PrimeTime with Nomzamo: Why the SA Starlets Coming 2 America Debut is Important


She was the breakout star of the most anticipated sequel of the last year and stole every scene she appeared in. Now, Nomzamo Mbatha is the name on everyone’s lips. The stunning South African actress made her debut alongside movie veteran Eddie Murphy in the sequel of smash hit classic – Coming 2 America and now the world waits with bated breath, her next move. In a time when the world’s eyes are firmly on the continent for emerging talent, here’s why Nomzamo’s breakout role is important.

In the movie, Mbatha plays Mirembe, Zamunda’s Royal Groomer who takes a shine to the young Prince of Zamunda, Akeem. Her character has big dreams about owning her own salon, but women in Zamunda are considered second-class citizens and aren’t allowed to own their own businesses. When she was chosen for the role, it was a significant step in her career and a dream come true for the young actress. The small-town girl with big dreams trope mirrors Mbatha’s own rise to fame. Hailing from KwaMashu in South Africa, Mbatha is now flying the SA flag high in Hollywood, where she is now based.

Speaking to Harper’s Bazaar about the cultural relevance of the film franchise and why it was important for her to be a part of it, Mbatha said:

“It’s gotta be one of my top five favorite films of all time, because it just gave a different light in a different lens to how Africans were portrayed in films, or in sketches. It just gave this hyper-imaginative Black fairy-tale of royal regalia and kingdoms of Africa. I really liked what it did for the time. And it shows what a cultural impact Mithe film has had, because so many people have been influenced from that. Beyoncé would host a Coming to America–themed Halloween party or would dress up as the royal family. Prince Akeem is the original Black prince and Black Panther was the first Black superhero film. So many cultural impacts came from this film, so it was a lot to carry.”

Although Nomzamo was honoured to be a part of Coming 2 America’s success, she remains refreshingly honest about how she feels about the opportunity in the context of her having ‘made it’. She rejects the ‘seat at the table’ narrative saying:

“I think we’re so fixated about having a seat at the table that we’re not concentrating on building the different rooms.”

She’s very vocal about blazing her own trail and being an African actress that refuses to conform to achieve success. She is unapologetically herself, wearing her culture, her identity draped around her, proud of her differences and never forgetting her roots. Be it through the way she rocks her natural hair, through the roles she chooses, or her humanitarian works which she’s very vocal about; Nomzamo is Africa first.

Moreso, the film carries such an important message about female empowerment and ownership on the continent. Although Zamunda is not a real place, it mirrors a lot of African societies where women remain disenfranchised and unable to make a tangible contribution to their communities through business ownership. Mirembe’s eventual success is indicative of a new generation of African women, refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer and eschewing outdated societal expectations to achieve success, on their own terms. 

Mbatha’s trajectory is clear; she’s a star on the rise and as she scales the lofty heights of Hollywood, carrying her culture on her back, she reminds us that we never need to compromise who we are to get to where we want to be. 

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