Enhle Mbali has global ambitions – and the work ethic to achieve them.
Enhle Mbali feels like a permanent fixture on South African TV screens despite turning just 30 in 2018. An early start in the industry probably contributed – she was just 16 when she made her acting debut on Mtunzini.com in 2005.
Yet she’s actually been part of the TV industry for much longer than that – her mother was a makeup artist who’d pay the young Enhle – known then as Mbali Mlotshwa – R5 for working as her assistant. “Being able to see the industry through her eyes, and blending into the background, definitely taught me a lot about it,” says Enhle. “I’m a very observant person, so sitting back and watching taught me a lot. I saw that it wasn’t glamorous – it’s a job like any other and you have to have a certain work ethic to get where you want to be”.
That work ethic is something which has defined her career, even as she’s branched out beyond TV into other spheres. Her CV now reads something along the lines of Actor/Presenter/Artist/Entrepreneur/Designer/Wife/Mom – with ever-more slashes being added as she embraces the opportunities that hard work brings her way. “In this industry, you need to have a lot of ‘slashes’”, she says. “I’m still young – I may be 30, but I feel 18 – so I have all the energy in the world to go for every opportunity. I don’t quite have ‘the fear’ yet, that comes with getting older. If anything, having kids has motivated me even more, because it’s accelerated the plan”. Her 20-year plan rapidly became her five-year plan, with far loftier longer-term goals now in place.
“I live in the world – home is where the heart is.”
Those goals include a focus on acting – particularly in film. “I love dramatic performance – there’s so much emotion in me that I haven’t played with on screen yet. It’s like going to a psychologist and bearing my heart and soul,” she says. “I’d love to play the sort of characters that Charlize Theron gets to play – where you can dive in for a good six months and become this person, before coming up for air and reclaiming who you are”. Like Theron, she has big plans to add an additional slash – Film Producer – but won’t reveal too much detail just yet.
It’s not all work, though – her sons Asante and Anesu are a major focus as she tries to give them the stability she never had, growing up, while maintaining her relationship with her equally hard-working husband, one of the world’s hottest DJ’s, Black Coffee (real name Nkosinathi Maphumulo). “After my ordeal (she was hospitalised after a hijacking in Johannesburg in 2017) I tend to keep them away from the spotlight, for their own safety,” she says. “I also want them to have as normal and stable an upbringing as possible, and give them all the things I didn’t have when I was growing up”. Despite their busy schedules, the couple spend plenty of time together – during the SA summer season, they are together at least six days a week, but when her high-profile husband jets to Ibiza for residencies at some of the world’s biggest clubs, they see each other at least two weeks a month. She tries not to travel too much, in the interests of that ever-present need for stability for her boys – but does get out to the island often to spend time with, in her words, “my man!”. “We like to keep relationship fresh and spicy and the fact that we’re not in each other’s faces every day helps out,” says Enhle. “We never go long without seeing each other – not this girl, I make a plan. I’m crazy in love, so I make it happen…”
Asked about what makes the jet-setting relationship tick, she says she can’t honestly explain the formula. “Love, I guess…” she says wistfully. They met when she was 19 and working on Tshisa for SABC1 – then, he was still ‘DJ Nathi’ – and she thought he was a ‘cool dude’ but didn’t trust DJ’s. ‘Pursued’ is a strong word, but he persisted for nearly 4 years before they ran into each other on the yellow carpet at the MTN South African Music Awards, where she was presenting and he was nominated for his first award. The conversation there won her over and she decided to give him a chance – and after finally aligning their schedules she joined him on what turned out to be a club-hopping first date where he played a number of sets, ending in sharing early-morning microwave meals from a 24-hour petrol station shop. “The next day, we saw each other again when he dropped food off at my place – from there, we saw each other every day until we got engaged, which was three months later,” she says sheepishly, before cooing “he’s amazing”.
There’s plenty of brand building in the works – starting with the summer launch of a lingerie and swimwear range from her SE Preggoz maternity wear brand. “The photo shoot is going to see pregnant women embrace their sensuality – it may be a bit risqué for some people, but it’s time to break boundaries,” she says. On the acting front, her ’15 year plan’ is to develop her international options. “By ‘international’, I mean Africa, America and possibly Asia – I love Asian movies and I’m incredibly drawn to the culture”. That plan doesn’t necessarily mean being based in SA – or anywhere in particular. “I live in the world – home is where the heart is. I just want stability for the first couple of years for the kids and then I want them to see the world – open their minds and show them that there’s more to the world than our little bubble, here on the southern tip of Africa. The world is not that…”
Text:Trevor Crighton Images:© Khieran Trent