I have been working in the entertainment industry for about ten years now and you encounter new faces all the time. One such talent is Linda Mtoba, who was introduced to us as Zama Ngwenya on Mzansi Magic’s Isibaya in 2016 and we have since seen her lighting up our screens every evening as Nomonde on 1Magic’s The River. She is also known for killing red carpet looks at high profile events as well as creating great content online. She has since added entrepreneur to her profile as she launches her much anticipated jewellery line, Lula.
As a socially awkward perfectionist, I was terrified to meet Linda. Superstars can`’superstar`’when they choose to, we all know that. When producing her cover shoot I also wanted to celebrate her and give her the best experience on set, a standard we have set with Nounouche. I made sure I got enough food, just anything to make the experience beautiful for her.
Coming back from my quick grocery store run to get some goodies for the shoot, I walk onto the set. In black sweatpants, an oversized t-shirt, a white headband and long sleek hair is Ms Linda Mtoba. She is with a few members of her management team. We exchange hugs and niceties, I could not help but marvel at her perfect face. I have seen beautiful people, Linda’s beauty is incredulous; from her perfect skin, defined features to her striking eyes. She is also kind. What a relief!
She is quick to say that she is the perfect combination of both her parents.
“My mother has always told me that because I have never had to work hard for my beauty, there must be something else that characterises me. I acknowledge and appreciate that I am beautiful but it is not everything nor the only thing that I want attached to me. I am layered. Looks can only take you so far, there has to be more. It (beauty) is a God-given gift, something I have never had to work for and should never be the only thing I lead with.”
We further explore the conversation around beauty and how it is often weaponised against beautiful women, reducing them to just being airheads.
“I never chose to look like this – I am grateful I do – there is nothing wrong with being beautiful and owning it. The Kardashians aren’t doing badly for girls with no talent and they are owning that beauty and turning it into multi-million dollar empires.”
Linda believes that one can be beautiful, smart and thrive in their chosen career. Beauty standards are changing and she is comfortable with her body, with all her flaws and mommy stretch marks.
She fondly imparts affirmations onto her daughter; “I tell her that she is kind, beautiful, smart and she will tell me “mama you are so beautiful,I love you so much mama” every time”.
Linda is born from a Xhosa family but born and raised in Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal. Raised by her mother and grandparents, she grew up speaking isiZulu and isiXhosa at home. She is often teased for speaking isiXhosa in a Zulu accent but her sister believes that she is getting better.
We see Linda’s daughter Bean living an idyllic childhood filled with warmth, love and abundance. I ask Linda how different her childhood was compared to Beans’.
“Firstly, Bean has both parents at home. Here’s a backstory; before she was even conceived, I knew I wanted a different life for my daughter. I was born in a loving, warm family. Raised by kind women but my father wasn’t there. I wanted to have my father around.
Since then, I had a plan for what I wanted my family to look like. My mother did very well in raising me but there are things she could not do or events she could not attend. My mother was young when she had me, a single parent, she had to work and at that time she didn’t even have a car.”
She wanted to get married before having a child and also still wanted to enjoy being alone with her husband before they could add new members into their family.
“My mother was very honest with me about some of the challenges she faced being a single mother and I knew I wanted better for myself. Growing up, I longed for my father and I knew then that I wanted my child to grow up in a two-parent household and God has been good in making that a reality for me.”
Linda had a stepfather who gave her a glimpse of what a good, present father would be like. He adored her mother and loved Linda just as much. “He was always there for me and we still have a great relationship. We would go jogging together, he would bring me lunch at work and we would go shopping together. It’s the love and time he had, never about how much money he had. He always came home carrying something and was very affectionate with my mother. I knew I wanted that kind of relationship.”
“My husband comes from a family with two parents. It was normal for him and many people around him but for me it wasn’t.
I wanted my daughter to have a headstart in life, especially mentally and emotionally. This does a lot for your emotional stability and development.”
Linda experienced the trauma of not having her father around, and with that came a lot of unlearning and healing, something she doesn’t want her daughter to experience.
“I want my daughter to do as little of that as possible. Myself, my mother, her mother, all of us had a lot of unlearning to do and I want her to experience very little of that, if at all.”
While her daughter has changed her life for the better, Linda suffered from prenatal depression towards the last trimester of her pregnancy.
“I somehow live by the book. I planned my pregnancy. My husband and I were ready but I felt overwhelmed and in a dark place during that time and could not see myself getting out of it.”
She credits her husband for his devotion to her in bringing her back to herself. When her baby arrived, everything changed and she was in love all over again.
I tell her about my fear of childrearing, she empathises but is quick to encourage going on about a supernatural love that I don’t even think I am reluctant to experience.
Her prayer for her daughter is that of divine protection, joy and that she may always feel loved.
When asked what her prayer for herself is, she emotively shares how she always prays for surrender, protection and to be able to do more for her family. She gushes over the friendship she has with her mother and how it has inspired her to be better.
“My mother is my best friend, we share parenting hacks and pretty much everything. I want my daughter and I to have that kind of friendship.”
On the 11th of the 11th month, Linda turns 31 and she says that balance has been a challenge for her.
“It’s a constant struggle for balance for me; wanting to climb the ladder, be the best mom and wife… I find that I have to hold a lot of things up. I cannot focus on just one thing, and I strongly believe I can still achieve all of these things and be everything I want to be but the struggle to maintain the balance has been real.”
Linda is grateful for the path she has found herself on, one that will inspire her daughter and many other girls that look like her to dream bigger and believe in achieving the impossible.
