I will never heal: Heart broken #TheQueenMzansi and Generations actress Motsoaledi Setumo opens bares all

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Television actress, Motsoaledi Setumo is undoubtedly one of the toughest women on the South African entertainment scene. Not only has she had to endure being bullied in high school, she’s also had to deal with people calling her a ‘b*tch’, being misunderstood and receiving massive backlash for her character on Generations: The Legacy.

She’s also had to come to terms with her mother being quadriplegic after a car accident when Mo was just eight. Mo has had to overcome these and many other obstacles in her life to get to where she is today. And although she has come a long way with her depression and self-esteem issues, the actress told Daily Sun that she doesn’t think she will ever fully heal.

“Not 100{1f0bb132e08ca1f8565add86e1f8740171c75f84ed80bad4a750114913f392ef}. I am still very conscious about how I look. I had a breakout in 2016 when I was on Greed and Desire and it took me back to high school and I wanted to quit again, it was too much. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror,” she began.

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“I wouldn’t say I’ve healed. I don’t think I’ll ever heal. Even if I were to have the smoothest of skin, I’d still be very self-conscious,” she said.

The 27-year-old actress who’s currently on the popular Mzansi Magic telenovela, The Queen, has often spoken about how mean her high school peers were to her. Being a skinny adolescent with acne was tough on her and she often had to resort to being a loner or putting up a mean façade so that people would leave her alone. But she says that all of that was, in a way, necessary for her to become the resilient woman she is today. And it also helps her in her work.

“As unfair as it may seem that I had to go through all of that, I had to go through it so that I can perfect my craft. I have cried so much that it’s easy for me to cry (on set) because it’s easy for me to tap into that dark place in me and then I cry,” she shared.

Even in adulthood, she used to find it difficult to find herself in the public space and having to deal with the negative things being said about her in the media and on Twitter.

She recalls one incident, in 2016, while she was on Greed and Desire, a picture of her, alongside a Magnum ice-cream bar started doing the rounds on social media. Mo says that she can laugh about it now, but it definitely wasn’t funny back then.

“I cried myself to sleep that night. It was bad. But I have a thick skin,” she says with a laugh.

Mo, who plays Mmabatho on The Queen, has definitely found refuge in her work, which has allowed her to rediscover how strong she is. Her greatest joy now is doing her dream job.

“Waking up every day to do what I love [is the best part], especially because I thought it would never happen. I had made up my mind, it was done, not going to happen. It is amazing,” she shares.

She always dreamt of being an actress, but wasn’t always sure that this dream would materialize.

“I went to Boston Media House and did Media Studies but I specialized in Radio Broadcasting and that was my aim, to be a radio broadcaster. But acting has always been in the background, I was just shy about it. I had self-esteem issues and I really didn’t think I would do it at all. So I kept it safe and went for radio which is still in the industry that I love,” she says.

It wasn’t until she received her first “yes” for acting, that she believed it would happen. In 2015, Mo auditioned for Generations: The Legacy twice, but did not hear back from the producers. It wasn’t until she attended an acting workshop with her friend where the Generations casting director spotted her, that her luck began to change. At the time, Mo was a producer at Radio 2000. The director then called her and asked her to come in and audition for the ranchy character of Thabitha Cele.

“They were looking for a Zulu-speaking, model-looking girl. The girl I was auditioning with was tall, dark, gorgeous and Zulu – she was the character,” said Mo.

But as fate would have it, she soon got the role and the rest, as they say, is history. She does admit, however, that the backlash she received from one particular sex scene was a tough time for her and it also reflected the misogynistic nature of our society.

“It was a difficult time for, it’s then that I wanted to quit. It’s when I was like ‘what did I just get myself into?’ I didn’t think it through, I was too excited, I was naive and I thought people would love it. But I received the total opposite and it wasn’t easy, I don’t ever wanna go through it again.

“Men do it all the time and they’re deemed ‘sexy’. Nobody complained about Smanga (played by Moopi Mothibeli), at all, no one. They always have Vuyo [Dabula] in his six-pack and that’s fine. My boobs were covered, my down areas was covered, and so what was the fuss? But for me to get to the level of ‘what’s the fuss’, I had to go through that dark place. At that time, I was new and up-and-coming, and I wanted the validation, I was seeking it so much. Validation meant everything to me because it meant I am going to fit right in [with] the South African actresses as one of the best and I really wanted it. When I didn’t get it, it was difficult,” she continued.

She’s come out on the other side stronger, wiser and more resilient than ever before. She also says that it taught her to stand up for herself, something she didn’t previously know she could do. Mo says that she is now ready for bigger roles and hopes to move onto the big screen.

“I know myself and I know where I stared, so I am at a better place now. I feel very good about how I’ve improved my craft,” she said.

She believes that she now represents hope and the idea that living your dream is possible despite the odds. She's especially proud that young people from Kagiso in the West Rand, where she is from, come up to her and tell her what an inspiration she is to them.

“So the becoming of the woman that I am now wasn’t beautiful but the end result is going to magnificent,” she said.


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