The amazingly beautiful award-winning actor, TV and radio presenter, TV and film producer, author, voice-over artist, media trainer, global emcee,  activist and  accredited international laughter coach talked to about the delicate art of packaging oneself for multiple markets, finding satisfying work and making your dreams do the donkey work for you.

Every great dream begins with a dreamer

It all begins with a dream. While still at university (Rosie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Arts (Honours) from the University of the Witwatersrand) I had a compelling dream to be part of the award winning South African soap Generations.

At that time, Generations was the only soap that depicted blacks especially black women as strong, successful people. As soon as I left university, I went for an audition but I unfortunately didn’t get the part.  I went back and asked what I had done wrong, as it turned out, my biggest problem was projection. I had taken my drama school lessons of grand gestures and loud projection to a TV audition.

Television acting requires one to tone down on everything because of the way it is shot. I went back watched and taught myself to adapt to new delivery; gestures and voice. A year later when I felt ready, I pestered my agent to get me another audition and that is how I landed the chance to play the minor role of Tsego Motene. But with every episode, Tsego’s storyline kept developing and becoming bigger and better. My original plan had been to stay with Generations for a maximum of two years and move on; I ended up staying for seven years.

So you must have a dream to begin with, not just any dream but the grandest and most elaborate one you can muster.  Then you must be willing to put in the required work, go the extra mile to make your dream come true. You will find obstacles along the way; you will find people and circumstance that will tell you that you cannot achieve whatever you set out to do. Don’t listen to them because it is only you who knows what is here (tapping on heart) and here (tapping on head).

Get organized; make a list of your dreams. Put them in the order of their importance, big and small, short term and long term. Write down why those dreams are so important to you and why you must achieve them this is called intention. Next visualize by creating a vision board and placing it in a place where you can see it all the time because wherever your focus goes, then the energy follows.

I remember my first vision board. Among several other things I had a cutout image of this gorgeous Italian man. Every chance I got I would tell him that we would be meeting soon. So one evening, I dress up to the nines for this fancy gala. As I move out of my home I go back to that vision board, smile at that guy and tell him that I will be seeing him real soon. Imagine my surprise when I get to the gala and there he is in living form entertaining guests!!  That is the same vision board that had my desire to be part of POWA which happened too.

Rosie Motene

Affirm your faith

My faith means everything to me; it is my anchor and my strength. My day doesn’t begin until I have had my meditation and prayer. You must pray and believe that your prayers are being listened to and answered.

Everyone needs to have faith in something bigger than themselves. I don’t care what you choose to call it be it God, Allah, the higher power or Jaja Muwanga; you need to have unwavering indestructible faith in that divine. You need a close and personal relationship with this divinity.

 I believe that God has put me here on earth to fulfill a predestined and preordained purpose. I believe that His spirit is manifested in all of my desires, hopes and dream, therefore I cannot fail.  That is the significance of faith.  Not only will faith get you through difficult times, but it will give you enough hope to set up goals and the tenacity to stick out circumstances and achieve them.

As we get further along in our careers we tend to get too busy for anything else but work. Don’t ever let that happen. Create a special time for you to commune with the divine. Read the bible/Quran/Torah listen to spiritual podcasts for instruction. Your relationship with God will ultimately affect the quality of your overall life.

Sometimes you have to create your own luck

Employers are always on the lookout for people who can add value to their companies. Therefore get all the applicable and adaptable skills you can get wherever you are. While at Generations I took interest in the art of production and tried to learn every chance I got. Later while working on Studio 53 as anchor, I floated the idea to management to let me produce the show but I was turned down. That didn’t stop me from learning as much as I could about producing such a show. My passion led to me starting my own production company Waka Talent Agency. Of course to learn a new skill is a process, it starts with passion then preparation and finally execution. Excellence takes time but it is worth the wait.

