South African stars who make us proud on the international stage in 2022

South Africa is fast becoming one of the top countries providing talented stars to the rest of the world. Trevor Noah, Sharlto Copley, Black Coffee, Arnold Vosloo, Neill Blomkamp and Gavin Hood are only a few who have made a name for themselves as actors and directors. And let’s not forget, perhaps the most well-known, academy-award winner Charlize Theron was born and bred in Benoni before she spread her wings and flew to Tinseltown. The Mad Max actor has recently dominated headlines in her homeland for sharing flippant remarks about the Afrikaans language, causing controversy on social media throughout the country. Regardless, she remains one of the most successful artists to hail from Mzansi.

We take a look at 5 SA stars rising through the ranks on a global stage right now:
Thuso Mbedu


 

 

 

 

 

Thuso Mbedu was born and raised in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. After completing high school and graduating from the University of Witwatersrand with honours, she moved to New York City to study acting. Her first major role was in Barry Jenkin’s limited series The Underground Railroad, released on Prime Video in May 2021. The actor received critical acclaim for her role and won multiple awards, including for TV Breakout Star at the Hollywood Critics Association TV Awards and Best Female Performance in a New Scripted Series at the Spirit Awards. Thuso Mbedu gives the performance of a lifetime. Great things are coming for her, and everyone will be saying her name after watching her as the superhero that is Cora. — Oprah Winfrey on Thuso Mbedu’s performance in The Underground Railroad And things are only getting better. In April, Mbedu announced her first-look deal with Paramount+’s VIS Social Impact division.

I love being around her, even behind the camera’ Watch as American actress Viola Davis sings praises for Thuso Mbedu

The 31-year-old will create, develop, and produce exclusive scripted and documentary programmes for the studio outside the US. In an interview with fellow South African Trevor Noah, Mbedu said she wants to use the deal to “create the stories that are innately in us”. “We’re specifically focusing on health, climate, and equity as part of their social impact initiative and taking that to South Africa and Africa.”

Thuso Mbedu as seen by the Black Image Center collective | Dazed

A few short months later, in August, before her feature film debut in The Woman King, Mbedu was listed as one of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Rising Stars for her role in the historic epic. In The Woman King, which was filmed entirely on location in South Africa, Mbedu plays Navi, a new recruit of the Agojie, an all-female unit of warriors that protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s. In an interview with Shape magazine, she called it “the most demanding role she’s ever had”. As for what’s next for the rising star, according to Interview magazine, Mbedu is working with a comic book artist to create her own graphic novel.
Oliver Hermanus

He first made a name for himself in South Africa, and now he is doing the same in the rest of the world. Born in Cape Town and raised in a house built on the hills of Plettenberg Bay, Hermanus released his first film, Shirley Adams, in 2009 – when he was just 26 years old. It premiered at the Durban International Film Festival, receiving awards for Best South African Film, Best First Film, and Best Actress for Denise Newman’s starring role. It was then shown in competition at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland and at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film also won Best Film and Best Director awards at the 2009 South African Film and Television Awards.

13 years, five films, and multiple awards later, Hermanus has reached the point of working with Academy Award-winning actors, esteemed writers, and has expanded his repertoire into television. Living, his first internationally-made film, has received critical acclaim since it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January. It is even generating Oscars buzz ahead of the 2023 awards season. And with the resounding applause he has received for the film, Hermanus is now heading into production for his first-ever TV series, Mary & George.

Filmmaker Oliver Hermanus Joins Lief for Global Short Form Representation | LBBOnline

The limited series is a period drama based on a true story about powerful royal family favourites Mary Villiers and her son George. It will star Academy Award-winner Julianne Moore as Mary Villiers, the Countess of Birmingham. In an interview with the media, Hermanus shared that he is proud of how far he has come in his career, adding that when he first began directing, he was continuously told it would never happen for him. I’m proud of the fact that I still get to do what I’ve always wanted to do. When I started out in this career, the message that was coming back to me from the universe was that it was never going to happen because that’s just kind of the headspace that I was raised in. So, I’m proud of the fact that I didn’t let that get to me and that I still get to do what I love.
Lloyiso Lloyiso


Gijana grew up singing at church and school concerts. Then in 2015, at the age of 16, he entered Idols South Africa, where he went as far as the top 5 in the competition, cementing a foot in the music industry’s door. With perseverance, hard work and trying absolutely everything – from TikToks to a Disney Christmas ad – to get noticed, Lloyiso hit the big time when he became the first South African artist to be signed to Republic Records – the same label which houses artists like Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, the Jonas Brothers, and Post Malone – in 2021.

Eastern Cape singing sensation Lloyiso Gijana signs with US label

A year later, in April, Loyiso performed at one of the biggest celebrity nuptials of the year – Brooklyn and Nicola Peltz Beckham’s wedding. “It was my first performance outside of South Africa, and it was just beautiful. The family was beautiful. The guests were amazing. It was just such a beautiful experience,” he said in an interview with the media. Following his performance, the artist travelled between South Africa and the UK, and is currently writing an album he will release when it’s ready. “I don’t want to do what everybody else is doing. I want to really tap into that energy that wakes me up every morning and says, ‘I’m going to be the biggest artist in the world’ because that is truly how I feel.”
Nozipho Mclean

Unlike her fellow South Africans mentioned above, Nozipho McLean was born in South Africa, graduated from school in Portugal, and then returned to her homeland to study psychology, before moving to New York to study acting. After graduating from the New York Film Academy, McLean moved to Hollywood, like many other hopefuls that came before her, to see if she could make it. And make it she did. Nearly 10 years later, she has appeared in multiple US TV shows, including Divorce alongside Sarah Jessica Parker, Madam Secretary and Bull.

Nozipho Mclean – Westworld Season – 14

In what she described to the media as “the biggest television show I’ve been on so far”, Mclean landed a recurring role in the fourth season of the dystopian sci-fi Westworld. She plays Uwade, the wife of Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, who plays Caleb. And while she hopes to soon become a household name in Hollywood, she hasn’t ruled out returning to South Africa. I started my performative career in the US, but I would 1 000% come back home. There’s so much talent coming out of the country and so much content being produced there that’s also just reaching global platforms.

Orville Peck

He’s a country-singing cowboy who lives in Canada, and no one has ever seen his face in the public eye – but a little-known fact that he is actually South African has only recently come to light. Orville Peck was born in Johannesburg and immigrated to Canada with his family when he was 15. From there, he built his career on two things – what he loves and sharing his truth – and so a singing sensation was born. After the release of his self-produced debut album Pony in 2019, Peck signed with Columbia Records and released his Show Pony EP, which features a duet with global icon Shania Twain.

How Cover Star Orville Peck’s Coming-Out Story Shaped His Career

The success of Pony paved the way for Orville, slowly cementing his presence in the music industry. In 2021 he opened for Harry Styles during the former One Direction member’s annual Harryween concert. In 2022, after the release of his second album Bronco, he nabbed a performing spot at Coachella. Like McLean, he too found stardom in the US, but after opening up about his childhood for the first time in Bronco, the familiarity of a South African upbringing has expanded his fan base. And while his home base is now Canada, in a recent interview with the media, Peck revealed that he misses South Africa and often returns to visit. “It’s still my favourite place I’ve ever lived. I miss it. I miss it all the time. I miss it every day.”