Gugu Zulu shares drive of her namesake
Things can get very confusing in showbiz when two stars share the same moniker. But for actress, dancer and singer Gugu Zulu, sharing a name with the late racing driver is quite an honour, and she holds that she can only be destined for greatness.
The 25-year-old starlet is taking a big step in that direction as she prepares getting ready to make her big-screen debut next month.
On a rainy Wednesday morning, her vivacious personality lights up an entire room full of journalists at a press junket. Everyone who attended the screening of her new film, She is King, the day before, wants a piece of her.
When we eventually get a chance to meet, I'm first greeted by her doe eyes and warm smile, then her long, luscious legs that she is showing off in a black-pleated Forever 21 mini-skirt.
The fresh-faced beauty is spearheading the star-studded cast of She is King. Her A-list co-stars include Aubrey Poo, Khabonina Qubeka, Mandisa Nduna, Sophie Ndaba and Khanyi Mbau.
She approaches her role as Zulu warrior goddess Khanyisile with such subtle brilliance that you forget that you are watching a performance in a musical.
It comes as a big surprise when she reveals that she didn't audition for the role.
She was offered it by director Gersh Kgamedi after falling in love with her work on SABC1 soapie Uzalo.
"In some way, I basically auditioned for this role through the character I played on Uzalo," she confesses.
"We shot the movie last year, in the middle of winter, shooting summer scenes. It was really bad and cold, but we had to pull through."
After shooting the film, Zulu went on to try her luck on the current season of Idols SA that is wrapping up this Sunday.
Her journey was short-lived, however, only making the top 16.
She strongly believes that both finalists - Paxton Fielies and Mthokozisi Ndaba - are already winners in her eyes.
"I'm rooting for both of them this Sunday. Paxton is a fireball; she's 17 and sings so well. Mthokozisi is a great songwriter. I loved his song. Whoever wins I'd be happy," she says.
"Idols was a great experience although I was heartbroken when I left. I felt like I didn't get a chance to show my full talent. That was disappointing."
Zulu's Idols journey dates back to when she first auditioned at age 16. She recalls receiving two "yeses" from then-judges Marah Louw and Gareth Cliff, while Randall Abrahams and Steve Hofmeyr gave her the thumbs down.
She says being rejected back then left her completely devastated. She was also part of Khaya Mthethwa's winning KwaZulu-Natal team in the 2013 season of music reality show Clash of the Choirs SA.
The oldest of three girls, Zulu studied drama and performance at the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Howard College campus. Aside from her acting stint on Uzalo, she has starred in e.tv drama series The Alliance.
"When I say I can't give up on my dream, it's really for my younger sisters," she says, pausing as if she's about to burst into tears.
"No matter how many times I'm rejected and feel pain, they are watching me, so I have to push on."
Zulu, along with MaBlerh (Blessing Cele) and Scelo "Sky" Yeni, is currently the only female member of Afro-soul group The Nameless Band. Her 2016 single as a solo artist, titled Bambelela, was a hit on radio stations Gagasi and Ukhozi FM.
"I started singing a long time ago, but professionally I'd say [since] 2015. I'm just an all-round performer."