Vusiwe Ngcobo went from television child star to a finance and banking lawyer. She tells us about her journey, and shares her life lessons.
By Kwanele Mathebula Picture Peter Whitfield
I broke into the entertainment industry at the age of eight. My siblings and I were part of the music group Amaponi when we were all under the age of 13. I learnt very early on to be independent and self-sufficient. We travelled around the world performing while still attending school. At home, my parents – Ihashi Elimhlophe and Linah Ngcobo – treated us like normal children; we had chores and contributed to the household financially because we were working. This helped me to remain grounded and respectful. And, since they were also in the industry, they helped us navigate through it, ensuring that everything we did was always in our best interests. After releasing five albums, our interests started changing; I wanted to venture into television presenting.
In 2004 I landed a job as a YoTV presenter. Four years earlier, our group was on the show for an interview. Afterwards I asked one of the producers to inform me when they were looking for presenters. Growing up watching presenter Mandisa Nakana on the show sparked my interest in presenting. The producer took a while to get back to me, but he eventually did. One day in 2004, I was asked to stand in for one of the presenters. I ended up presenting the show for five years. It was an incredible experience to work on a show that so many young people watched, and aspired to be on. Witnessing how we inspired them to believe in themselves was incredible. After five years, I felt that it was time to move on. Presenting was no longer challenging, and I was also preparing to start university at the time.
I initially wanted to study drama, but ended up doing law. After high school, I applied to the University of Johannesburg to study a Bachelor’s of Art in Dramatic Art. During orientation week, I realised that I didn’t want to study it. With my TV experience, I knew that I would be able to still pursue working in entertainment. But, I wanted to be able to protect myself it terms of contracts. So, I decided to study law. In 2009, I studied an LLB degree for four years and have been working as finance and banking lawyer at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, Joburg, since 2014.
Entertainment is my escape from the seriousness of law. I also work for SABC sports as a presenter. I joined the broadcaster in 2010 as a voice-over artist for Sports Buzz. I then went on to present special events such as the Olympics, Paralympics, marathons and boxing. In 2013, I took a break from presenting because I had to complete my articles. This is because the Law Society of South Africa doesn’t allow for candidate lawyers to do other work while completing their articles. In 2015, I returned to being a sport presenter. I do my presenting work later in the day or over the weekends. I am lucky to work for a company that is flexible, allowing me to do both my jobs.
I’ve learnt to give my best in everything I do. Working in both industries has taught me the same lessons. I have learnt to work hard and respect those that I work with. What I deliver says a lot about me, and because of this, I aim to give my best at all times. I’ve also learnt that it’s okay to not know everything. When I don’t know something, I am not afraid to ask questions because it takes nothing away from me. Additionally, I now know my strengths and weaknesses as well as what I can and cannot do.