Diversify; look for other businesses that complement your principal occupation.  Remember they may not be waiting for you, so create your own opportunities. Borrowing a leaf from other celebrities like football star David Beckham who were cashing in on their fame as brand ambassadors, I looked around and identified a car dealership that I thought would be happy to have me. But was I ever wrong?!  Having lived in Gauteng for a while, I had observed that none of the other black celebrities ever used the JSN BMW dealership in Ormonde Street. People like Yvone Chaka Chaka who had a fleet of posh cars including BMWs would drive an hour away to another shop for services instead of using JSN which was right in the neighborhood.

I was inspired to change this by lending my image to the dealership but management didn’t warm to my idea.  Disappointment serves two purposes to drive us or defeat us; the choice is always in your hands.  To get my foot into the doorway, I bought buy a car from them so that I would be a client first. For the following year, I regularly visited the dealership and in all that time I was the only black client there. Eventually management agreed to accept my offer and with it a drastic change took place.

 My association with the dealership broke down barriers on both sides which guaranteed me an income and the latest BMW complete with the personalized JSN 111 number plate for the next seven years. 

Nothing, not even the illusion of success is worth your dignity and integrity

Shortly after I left Generations I joined another South African soap. As usual, I had a no-nudity on screen clause in my contract. But somehow, down the road, the producers started sneaking in these little scenes that I didn’t feel comfortable with and I refused to do them.  When they insisted on me doing them I took up the issue with the studio head who ordered them to rewrite the scenes or he pulls the plug.

They adamantly refused and I had no option but to resign from the show. A few months later I heard that the show had ceased production. I am glad that I stood my ground and left with my dignity. There are things we do thinking that they will probably further our careers or that they are not such a big deal but ultimately everything is a big deal because it is those moments that make the sum total of your life. There should never be a point at which you weigh success against your personal integrity and you sacrifice the latter for the former.

Don’t ever stay anywhere because of fear

While in University, I dated a boy who abused me emotionally and then physically. I remember the first time hit me. We were in a night club and this guy came to dance with me.  I didn’t think it was such a big deal until out of nowhere my ex started slapping me in front of everyone. You never know how you are going to react to such abuse until it happens to you. I was too shocked and embarrassed to process what was going on later on defend myself.

He dragged me out of the club and ordered me into his car which I did. He drove me to an abandoned parking lot where he continued to assault me physically and verbally. At this point I was convinced that I was the one in the wrong and I begged him to forgive me.

 The abuse continued until I reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore and I fought back.  I realized that I had given this guy the power to abuse me and it was up to me to take it back, starting with realizing that I was more than what he said I was. All this time, he had conditioned me to believe that I was undesirable, fat and even ugly. He made me believe that he was doing me a favour by being with me.

Ladies, you must be aware of such abuse. When a man begins commenting negatively on your body, looks or values this should raise a red flag.  It might be something as subtle as a suggestion to look a certain way, change your hairstyle, swap shoes or lose or gain weight. The best way to protect yourself against emotional abuse is to know who you truly are and to stand firmly and proudly in that knowledge.

 Never forget that you are wonderfully and fearfully made; you are beautiful and there is just one you. Unless you genuinely want the changes yourself, don’t give in to that pressure.  Never ever compromise your dignity, moral values and principles just to keep a man. Once all this gone all that is left is an empty shell that will be swayed every which way by whoever.

Learn to stand your ground, stand in your power and bring your abusers to justice.  And when you overcome use your experience to help others. I believe that God puts us in situations in order to better ourselves or the next person.

When you hit a giant wave of pain, ride it out!

And then there was the assault in Botswana. That was definitely one of the lowest points in my life. I fell into a depression that lingered no matter what I tried. That is when I gave myself permission to lean in into the grief. I went back to my parents’ home, cried, prayed, and took long walks. I remember one particular fury episode; I picked up a log and started hitting the giant tree in our compound. With each hit, I felt a little less infuriated.

Then I got a second chance to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. I remember the first time I had taken time to get fit in anticipation of the climb but I failed to get to the top. This time, I decided to use the climb as a catharsis for my pain. Every step was a step away from my pain, anger, grief and bitterness. 

