She’s the most loveable girl on telly right now. Gorgeous Jessica Nkosi (24) plays love struck Qondi on the Zulu drama or “telenovela” as it’s called, Isibaya. She opens up about how it all started
LIFE BEFORE QONDI
Inspired by the legal drama TV series, Sokhulu and Partners, Jessica decided to study law at the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN). “I’ve never told anyone, but I failed Criminal Law in my second year,” she confesses shyly. Failing was such an embarrassment to her clean academic record that she hid it from everyone, including her mother. “I had hoped she wouldn’t find out, but being the snoopy mother she is, she did. Haw’ we ma; I’ve never been shouted at so much. But I finally admitted that I actually didn’t want to do law,” Jessica says. “My mom of course fired back: ‘Unamanga ingob’ ufailile, ingob’ ufailile, buyela emuva’. No ang’funi, were my last words on the subject.” The truth was that she had already been bitten by the acting bug when she spotted the drama department near the cafeteria at varsity. She changed to drama but she kept up the farce that she was a law student.
THE CALL THAT CHANGED IT ALL
“I was visiting a friend when an old friend from Joburg, called asking for my photos and details, which he wanted to submit to a new TV show. I used my friend’s laptop to send my details immediately,” Jessica recalls. Not too thereafter the production house called and told her they’d be holding auditions at the Bat Center in Durban. Since her home is in Esikhawini township, in Empangeni, and more than an hour’s drive from Durban, Jessica had to arrange to sleep over at distant relatives in Durban. After going through all this trouble, Jessica got the shock of her life when she arrived at the auditions. “Some guy said we were there to audition for a short film that would pay us R200. That hit hard,” she laughs now, but at the time it wasn’t funny at all. “I told myself if it meant getting one step closer to acting, I would do it.” Of course the guy – whoever he was – didn’t know what he was talking about. The audition was in fact for the role of shy but self-assured rural beauty, Qondi on Isibaya.
Jessica was already 10 months old when she met her dad, who was living and studying overseas when she was born, for the first time. They bonded instantly and she couldn’t stand being away from him. Her mom, Nhlanhlayethu Ntuli, was a teacher who raised Jessica in Esikhawini. And even though the relationship between her mom and dad failed, it didn’t stop Jessica and her father from being close. They became so close that Jessica later asked her mom if she could go to a boarding school in Eshowe, where her father lived. “My mom was now married and I wanted to be closer to my father. I always thank her for not being selfish and for letting me go, especially because my dad passed away from a rare cancer called Hodgkin’s when I was in grade 11. My dad and I were like this,” she sticks two fingers together in the air, “people always talked about this girl who adored her father so much and who looked like him too,” she reminisces. She recently tweeted that the late Luther Vandross’ song Dance with my Father reminds her of her own late father. This is a clear sign that Jessica still carries her dad in her heart wherever she goes.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
Regardless of the threat of running out of work or not knowing when the next pay cheque may come from, Jessica says she loves her new life in Joburg. “It’s only been a year and, apart from Nomzamo Mbatha, I still haven’t made any new friends here. Nomzamo and I just clicked from the day we met and she’s been the one I trusted since we came to Joburg,” Jessica says. “We do a lot of things together. Our favourite is eating out at restaurants; we try to catch movies too but most times we’ll get so carried away talking at a restaurant that we’ll forget about the movie.”
However, the new life of fame and admirers who promise her peacocks for ilobolo hasn’t been a one way road to happiness. Moving to Joburg with nowhere to stay, going from one family member’s house to the next, and living out of a suitcase because she’ll have to move in a month or two have been a challenge. “Funny enough, I’ve always wanted my own room from the time I’ve lived in boarding school. I’ve never been able to get to a place and unpack completely because I know I’ll be there to stay,” she confesses. “At work I was untouchable and happy to get away from everything else. When my mom called while I was on set, I’d sound ok and she would have no idea that I wasn’t really coping.”