Alexandra township-born Tebogo Letswalo, better known as “Chichi” Letswalo, has both beauty and brains.
On and off camera, she is a force to be reckoned with.
The eldest of three siblings, Letswalo’s husky voice and rebellious but charismatic personality are her stepping stones to stardom.
After coming onto the scene as a TV presenter for The Wedding Show on SABC 3 at the age of 19, Letswalo began to feature on billboards, magazine covers and TV screens.
She ventured into different spheres of entertainment, even joining the cast of e.tv’s youth soapie Backstage.
It was evident this former Miss Wendywood High School princess would be SA’s next ‘It Girl’.
But she says the term is misleading.
“The ‘It Girl’ part I don’t agree with, I was just doing what I had to do.
“You know you have to be at the functions, you have to look the part.
“In the first stage of my career I needed to stumble and fall a lot but that allowed me to get to the place I am today, where I am comfortable with myself and not a people-pleaser like before.”
Refusing to succumb to the pressures that came with the title, young Letswalo ventured on to New York where she attended the Michael Howard School of Film, Theatre and Television.
“I gained a lot of knowledge from my time in the States.
“I got to explore more of my craft and I came back and wanted to use the skills I had learnt which is what I am doing now with the role on iSthembiso.
“I really do love what I do, I love presenting, I love acting.
“For me it’s not work, it’s my passion,” says the zestful lead character on Mzansi Magic’s telenovela.
Five years after her return from the US, Letswalo is back on our TV screens as Claudia, a former beauty pageant queen whose dark, mysterious story will soon intrigue viewers.
“Claudia is a very strategic woman who finds herself as a mother of three and in a loveless marriage.
“However, it fulfills her superficial needs.
“She is living the magic in misery,” says Letswalo.
This character is so different to Letswalo, a strong, independent and ambitious woman, but what resonates with her is how Claudia is torn between her ambition and her need to survive.
“I personally don’t feel sorry for her, but I do understand and sympathise with the choices that she makes… it’s about the life that she wants.
“I don’t like being controlled by men and I do not want to be married.
“I like my freedom,” says Letswalo, touching on the challenges of getting into character.
However, Letswalo also mentions understanding the difference behind being a true thespian and doing something simply for fame and fun, choices she also had to make during her time in New York.
She adds: “I work with two of the best male actors in the country, Hamilton Dlamini and Meshack Mavuso, whom I adore, and together with the new talent, I am inspired daily to push myself and my craft to the max.”