None of the people in my group expected me to make it to the top, but I did. I remember the look of wonder on their faces as they saw me trekking slowly but steadily up, as they descended. That climb was probably one of my most spiritual experiences. I had never felt that close to God than I did on that day. At one point as I went up the mountain I heard a voice ask “Rosie where are your shades?” without thinking I answered “they are in my pocket”. “Get them and put them on.” The voice instructed. Without questioning why even though all I could see was nothing but a thick fog, I got them and put them. And voila! There in that fog appeared the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen.

I felt so special, so loved, so connected to the most powerful force in the universe and the most appropriate way to express was to naturally break down and cry!! (Laughs).  By the time I descended that mountain I was a new person. I had a new perspective and a fresh vigor for life. This whole episode taught me that when you find yourself on your knees, stay there a little longer until you have learned the essence of that lesson.

It is everyone’s duty to try and leave the world a better place than they found it

I have a profound compassion for abused women and children.   Ever since the first time I shared my own abuse in 2002, I dedicated myself to helping others overcome their own shame and pain. I had never intended to share my story but it happened purely by accident and I am glad it did. I had been invited to give a talk to inmates serving long or life sentences. I had done my research and had this file filled with quotes, talking points and data that I thought would be beneficial to my audience.

While inflight, I pulled it out and started reading through, making corrections there, adding something here and then we landed. In the commotion I forgot it right there on the seat next to me. I found myself standing before an audience of hostile inmates looking at me like they would like to thrash me for wasting their time. Most of these people had been in jail since 1978 when there were no laws against domestic abuse in South Africa. They had grown up in an environment where it was commonplace for a man to batter his wife and children especially if you were black.

Some of these people were about to rejoin a drastically changed society and needed to know the changes but most importantly understand the vicious cycle of domestic abuse. With no notes to refer to, I decided to use my own story. As I talked, a hush fell over the audience and I heard someone sobbing only to realize that it was me. I had never shared this part of my life before because I was ashamed of it. but as I looked at my  audience and saw tears of relief, regret, recognition and understanding on those hardened faces I was happy that at least something positive had come out of my pain. 

One by one they approached me shared their own stories and thanked me for helping them confront their own pain and regret. It was a life changing moment.

My euphoria however, evaporated as soon as I got back to the real world and came face to face with criticism for having identified myself as a victim of abuse.  Some people were uncomfortable with this new information because they didn’t know how to reconcile the two images. Others thought that I was just using my celebrity status and the abuse story to seek attention.

I refused to let public opinion distract me from my new mission.  I started speaking at small workshops but most importantly I wanted to join forces with an already established organization because those tend to have a bigger and meaningful impact. I joined POWA and did their volunteer training and public awareness course.  For the last 14 years I have been  a board member of POWA, Childline, The Tomorrow Trust, The Johannesburg Children’s home and The infinite family, located in USA all organisations which champion  against women and child abuse in South Africa. Use what you have to better someone else’s world, if not for any other reason, for the simple fact that you always get back whatever you put into the world.

Why did I not have children?

I am often asked why I haven’t settled down and had children yet. The honest truth is I was not ready for either children or family.  Although I was adopted, my adoptive parents allowed me to have a natural relationship with my real parents, which gave me plenty love, nurturing and stability. I wanted the same for my children. When I remember how my friends would leave their children home and go for a night on the town, I shudder at their carelessness. Then, I didn’t think much about it, but now, it mortifies me. Anyway I am glad the children survived but no child should have to be put at such risk. Before you plan on having children first make sure that you have more than enough love, wisdom and financial stability to give them.

My best reads of all time;

The Alchemist: Paulo Coelho-that book has a way of finding you anywhere and everywhere at the exact moment you need it.

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: Robin Sharma

The Satanic Verses: Kahil Gilbrain

The Year of Yes: Shonda Rhimes

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