Generations’ Denise Zimbra is determined to shine

Denise Zimba has always dreamed of herself as an actress. Just a few months ago, the musical theatre graduate and television presenter was running tirelessly from audition to audition, hoping to get her big break.

Today, she is the fresh new face on SA’s most watched soap.

“During an audition at Generations, the casting directors said I should stop coming to auditions – they would call me if they had a role for me,” explains Zimba.

Like any ambitious young actress, Zimba felt nervous about this, but was not discouraged and continued going to other auditions.

“When they finally called to give me a cameo role, I was so excited,” explains Zimba.

Even though she had no experience as an actress on television, she was determined to shine in the format.

“Coming from a theatre background made it a bit difficult for me at first,” says Zimba. “But when I got onto the Generations set, I got so much support and encouragement from my fellow actors.”

While she was intimidated by the soap’s highly experienced cast, she soon started feeling like she was a part of “one big happy family,” and has built a strong friendship with Nondumiso Tembe, who plays the cunning Miss Miya.

When Zimba first started appearing on the soap, she was overwhelmed by all the attention she got from the public.

“I had been presenting on Vuzu for months, yet very few people knew who I was,” she explains.

“But just days after being on Generations, people everywhere started recognising me as Mary.”

Zimba admits that there are similarities between herself and her feisty character Mary.

“Mary is crazy, outspoken and fun. She’s also focused on her hustle and won’t let anyone stop her from achieving her goals.”

However, Zimba is quick to point out that unlike Mary, she is no gold digger. Even though Zimba is still relatively new to the entertainment industry, she has already encountered its dark side.

“It surprised me to realise that when a woman starts progressing in this industry, the first thing that people ask is: Who did she have sex with to get there? At times, people have struggled to take me seriously as an actress, while others would say I’m just looking for attention,” says Zimba.

“But I’ve learned to stop listening to people, and carry on doing what I love and living my life. This is a cut-throat industry. There aren’t many TV jobs available, and there are many actors desperate to work.”

Since becoming a familiar face on television, “friends” have crept up from all corners.

“It’s great when people support you, but when it comes to calling people friends, I’m also very cautious. I’ve learned that for the most part, you can’t really trust anyone except your family,” says Zimba.

While acting is Zimba’s first love, she works hard to balance her schedule as a Vuzu presenter and an aspiring singer. Zimba was taken on as Vuzu presenter after she had starred in Fly Chix – a reality show documenting her former group’s journey into the music industry.

“The Vuzu producers really liked my personality and thought I would be a perfect fit for the channel,” she says.

Zimba joined seasoned presenters like Siyabonga Ngwekazi, Lalla Hirayama, and Dineo Moeketsi, and soon her bubbly personality, dry sense of humour and ability to poke fun at herself made her stand out.

She has subsequently left The Fly Chix, and is pursuing her musical career on her own.

“Being part of the group was a great life experience,” says Zimba, “but if I had stayed, I wouldn’t have been as focused as I am right now on my career.”

She is careful not to say too much about her future plans.

“People must just watch this space,” she with a laugh. “When I put my mind to something, I make it happen – and I have my mind on big things.”

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