower. I don’t care what people say because I know what I’ve overcome. I know my purpose on this earth,” she said.
HER GRATITUDE AND PATIENCE
The past few years had been tough for her, from losing her job, to losing her mother, Bongekile MaMvelase Ntshaba, in 2017. “My late mom has always been my pillar of strength. I see a lot of her values in me,” she said.
While her dad (Zwelakhe Ntshaba) was a mine worker, Winnie's mom would sell school uniforms.
She brought up eight beautiful and grounded children. Winnie is grateful that she managed to spent time with her in the month before she died. “I took her to her first spa treatment on my birthday. Her death was the first major death in our family. I was a mess. But I still console myself knowing I got to spend her last days with her,” she said.
Whenever the actress feels like doubting her own parenting skills, she would start thinking of Bongekile. “My son is turning 10 in a few months’ time and I get confused on what to advise him. I call my sister, Zodwa, and she helps. I’m growing with my son. He teaches me to be strong, he challenges me and I love learning from him every day,” she said.
She believes that friends should be few but good and ‘because they listened to gossip' so she relies more on her family and faith. “I’d never lose my faith – it keeps me motivated, even when I don’t have a cent.
“I guess everyone needs to go through a dry spell at some point in their lives, just to strengthen their faith. Not having a salary has made my relationship with God stronger.
“I always knew I was going to get something soon. And when the jobs came, they came in abundance,” she said.
Now she is focusing on a new role. “I’m passionate about our continent and breaking African stereotypes. I’d love to play the part of a president one day. A powerful, feminine, well-balanced woman who loves her family but has time for her country,” she said.