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26-year-old Mangezi, whom many will remember as Letoya Makhene, co-host of season two of South Africa’s Idols with Colin Moss in 2003, was on her way to becoming one of the entertainment industry’s “it” girls when she put her cultural beliefs ahead of her blossoming career. She quit Idols and her fledgling music career took a back seat. Most dishearteningly, she said, her friends “disappeared” when she had to attend initiation school for eight months as an ithwasa (trainee sangoma). But, after two months of training, she began singing again at corporate gigs and recently landed a role on SABC3 soapie Isidingo, as Ayanda Diale, of the Sibeko family. Her appearance in the show will be on June 14. Yesterday, after shooting her scenes for the day, Mangezi spoke of how she hadn’t missed the spotlight. “I met a wonderful man, we got married and had three babies. I gave birth to my last-born [son Tamuda] three months ago,” she said. Husband Privilege Mangezi was her closest friend during her months of initiation as a sangoma. “When we were sometimes allowed visitors [at the initiation school, in Springs, on the East Rand], I realised that everyone who was supposedly my friend disappeared,” she said. “But Priv always came through, so it was so natural [for us to fall in love].” She said the initiation process was tough, and scary. “I never saw home, but it wasn’t a foreign experience in the sense that I come from a rooted family that practises our culture. It became me.” Mangezi said she was fortunate that her amadlozi (ancestors) let her to return to doing “what I’m passionate about”. Her character in Isidingo, Ayanda, loses her father in the anti-apartheid struggle and is taken in by the Sibeko family. She has to pick up the pieces of her life after drugs wreck her music career. Mangezi, clad in black skinny jeans, black high-heeled boots (which don’t compensate for her petite frame), a tank top and grey cardigan had her dreadlocks tied up and was still wearing make-up. Unlike most stars, she was refreshingly forthcoming, declining only to give her husband’s occupation. Mangezi is now also working on a comeback album, which is tentatively set for release at the end of the year, with her musician and producer father, Blondie Mokhene
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