Khabonina has bagged an award at the Boston International Film Festival for her role as Dora, a Hillbrow prostitute, in the movie Dora’s Place.
The festival, which took place in early April, celebrates artists who have captured the imagination of audiences, making them laugh, cry, think and change.
Khabonina says the award means so much to her as she’s always respected the Boston Film Awards. She’s particularly grateful because the judgement was based on the strength of the storyline, the production and technical aspects of her performance.
“All they got was the film and the production, they don’t know much about who Khabonina is or what show she’s on. So it means the world to me to be honoured for my craft and performance,” she says.
She explains that contrary to popular belief, it takes a lot of work to be an actor who fully understands their character. “I feel they picked up the decisions I made within my role, the moments of silence and appreciated that.”
She admits that in the past she would have judged a woman who’d chosen to become a prostitute, but portraying Dora taught her to be more empathetic.
“I’ve learnt that you can’t judge a woman until you’ve walked in her shoes because you don’t know what she’s dealing with,” she says. “When I walked in Dora’s shoes, I understood her and the decisions she made.
“The role taught me not to judge, but to rather listen. Women bring each other down much of the time. I believe that if you fully love, understand and accept yourself as a woman, you’ll be able to listen to the next woman’s story without being judgmental,” she says.
Her role as Nina on Isidingo has also been an incredible journey, although she points out that she had been an extra on the show for a day once and had walked away. “After realising that an extra always remains an extra, I thanked the producers of the show for the opportunity and left. I just couldn’t settle for less, I knew I could do and be more,” she says.
Khabonina left South Africa to explore the world and improve her dance skills and upon her return, the Isidingo producers called her to say they had the perfect role for her.
“That was God. If I had settled I don’t know where I’d be now. For me, life is about being bold, being in touch with yourself and being aware of your power so that you don’t settle for anything less than you deserve.
“If you allow fear to drive you, you won’t get as far as you’re meant to. Know yourself and make decisions that work for you. Realise that you may be judged because your truth is not the next person’s truth, but be sure of yourself so that you can move forward.”
She describes working closely with Darlington Michaels – who plays her father Georgie Zamdela on the show – as amazing and inspiring.
“Playing his daughter has been beautiful. Because I’m from eKasi, I was able to connect with Georgie – so much so that it sometimes feels like he’s my real dad,” she laughs.
READ MORE: 5 minutes with Soso Rungqu
Surviving in the cut-throat entertainment space hasn’t been a breeze, but Khabonina says she learnt to play the game quickly. She says that when entering the industry, one needs to decide if you want to be a celebrity or an artist because once you establish that, everything else will fall into place.
Despite the cliques and politics in the industry, she still chooses to make things happen rather than waiting passively. “Unfortunately, we live in a world where your following often determines whether you get a role or not – that’s just the game. I’ve learnt to accept it because life is about being creative and creating work for yourself,” she says.
Khabonina’s also learnt that as a performer, you don’t have to say yes to every offer you get. “At first, you think you have to be seen everywhere, but over time, you realise you need only go to events that suit you. Find things that are relevant for you and grow in that space.”