Zola Nombona is mighty fine and the baddest working actress in town at the moment.
With leading roles in TV shows such as iNumber Number, Z’bondiwe and Lockdown; the 25-year-old siren is ushering in a new era of effortlessly sexy young women on the small screen.
The refreshing attitude towards being seductive on screen is not limited to the contrived, half-naked cheesecake side-kick often seen on TV.
Rather, her approach to her craft is embracing female empowerment by being unapologetically confident, meaty and sharp-witted. She is a combination of ballsy Pamela Nomvete in Generations, temptress Michelle Botes in Isidingo and fiery Tina Jaxa in Isidingo, back in the day.
“For me if that’s the energy I give out, then it means that people see confidence,” she says.
“But that has developed over the years because I started taking care of my body by training. Initially I just wanted to tone my arms and then I just loved gym. I felt in control of my life and body.
“Now for me clothes feel nice, because you are no longer hiding anything but you are accentuating what you have – I love my legs. But above all I’m just real, call me ghetto fabulous.”
She arrives for her interview with Time Out channelling the character Cookie Lyon (Taraji P Henson) from hit American TV show Empire. On a chilly winter afternoon, she looks trendy in a pair of black shorts, styled with matching leggings, mirrored aviator sunglasses and burgundy fringe jacket.
We flashback to early last year when she made her big red carpet debut at the South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas). A then-relatively unknown Nombona had cameras flashing and photographers asking “who is that girl?” in a sexy red number.
The crimson Quiteria & George gown she donned on the night featured a risqué high slit that completely exposed her vivid thigh tattoo.
Nombona, the youngest of five kids, reveals that while the moment was a fashion home run; back at home in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, it got her into big trouble. “My poor parents. I had been hiding that tattoo for all my life at home. I think that was the first time my parents saw it,” she recalls.
At such an early stage in her career, Nombona is already a two-time Safta nominee – winning last year for her portrayal in TV movie Ingoma.
“Being acknowledged on that level was amazing. I was kind of content and happy that I didn’t win this year. I don’t think I was ready to win another one that soon and so young,” Nombona says.
“I fear that maybe I would have thought that I have hit the glass ceiling. For me losing gave me more fire.”
At the end of the month, Nombona starts shooting season two of hit Mzansi Magic drama Lockdown. She just reprised her role on the new season of etv show Z’bondiwe.
On Sunday nights, she is heating up the screen on iNumber Number, with a star-studded cast of Presley Chweneyagae, Thishiwe Ziqubu, Sonia Sedibe, Sdumo Mtshali and Israel Matseke Zulu.
“I love that my character [in iNumber Number] is a nurse, but has a wild side that comes out when she’s off duty,” she points out.
“The show is so different and we understand how South Africans receive change. We are getting a bit of mixed reviews about the show.
“But I would rather people hate or love a show, rather than be in the middle because then it means we are not doing much.”
As far as romance is concerned, Nombona says she has been unlucky in love.
“I’ve been attracted to broken people that I always think I can fix them. But I’m not in a hurry because I’m still discovering myself,” Nombona says.