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Harare to Hollywood

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

The tenacity of Zimbabwean born actress and dancer, Sibongile Mlambo, is nothing short of breathtaking. Having already acted alongside Black Panther himself in Netflix's "Message from the King" where she played the role of "Bianca King" sister to "Jacob King" a role played by "Chadwick Boseman" a.k.a Black Panther. 'Super_Sibo' as social media has come to know her, is living up to and surpassing her dynamite capabilities.

Sibongile Mlambo as 'Bianca King' in the Netflix movie 'Message from the King'

Describe the moment you knew you were called to the arts?

"When I was about ten years old, my elder sister was featured in a movie called “Everyone is a child”, After watching her, I remember thinking WOW that looks like so much fun! I want to do that! Some time after having that prelude to my epiphany, there was a movie casting for a little boy. My twin brother got asked to audition and I ended up going with him. I really wanted to audition but my parents wouldn’t let me because the role was for a boy. The director noticed me sulking and asked “Can you act?” to which I responded “Yes”. He allowed me to audition and I got the part – this would be my first casting and booking. It was an inspiring, super challenging but fun experience. I knew from then onwards that this was what I wanted to do."

What was it like expressing and exploring this ambition in Zimbabwe?

I believe most artistically inclined people from varying ethnic backgrounds can relate to what Sibo shares next...

"Especially in Zim, you are either expected to become a doctor, lawyer or an accountant. The general consensus was that becoming an artist would not be able to sustain you. To add to that, when I was 16 we were given a chance to do an internship in an industry of our choice. When I told my Deputy Head Mistress that I wanted to intern in film and tv she literally laughed at me. As a teenager it resulted in me being very meek and not proud about my hopes of someday becoming an actress, because I was constantly ridiculed and asked 'What are you going to do for a real job?' Fortunately those voices did not come from my parents, who've always been very supportive"

What did it take to get your foot into showbiz?

"In Zimbabwe it seemed impossible, things had changed politically over the years (not for the better) and access to resources was not easy - particularly for aspiring artists. I often cried and felt defeated. I felt like no matter how hard I worked, be it in ballet and other forms of artistic training, no matter how much I researched and bettered myself, I'd be denied the opportunity to be part of the huge world I grew up desiring to be a part of on TV and movie screens."

Zimbabwe to Dallas, Texas

"After high school my brother and I moved to USA to study. While studying I did performing arts on a part-time basis and I was part of the dance troop. I acted in my brother’s short films that he produced in university – this all happened in Dallas Texas."

Dallas Texas to New York...

"I then went to New York to pursue a career in dance, although I had good experiences touring and dancing for a band, I wasn’t really making enough money to look after myself."

Cape Town...

"After about a year in New York, I went back to Zimbabwe for two months before relocating to Cape Town, South Africa. In Cape Town I got an acting agent as well as a model agent, things really took off from there. My time in Cape Town (four years) was productive for my acting reel and on-camera experience. I worked on several local and international TV commercials and projects including the series 'Black Sails' for a few years. Eventually I hit the ceiling in terms of growth and a wider range of opportunities.

Los Angeles...

Fast forward to Los Angeles 2015....

"At first I was just visiting L.A then I decided to seek representation as an actress. I met up with my current manager who happened to have received a brief for a Southern African girl from Cape Town. I auditioned and got the role in the Netflix movie “Message from the King” starring "Chadwick Boseman" as "Jacob King" and myself as his sister "Bianca King". That role made it possible for me to extend my stay in L.A and I haven't had a reason to leave since. After that, it has literally been like a heaven sent snowball effect."

Snowball it did, Sibongile has since been cast and booked on the movie Honey 3 "Dare to Dance"

Honey 3 'Dare to Dance' (2016) - Sibongile as the antagonist "Ishani Mfeke"

Dark Web (2017) - Sibongile as "Amy"

Teen Wolf (2017) - as "Tamora Monroe" a hunter.

Siren (premiering 29th March 2018) - as "Donna" a mermaid.

Lost in space (June 2018) - as "Angela" a space explorer.

Behind the scenes of Teen Wolf

Hollywood as an African actress...

"It's been challenging, it's extremely competitive. There's an 'unspoken' preference for black British actors. They don’t really trust African talent as much, because they assume that we’re not as trained or as capable as our British counterparts; when in fact we are just has talented if not more. I have found that in the roles I have booked, my uniqueness has helped me a lot. It’s a thin line between being yourself and being unique, and then trying to mold yourself into what you end up presenting in front of the camera. I believe that if something is for you, it’s for you. I am happy and grateful. I choose not to worry about the things that pass me by."

Wise words for the Zim girl with similar aspirations?

“Go for it! Trust and believe your gut! You must have very strong faith! Don’t let anyone or anything stop you from what you believe is yours and what you want to do with your life. It does not matter what your background is, what your present situation is, what matters most is, what is in your head, what you think about yourself and believe you deserve in your time here on earth. Go for it!”

What's in store for 2018?

"So far, Siren is set to premiere on International Mermaid Day - 29th March 2018, I'll be playing the role of the mermaid 'Donna'. Lost in space will be out on Netflix in June 2018 - my role is 'Angela' a space explorer.

Behind the scenes of Siren & Lost in Space

Follow Sibongile Mlambo on instagram @super_sibo

Writer's bio - Perpetua Mbali

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