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I was scared I would fail: Chanakira

Young actress Mazvita Chanakira has spoke of the struggles she went through to convince her parents to accept her chosen career path.

Chanakira (MC) told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube on the platform In Conversation with Trevor that it was her brother who encouraging her to choose acting as a career.

Below are excerpts from the interview.

TN: Mazvita Bethel Chanakira, welcome to In Conversation With Trevor.

MC: Thank you so much for having me.

TN: So your generation to me represents the hopes of this country and the continent.

I decided for us to have this conversation because you represent a generation that has seen a lot of African parents who invest so much in the education of their children.

Making sure that they get the best education.

Things have not always gone the right way, some do not make it, and some make it and some come across a number of problems.

So I thought, you know, let us have this conversation.

Also, the field that you have chosen; for a lot of African parents if you come and say mum I have decided to go and play guitars, or I have decided to be an artist and so forth, African parents look and say what is it that?

Tell me, when you said to your parents that you wanted to do arts, what was the response like?

MC: Absolutely not, was their answer, which was very justified.

I am the daughter of an economist and an accountant, so it was very confusing to them and I actually was not the one who brought it forward, I did not have the guts to do so.

My elder brother Panashe did, because he was the one, who actually told me to do acting.

I was going to be a lawyer. I actually wanted to be a banker, but I was just copying my dad and then I decided I wanted to be a lawyer and then [my brother]came and watched me in a play in high school and he said “no you need to be an actor, this is what you need to be doing”.

I was like, I mean I love it, and I enjoy it, but  is that a career?

And he was sort of like that is all a career should be, it should be what you love and what you enjoy.

I just could not tell my parents, so he had a chat with them and they were really hesitant.

They said you know that is not common.

Secondly, that is not an industry where we know anybody.

God forbid, you get out there and you cannot work, they were like we do not know any directors, or any other actors or artists, so you would just be at home.

Another concern was also because we are Christian. They were fearful of what it meant for me to go into the arts, would I lose my way in all of that.

Then my brother kept convincing them and then slowly, but surely I started joining the fight and they were like, okay.

They started warming up to it, they let me take drama as a subject when it was time to choose subjects.

Then when I was in Matric, my dad flew to watch my final exam for drama and it was the first time he had actually seen me fully perform.

TN: From Johannesburg to Cape Town?

MC: From Zimbabwe to Johannesburg. Yes, I went to Roedean for my high school, and he watched me and when the exam was over and he walked up to me and he was like I am fully on board, let us do it. You have got what it takes kid and I believe in you. So it was not an easy convincing.

TN: Tell me. You yourself were hesitant to raise the issue with your dad? Your brother did it for you? Why were you hesitant?

MC: I was hesitant because I did not even fully believe that it was something I could do as a Zimbabwean, as a black woman, girl then.

I just thought that I was stretching a bit too high and I was scared that I would fail.

I felt like artists also get a bad reputation of people being like “Oh you are a dreamer”.

Lots of people want to do this, but they do not do this.

As opposed to a lawyer, everybody knows a lawyer, everybody knows one doctor, a teacher, an accountant, you know?

It was just so uncommon that I thought let me stick to the status quo.

It is safer if I just do law that is safer, the success rate is safer, everything felt safe, you know.

TN: So you were going to do law because it was safe? Not because it was something that you were passionate about? Talk to me about that?

MC: A combination of both, because I have always loved people, I have always loved talking.

I used to get in trouble all the time at school for talking too much.

Something I used to resent that my mum did that I actually realised and I started to do and love to do is picking up people’s battles.

We would be in grocery stores and somebody’s been discriminated against for some other reason and my mum would just pick up the fight because she knew that she could.

I learned from a young age I could do that too, people would not bring fights towards me, they were a bit scared because I was very confident and a very big personality.

TN: You had seen this from your mum?

MC: I have seen it in my mum too and then I thought I could do that for people.

I have no problem standing up for people and fighting for people so I would do law, it just seemed like the logical thing to do.

What was crazy to me now when I look back is I think that acting and arts and theatre and film and TV actually does exactly that.

It advocates for humanity every single time. My job is to get up there and take the role of a character.

If I am in a role, I cannot judge that character, I have to become their biggest advocate and their biggest lawyer in order to play them truthfully and to truthfully fulfil the story and the idea of the playwright.

So for me, I think that acting actually gives me that and then some, because I get to be a million different people. I get to justify a million different people’s stories.

TN: Let us just talk now about your journey. You have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting?

MC: Yes.

TN: You graduated in 2019 from Pace University, New York?

MC: Yes with a minor in Film & Screen Studies.

TN: You are working on a Master of Fine Arts at Columbia University?

What has the journey been like? I mean you are not done yet, but you are almost there. What has it been like?

MC: It has been a bit tricky. I think that when I got into Pace, it has got a 5% acceptance rate with acting programmes, most of the time they are very small.

So at Pace it was one of 24. At Columbia University I am one of 18.

Sometimes I would feel a bit of impostor syndrome, because I was Zimbabwean and because I did my education in South Africa and what that meant artistically for me.

I went to great institutions and I learned a lot and achieved a lot and it was amazing, but I was getting into programmes where people knew so much more than I did.

Where people have had so much more experience than I do because that is what their countries offer them.

They were going to acting courses and schools and film and televison ever since they were young and I was not doing that.

So sometimes I would just think am I here because I am the diversity at the school?

Am I the international student that they put in so that their programme looks fancy and they could kind of pawn me around when there were new prospective students, you know what I mean?

Then I got to a point when I realised all that doubt was doing was stifling me and holding me back and it does not matter how you got into the room because I would never truly know the answer to all of that, but what I do know is I am in the room so let me be present and take all the opportunities that I have and take advantage of that and live in the moment.

TN: Impostor syndrome?

MC: Yes.

TN: Just unpack that for the benefit of the viewers? What does impostor syndrome mean and what does it feel like?

MC: It is that idea that may be I do not deserve to be in this space.

Maybe I have not earned what I am doing here and I am faking it. Even if you are not faking it, not intentionally faking it, you feel like maybe that is what the world thinks you are doing.

They think that you should not actually be here, you have not earned it.

It feels debilitating because every time you want to do something you second-guess yourself.

You think I am not 100% sure this is actually it.

You think everybody there thinks you should not really be doing what you are doing and like you do not deserve this. So yeah, it is really limiting.

 

 

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