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Meet Sihle Vilakazi

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sihle Vilakazi.

Sihle, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I had always been obsessed with video cameras; its ability to capture the most precious of moments from a child’s first steps to their first birthday or even celebrations with family members, and wherever the camera was I was always sure to be there looking alive and ready to thrive in front of one. I always managed to make my presence known in situations where I was called to perform, not just because I had the massive eyes and toothy grin for it but my ability to contort my face till it represented the facial expressions, my mother, father or teachers told me to create, kind of like how an actor or actress is told to act. Storytelling came naturally, slipping into a completely different role whether it be a princess or a police officer or a nurse was as easy as breathing; and what I thought as simply taking in directions and performing it to the best of my ability as normal my mother saw it as potential to unlock a talent I had never seen yet; a passion which I was yet to ignite, a dream which I was yet to dream about. My mother who is a single parent saw an actress.

It was only when I was eleven years old after competing in a public speaking competition for Gauteng was when I saw the potential in myself to become an actress. I had won the competition with the adjudicators’ comment being that not only did I speak, I performed, and their words remained in my mind thus igniting my passion for acting. My participation in Public Speaking competitions and Drama Eisteddfods grew exponentially with me winning the main categories, and soon I became the girl various adjudicators would look out for. Opportunities were at my door and I was ready to chase them however school came first and with South Africa’s political background the main goal on every black parent’s mind was getting their child through school, and my mother was determined to see me through to university without any scrapes.

This didn’t dull my passion and desire to see my face on the silver screen and thankfully enough St Mary’s DSG allowed for one to truly hone my talents while embracing the high school academic experience. I never shied away from participating in our school’s house plays which in grade 11 and 12 I earned myself the leading roles. Inter-house dance was the perfect opportunity to show to my peers that I was not limited to acting and that my level of performance extended to the dance floor, and with me also performing in our school’s chapel choir it is safe to say that I achieved the coveted description of ‘a triple threat.’ After high school, when waiting to go to the New York Film Academy, I interned in each and every department in the film and television industry at one of the top production houses in South Africa (The Bomb Shelter).

I modeled for one of the well-renowned fashion designers, David Tlale. The support from friends and family I received was abundant with statements such as ‘And the Oscar goes to…’ ringing in my ears after every performance, even from my drama teacher himself. It was enough for me to take the plunge and decide to study acting and to pursue it as a career, and in the midst of all the decision making and compliment receiving a question came to mind which was of great importance: ‘where would I study?’ Now I will say that I am proud of South Africa in terms of the progress we have made from our shameful political past in all spheres including our entertainment and film industries. Some of our films have even received international recognition which is a massive feat, and as the years go by young actors and actresses step into the South African entertainment industry bursting with potential however at the moment our industry is at a standstill and progression is halting.

To also make matters worse acting along with other artistic careers are constantly being seen as pipe dreams which are not taken seriously. The production values of our public dramas are not up to scratch and South African films are constantly competing with other films from abroad, and unfortunately, there is a lack of support for the arts in South Africa. I researched film schools in South Africa and instead of choosing any of them I came across The New York Film Academy and I immediately fell in love. NYFA offered me an opportunity to hone my talent and push myself in such a way that will not only lead me for success but will also allow me to return home and send the elevator down for the South African Film industry. NYFA seems to have a holistic approach to film acting rather than the standard ‘text-book’ method and I would like to dive into this world and stretch my horizons.

The possibilities seem endless at NYFA and when I see NYFA I see no limits. I see immersing into NYFA’s college and learning culture, I see myself raising the bar higher until there is no longer a bar to raise. I see myself accepting all the new knowledge NYFA has to offer me in the hopes of taking them home to South Africa and spreading it amongst my fellow actors and actresses in the hopes that the South African standard of acting will rise and acting will be seen as something other than a pipe dream. I firmly believe that attending the New York Film Academy has not only enhance my skills but push my personal growth. The academy’s reputation is sublime, the list of alumni’s grace television and film screens across the globe, and the academy’s ability to produce people who further extend the art of film acting is more than extraordinary. Those who have left New York Film Academy have managed to create their own legacy whilst giving credit to the academy and I would love to do the same.

I would love to give NYFA my greatest performance yet, one which will leave a mark on the hearts of the faculty members, the staff and even Los Angeles itself. Currently, I have earned a place on the Deans’ List in recognition of your exemplary academic performance during the Summer 2019 semester. Deans’ List recognition is awarded to students who earned a term grade point average of 3.6 or higher (for BFA/AFA students) and 3.8 or higher (for MFA/MA students) for the semester. I’m on my fourth semester. I am a black South African student to obtain a constant standing of a 4.0 GPA. I am also one the NYFA’s correspondents, meaning I am involved in their events and I post them on Instagram. I was also an orientation leader this fall at NYFA. I’ve been shooting short stories and music video’s around Los Angeles.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It wasn’t easy but with the support of my family, friends the school and with the Man above (God) I managed.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
Currently, I have earned a place on the Deans’ List in recognition of your exemplary academic performance during the Summer 2019 semester. Deans’ List recognition is awarded to students who earned a term grade point average of 3.6 or higher (for BFA/AFA students) and 3.8 or higher (for MFA/MA students) for the semester. I’m on my fourth semester. I am a black South African student to obtain a constant standing of a 4.0 GPA. I am also one the NYFA’s correspondents, meaning I am involved in their events and I post them on Instagram. I was also an orientation leader this fall at NYFA. I’ve been shooting short stories and music video’s around Los Angeles. I am in the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting for film and I am in my fourth semester. I have a wonderful personality and my triple threat character, I can act, dance and sing. I am an outspoken person, I can adapt to my environment quickly.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
It was only when I was eleven years old after competing in a public speaking competition for Gauteng was when I saw the potential in myself to become an actress. I had won the competition with the adjudicators’ comment being that not only did I speak, I performed, and their words remained in my mind thus igniting my passion for acting. My participation in Public Speaking competitions and Drama Eisteddfods grew exponentially with me winning the main categories, and soon I became the girl various adjudicators would look out for.

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