S Mag

The on-screen starlet and DJ Thuli ‘P’ Phongolo

As part of a Women’s Month special, the Brutal Fruit ambassador shares her thoughts on being a woman in 2021

'The stronger you are as a woman, the more you push boundaries, the more you have to be strong,' says Thuli ‘P’ Phongolo.
'The stronger you are as a woman, the more you push boundaries, the more you have to be strong,' says Thuli ‘P’ Phongolo.
Image: Steve Tanchel

Screen darling Thuli Phongolo made her TV debut as Zama on the SABC1 drama series Tshisa. Soon after that, the entertainment industry further opened its doors to the rising star from Soweto. She went on to present e.tv’s youth show Craz-e. She’s appeared on shows including The Republic, Makoti and, most recently, in season five of Rockville, the soap opera created by Connie and Shona Ferguson. 

Phongolo is perhaps most famous for her role as Namhla Diale in Generations: The Legacy, who she played until 2018. In recent years, she pursued her love for music and diversified into DJing. Her social media dominance has garnered a whopping 2.5-million followers, who bear witness to her colourful life as a DJ, fashionista and travellista.

THULI SPEAKS:

The best thing about being a woman in 2021 is that, as women, we are standing together, uplifting and backing each other with movements such as #MeToo. We are recognising each other’s milestones, and this has allowed us to stand up together and have a stronger voice as a union. As a woman in 2021, I don’t feel entirely alone. The worst has to be gender-based violence. 

The stronger you are as a woman, the more you push boundaries, the more you have to be strong. I hate that we always have to strengthen our fists as women to be taken seriously, especially in a time when we are really trying to push boundaries, change the status quo, and make something of ourselves. We’re always challenged and reduced to a minimum so that we don’t see the power we have. I feel as women right now, we’re saying, “Enough!” to not being safe, being paid less and being discredited.

In its protection of women, SA needs to adjust its mindset. It’s how we were raised, too. Boys could always do as they pleased. They were sent to the store, whereas girls had to do chores around the house. We had separate responsibilities, and this has set the tone that holds that women belong in certain spaces, and men belong in certain other spaces.

Sisterhood means being in a space where there’s no male-figure validation but acceptance from someone who knows and can testify to what you’ve gone through
Thuli Phongolo

I love how this new generation is changing the status quo. The mindset adjustment comes with requiring men to not be entitled to us and our sexuality. As women, we need to allow ourselves to unlearn backward ways that seek to define who we are. So I think that once we start shifting our mindset, unboxing, and seeing ourselves as human beings deciding our own fate, that’s when we’ll see change. Respecting each other’s boundaries will also see bring about change in the right direction. 

We need men to step up. They must not just see the wrongdoings of other men; they must also look within their circles and call out the perpetrators. Mzansi is ready for a woman president. What would have made us not ready? That’s the question we need to be asking ourselves. There have always been educated women, great humanitarians with strong values, who displayed great examples of leadership. Even at schools, we have head girls, for example, who are selected based on their leadership qualities and consistency. Why not apply that same method for a woman to lead the country? 

I don’t completely shut down the “strong black woman” narrative. I say be balanced, be strong, and express your authentic self. In life, we don’t function with just one emotion and don’t resolve every situation we go through in one way only. We respond differently depending on the ordeal or experience. Sometimes we are strong, and other times less so. Let’s take the “black” out of it. Let’s say, “Be a strong human who is able to say, I’m in tune with my feelings: I can be soft, gentle, fragile, vulnerable, and I can accept all those emotions. But also don’t forget the side of me that is strong and able to be fierce and speak my truth.” I, for one, love being a strong woman, but I also love my fragile side — I am both these amazing women.

My life requires me to be both. Sisterhood, like any other relationship, must be based on chemistry. I think women want everyone to get along. Sometimes it’s OK to appreciate and celebrate someone and like them from afar. Sisterhood is key to realising you’re not alone and you’re safe. Sisterhood means being in a space where there’s no male-figure validation but acceptance from someone who knows and can testify to what you’ve gone through.

Brutal Fruit #YouBelongAsYouAre means exactly that. A friend once shared this: “You bring yourself in everything in life
Thuli Phongolo

In March 2020, when the world stopped, I — like everyone — panicked. You have all these dreams and ambitions, but because of what’s happening in the world, they are delayed. This pandemic has created much uncertainty. We don’t know what will happen next. In the same breath, it has made me realise that you need to prioritise what matters in your life and the people you love who will truly remember you.

We live life wanting to do extravagant things, so that people who know nothing about us remember us. We don’t do the simple things ... spend time with family, be fully present, love and appreciate them. If you had asked me before what I wanted, I would have most likely answered material riches, now I realise it’s about other riches altogether.

I’m currently working on my own track. I’ve been in the DJing industry for quite some time now. I feel like I’ve gained and sharpened my ear in terms of music. I understand things better, and now this is my next step to make substantial music that will travel the world. I’m working with someone whom I really admire and who’s done incredible work. I’m looking forward to my single. It’s just the beginning of greater things.

Brutal Fruit #YouBelongAsYouAre means exactly that. A friend once shared this: “You bring yourself in everything in life. How the next person receives your true, authentic self is out of your hands.” Be at peace to always bring yourself. You can’t feel guilty and ashamed of the fact that you brought yourself, someone disregarded it, and someone didn’t accept it. 

Follow Thulisile “Thuli P” Phongolo on Twitter and Instagram.

This article was paid for by Brutal Fruit.