“I am a black woman from Umlazi, what are the odds that I would be where I am today? I do this for other young girls who look like me, who come from the townships and dream to make it. I am now a reference point for other kids.”
Linda lives an ordinary life, but is very aware of who she is and what value she brings. This incontrovertible awareness and belief in herself may make her seem haughty to outsiders but she is very aware that the sun does not revolve around her. Staying true to herself is her superpower and something she prides herself in. In a world that constantly seeks to always one-up others, she believes, one should point that inwards for ones’ betterment. “The person you are changes as you grow. I wholly belong to myself and I embrace the ebbs and flows of life, growing up is humbling and equally empowering but I accept myself in all these seasons.”
Her team also understands her, she has set the tone on how she wants to be presented – as her most authentic self in all she does. She is happy to be around people who see her true self and where she doesn’t have to shrink herself to fit into spaces and that is wisdom that many people her age may not have fully grasped.
On Finding Love
“I come from a place of love, I am love and that made it easy for me to recognise love.
Love has done so much for me, it has fed me, nourished me, comforted me, picked me up. Love has been the reason why, my saving grace, my anchor, my purpose. My husband is gentle, kind, intentional, selfless and has allowed me to pursue my dreams without any reservations and that’s what love does, it frees you. It expands your heart and mind. My husband is my north star.
She credits her partner for how far she has come in her career. Linda’s husband is very supportive.
“He is very proud of me and everything I have accomplished.”
When Linda started out in her acting career, she had to commute between Johannesburg and Durban and at that time, she didn’t have much. Her husband was paying for her flights, a massive support for a good two years. He also made sure she lived comfortably.
“My husband and I look great together but it is way deeper, beyond looks. I know that no matter what, he will love me and I will love him just as much. We love each other beyond the superficial.”
One word to describe her love story with her husband is “Ta-da”, she says.
She and her husband met at a club, they locked eyes and later met up online, on Facebook. Their love developed from Facebook and they knew they had met before but could not immediately remember where they had known each other from. They have known each other since she was 19 years old.
Their relationship hasn’t always been smooth sailing, at some point in their dating years, they broke up for a year but fortunately found their way back to each other.
Linda loves her life in the limelight but is fiercely protective of her family and especially her husband. “My husband didn’t choose a life of fame and it is my job to shield him from that. I am unapologetically selfish when it comes to my husband and I value the sanctity of our life together and I want to protect that.”
She is her happiest when surrounded by her loved ones. She also enjoys going out with her friends and taking walks with her husband.
“I am always happy, other emotions are fleeting but generally, I am a happy person. Cake or ice-cream make me happy. I love going to the spa and doing nothing makes me happy.”
When you are happy, tell people that you are having a great time with them. I always make sure people know how grateful I am and how happy I am wherever I am. I love spreading joy.”
On her Career Rise
I am grateful to be doing what I do as a job. I never feel like I have to go recharge because work drains me, no. I love what I do. I am always happy when I am working.
I love and respect Sindi Dlathu (award-winning actress, cast mate and producer for The River). She is my biggest inspiration, I look up to her. Not only is she an amazing actor, she is an even better, kind person. I am grateful for our relationship.”
Linda sees herself branching into more behind the scenes work and she is happy that she has started exercising that with her content creation, playing multiple roles, something that has sharpened her producer and director skills. She also credits the crew from The River on how they always value the casts’ input on how they shoot scenes.
Linda is also grateful for the cast and crew of Zulu telenovela, Isibaya, where she first debuted her acting skills. The experience was nerve wracking but as new as she was, the people were kind, patient and accommodating.
“My heartbeat was shooting through the roof but everyone held my hand and this is something I am happy to extend to others as well.”
Linda is currently the only content creator in South Africa to have five endorsement deals at the same time. This speaks volumes about her work ethic.
“I am my authentic self and not curated and I think that’s what brands like about me. Social media is very superficial and often wants to shame people who are not living these curated lives. It is also a combination of all the things I am and do. I am an ordinary, relatable person. I live truthfully and I think brands like that. Also, I am not online feuding with anyone. My team and I are big on kindness.”
Lula is Linda’s first ever jewellery line that launches in South Africa the day after her birthday. She had been working on this line for a while and she thrilled to share it with her fans. She wanted to create a line that would be simple, accessible yet sophisticated. “Looking good doesn’t have to be such a complicated thing, your outfit transforms just by wearing a pair of earrings, a simple necklace. Luna is your feel-good jewellery piece that will easily spice up your look with much less effort.” said the entrepreneur.
On overcoming insecurities and imposter syndrome
“I have conditioned myself to not take anything personal. A lot of people that criticise me do not know me and I should not be too affected by what they say. I used to be upset about people being negative but I have since developed thick skin and I am hardly affected.”
Before she leaves, she thanks us for creating a beautiful experience for her.
“I always want to leave feeling good, seen and loved.”
Our mission is accomplished.
Cover story: Bonnie Meslane
Editor-in-Chief: Bonnie Meslane
Photographer: Katlego Mokubyane
Creative Director: Lesego Kgosimolao
Styling: Advice by KgosiLesego
Makeup: Nono Linchwe
Hair: Zihle Zikalala
Producer: Bonnie Meslane
Production Assistant: Nomvelo Masango
Wardrobe Assistants: Bongiwe Masina & Michael Dlamini
Videographer: Michael Dlamini
Studio: New Katz Studio