You will recognise Leelee Ngwenya’s voice immediately from radio and will remember her from TV as well. Passionately expressing herself on social media and standing firm for causes she believes in, Leelee is a creative force of nature. For this post, I had a delightful afternoon exploring the miseducation of Leelee. It left me with more questions than answers but also inspired to fear less and do more with my life.
What’s the story behind the name “Leelee”?
Puthumile is my name. “Leelee” is also a name on its own. Most people think it’s a nickname. It came in handy when I was studying at University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Tell me about some of your creative limbs …
There’s radio, TV, film, acting, writing, theater, magazine editing, singing, …
At this point in the discussion, I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with the list but I may or may not have heard that she can rap. I wonder if Zone Fam will coming knocking?
If you follow Leelee on Twitter, you’ll no doubt notice how engaged she is in the local creative community.
What do you think about generosity and collaboration among creatives?
I surround myself with generous creatives. Everyone seems to have a story about how bad the industry is right now and how people don’t help each other but it is not that way for me.
It’s really about who you are. If you want people to share with you, then share!
Are you just here to take ideas?
I’m surrounded by generous people and we empower each other. We all want to succeed.
The conversation segues to Star Wars. Leelee is a huge fan! So am I. I’ll spare you the details about prequels, sequels, loathing for Jar Jar Binks, love for Maz Kanata/Lupita Nyongo and disdain for Obi-Wan Kenobi/Ewan McGregor’s hair. I will state though that Leelee has a sci-fi script called “Breed” in the works somewhere that may evolve into a novel.
Tell me about your formal education.
To fulfill family obligations, I started off studying Social Work in the US to eventually get into Child Protective Services. I learned that I have a soft heart. At one point earlier in life, we had ten dogs at home because I kept on taking in strays! If I’d continued down that path I’d probably have taken kids home and that would have been … complicated!
I ended up having an honest/dishonest conversation with my Dad to explore the question “What if I choose the Arts?”. Honest; because I wanted to switch to the Arts. Dishonest; because I’d already applied! He was supportive.
I got in to Film School in Cape Town, South Africa.
What are some of the lessons you learned on that journey?
I get my work ethic from my Dad and I work hard. I learned about finding the right people and being realistic. There was a lot of competition for acting jobs. I’d wonder, “What if this acting thing doesn’t work out?” I differentiated myself by learning about production as well. The Assist Programme in my third year of Film School exposed me to different areas like script writing, acting, cinematography and theory in addition to acting. That allowed me to work on the production team of Thriving in the Drylands in Kenya.
I learned about not being too scared to try auditions. You get told “no” everyday in auditions. It’s not you they are saying no to. Sometimes, it just isn’t your role. That’s OK.
The number one thing holding you back is fear. You can’t let it paralyse you. I learned to “throw myself in” but “all or nothing” can crush you so sometimes you need to proceed with caution but regardless, you need to proceed. You’ll only do it if you start. So, what are you going to make happen?
With the different paths you’ve taken in school and professionally, how do you know you are “on the right one”?
Waking up excited to do what I do. I love what I do and I’m willing to sacrifice to do it. You know you’re on the right path when you’re doing what makes you happy.
This is post 1/52 of The Fifty-Two Zambian Bloggers Project.