JESSICA Nyarayi Tandy is on cloud nine.
By Sukuoluhle Ndlovu
The 39-year-old mother of one has just returned from Hollywood where she led a team of 26 young Zimbabwean artists who excelled at the World Champions of Performing Arts (WCOPA) held in Long Beach, California in the United States.
These championships, which involve 63 countries, are widely regarded as the Olympics of performing arts where singers, musicians, dancers, actors and models compete before 75 judges from the entertainment industry.
Ironically, Tandy is not a Zimbabwean but a South African citizen who saw the gap in the country’s performing artists industry and decided to exploit it.
She formed a trust, the Zimbabwe Champions of Performing Arts (Zicopa), which holds the licence for the world Champions of performing arts.
As director of the Zicopa, it is Tandy’s business to identify talent, nurture it and see to it they excel at the global stage.
She recently did that, taking a contingent of Zimbabwean artists to Hollywood for the world championships held from June 30 to July 8.
Team Zimbabwe did not just show their faces in Hollywood but they bagged 26 medals.
Among the outstanding artists were Hazel Cheuka, who was awarded with two golds, two silver medals as well as one overall gold medal for acting open.
Kelly Midlane is one of the artists, who also came out victorious with nine awards — three gold medals in acting comical, acting dramatic and acting for TV.
She got three silverware in acting contemporary, acting open and dance musical theatrical. Midlane also got the overall industry award, a scholarship and overall for comical, dramatic and television.
Tandy expressed her joy over how the team perfomed and was very grateful that this year they managed to scoop more awards than they got last year.
“2017 saw us double the number of contestants participating at WCOPA. The first two days were designed to be educational, exposing the children to Hollywood, its rich entertainment history and visited places like Universal Studios,” she said.
“They got to see how movies are made, we visited the sound stages and they got to understand the mechanics behind movie making and the sets. Then after the two days, the competition started and once again we had very focused contestants who put in a lot of work preparing for the championships and their work paid off, being awarded the industry awards and scholarships were a big one for me personally.”
The Zimbabwean artists also got three scholarships for New York Film Academy and New York Conservatory of Dramatic Arts worth $20 000.
“Being at WCOPA this year has been an incredible, incomparable and near life-changing experience,” she said.
“I enjoyed very practical and hands-on lessons on drama and acting techniques during various workshops and performing in front of a truly international audience and had a wonderful time making new friends from all over the world. I can’t imagine a better experience or better people to have shared it with and I definitely can’t wait to go back next year and, hopefully, bring back the gold.”
This is the second year Zimbabwe has been part of the worldwide competitions where they put up memorable performances.
Tandy said she was living her dream and was proud of it.
“I am passionate about entrepreneurship. I found that there was a gap in the performing arts space where artists don’t see themselves as a brand and performing as a business entity. Hence the need to eventually build entrepreneurship thinking among artists,” she said.
The other reason was to expose local talent to a global platform.
“Globalisation is very big and we need to expose our talent in the various platforms, hence the world champs being the ‘Olympics of Arts’,” she said.
But who inspired Tandy to cross the Limpopo and do this kind of work in Zimbabwe?
“My daughter Lerai Rakoditse is the reason behind it all,” she said.
“My 14-year-old daughter, Lerai is in the performing arts space. She does drama and modelling, she is the one who inspired me. Because of her, I got the inspiration and motivation to start Zicopa and now am living my dream and also her dream as well because whatever I am doing am doing it for her.”
At Zicopa, young artists get the chance to be auditioned and those who beat the competition go on to represent the country in Hollywood for three weeks showcasing their various talents on stage.