Connie Chiume talks beating imposter syndrome overseas and making a mark

'I decided: I am not going there like an inferior actress from South Africa'

15 July 2020 - 07:00
Legendary actress Connie Chiume has done a lot but still hopes to do more.
Legendary actress Connie Chiume has done a lot but still hopes to do more.
Image: Supplied

"Forty-three years: that's how long I have been in the industry. That's why I don't doubt who or what I am. At this point, it's more than clear that I have what it takes to make it and maintain it," Connie Chiume says as we begin our chat about her life and career.

The veteran actress who has recently hogged headlines for making the cut to be on an upcoming Beyoncé film Black is King, is making her mark on the international market.

Still, she admits there are moments where she feels "imposter syndrome" trying to creep in.

"I was actually numb when I realised what a big deal Black Panther was, but they cast me and I decided: 'you know what, I am not going there like an inferior actress from South Africa.'

"I mean the director saw my audition and cast me, out of thousands of people - not only [from] Africa but [all over] the world. So this wasn't luck, he chose me and I knew: this is my time."

There was no way her name, talent and impact could be ignored after she joined Trevor Noah and John and Atandwa Kani as the only South African stars on Black Panther.

The veteran actress reckons it all boils down to self-respect, good interpersonal relationships and a strong work ethic.

"If you take everything you do in life and in your work seriously, more opportunities will find you. For example, when I auditioned for the role, I later found out it was of an elder in Black Panther - I had no idea what the film was. We were told that it's a film called Motherland and it was produced by Americans.

"But I put my heart in that audition. I dressed like an African queen and did my best. Funny enough, I was the only woman at those auditions because the brief was that the role was that of a village leader. I was actually shocked!"

Connie went on to bag the role - and soon found out that what she had thought was a story about the revolutionary Black Panthers in the US was actually a superhero film that would ignite a powerful Afrocentric narrative.

The actress said the best thing of being an integral part of that conversation was being able to change the narrative of Africa for the world.

She said even though her part was "very short", she made sure her presence was felt because she knew that it meant more than just a role.

Not only did she want people to start talking about how women in Africa have long occupied leadership positions, she also wanted to help steer the conversation around how Africans need to rewrite history to get rid of stereotypes.

"In recent years we have seen a revival of Africanness, of blackness. Black Panther contributed greatly to the conversation of how Africa without interruptions would have been. It said this is the Africa that we've been yearning to see, because we are sick and tired of the stereotypes that have burdened our country and continent for decades.

"The world has become really small. When I began over 40 years ago, I couldn't have imagined that this is where I would be. But I always had a dream that through my talent I world travel the world and impact other people's lives with my story."

Connie has contributed a great deal to the entertainment industry, but she believes she's still got plenty more to give - and as long as she's still breathing, she won't stop.

Locally, she's been slaying in her role as the Christian yet gangster gogo Sonto on Mzansi Magic's Gomora. She has played the part so well that after one recent episode, fans called for her character to help clean up corruption in the government.