Anele’s star is on the rise

Sthokmele Anele Zulu hopes to pursue her entertainment career abroad, after receiving a scholarship in New York.

From young, Sthokmele Anele Zulu was always the life of the party.Years on, the 20-year-old hopes to make her entertainment dreams come true, by pursuing a prestigious scholarship at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts (NYCDA).

With assistance from the community, her star will be on the rise.

Anele was selected for admission into the NYCDA Associates Degree Program, and has wholehearted belief she can be the next entertainment star.

“I feel it in my gut, and just need help to reach great heights.”

To understand the whole story requires going back to the beginning, when Anele first realised she wanted to sing and act for a living.

Her earliest experience was on stage at a Grade R concert.

“I love being on stage and enjoyed every day of it. I realised it was those baby steps that led to this.”

Anele’s defining moment came in Grade 7, when she auditioned for the Northern KwaZulu-Natal (NKZN) Youth Choir, then under the guidance of the late Walter Butt.

Despite her young age, Anele made the cut.

From then onwards, she received both tutelage and encouragement from Butt, who insisted she belonged on greater stages than she thought.

“I didn’t really take it seriously until applications opened for drama.”

Then a learner at Ferrum High School, Anele was turned down in Grade 8, 9 and 10, but persisted until finally she had her big break in the production of Alice in Wonderland.

She was cast in the role of the Cheshire Cat.

In her Grade 11 year, Anele was persuaded by friends to enter the South African Talent Championships (SATCH).

However, it became clear her education had taken a backseat.

“I knew I was capable of more. The next year, I auditioned and made the Youth Choir, and decided to enter SATCH.”

Although finances and possible rejection were a stumbling block, Anele received sponsorship from her friend’s mother, who believed in her undiscovered talent.

At the competition, Anele sang and performed a monologue.

“I had to wait for weeks for the results. Then in the middle of the fourth week, they called and said I had made the national round. It was a huge achievement and really built my confidence.”

For the national round, Anele travelled by bus to Johannesburg, enlisted her cousin as ‘chauffeur’ and took up residence with family in the area.

In general, things did not go her way.

Anele took a fall on stage, had backtrack problems and failed to be selected for the showcase evening, one of her critical goals in entering.

However, she’d performed better than she thought.

Judges later confirmed Anele had achieved a silver and a gold with her singing, as well as a gold and a platinum for acting.

And the accolades were just beginning.

Despite not making the showcase, Anele received a call from SATCH representatives inviting her to attend the showcase event as a guest.

“I felt a bit moody because I wasn’t up on the stage performing. Then a woman from SATCH went up and began to explain about a program where beneficiaries are identified to receive sponsorships to perform at an international level.”

When Anele was called up to receive this prize, she openly wept.

That sponsorship of R80 000 saw Anele enter Actors, Models & Talent for Christ (AMTC) in Florida, which she described as life-changing.

“After the competition, a man approached me and called me a true performer for not cracking under the pressure.”

He encouraged her to enrol at NYCDA and pursue her dreams.

Anele took his words to heart, and after completing her Matric year in 2016, completed the application process for enrolment at the Conservatory.

By March this year, she had a letter of acceptance.

“In May, I had a video interview. The interviewer asked me to define success and I told him fame came with being good at one’s craft and passion for the career.”

Impressed with her insightful answer, Anele received the full scholarship amount of $15 000 over the duration of a two-year course beginning in late August.

The total costs are just below $110 000 however.

“In addition, I still need to buy a plane ticket and because of the open schedule, I need money to survive on.”

Anele’s dream thus hangs in the balance – she has the talent and will to achieve greatness, and finances alone have brought her dreams to a halt.

She has pleaded with the community for one more helping hand.

“I always say ‘dreams only remain dreams if they aren’t followed by action’.”

With her appeal for financial support, Anele is taking these words to heart and ensuring whatever happens, she has fought for the future she seeks.

For details, she can be contacted on 073 352 7289 or [email protected]

Bruce Douglas

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