'Muvhango’s' Sharon Seno on her delayed success – ‘I wasn’t willing to sleep my way to the top’
Cape Town - There’s the quiet, naïve businessman husband who sees the best in people; the conniving, power- hungry wife who’ll stop at nothing to get her way; and the young side-chick who’s ready to risk it all.
It’s the stuff TV dramas are made of and fans just can’t get enough of it in SABC2 soapie Muvhango. We’ve been glued to the screen watching how Moliehi Zikalala’s scheming has led her husband, James Motsamai, to the arms of his gorgeous young executive PA, Marang Phala.
Who can blame James (played by Dingaan Khumalo)?
After all, Moliehi (Vatiswa Ndara) has tried to snatch their company riches from under his nose, and backstabbed, poisoned and even murdered people to get what she wants.
And even though he’s determined to ditch her, she’s tried it all to keep hold of her man, including pretending to lose her memory and insisting on a vow renewal. But she hasn’t bargained on Marang, who isn’t willing to give up the kind, vulnerable man she’s grown to love.
Sharon Seno (25), who plays Marang, says she’d never dream of doing the things her character does in real life, but she does have a few things in common with her. Like Marang, she’s confident and driven.
The beauty beat several famous faces for the part of James’ attractive young PA, she tells us.
Sharon, raised in the small village of Kanye in Botswana, didn’t think she stood a chance against some established actors, who she prefers not to name.
“There I was, a village girl with very little acting experience trying to compete with them,” she says.
She’d heard about the auditions a few months after moving to Joburg last year. She was living at a friend’s apartment and had been from one audition to the next.
“I auditioned for fashion shows, adverts, you name it. But I didn’t get a single role.”
Sharon felt intimidated in the long queue at Muvhango’s studios.
“I’m a praying woman and I believe in myself, but I didn’t think I stood a chance against the big names. Joburg is big. Everyone is trying to make it and there are thousands of beautiful girls who’d do anything to get ahead. But I wasn’t willing to compromise my values. I would never use my body to get to the top.”
Sharon reveals her fear of being exploited stems back to a director who once asked her to take off her clothes during an audition back home.
“I was 17,” she says. “When he asked me to undress to get the part, I refused. I stormed out of the room and didn’t think I’d continue acting. I longed to be back on screen but I wasn’t willing to sleep my way to the top. Sometimes having morals delays success.”
Yet her patience has paid off.
Marang has caused a stir on social media, particularly after her passionate kiss with James in a show that rarely airs kissing scenes. Sharon is stunned by her new-found popularity.
“They wanted a young woman who best suits the image of a so-called slay queen – beautiful body, a full face of makeup and someone who wears long weaves,” she says.
“I was surprised to find I fit that profile because I’m far from being a slay queen. Like Marang, I’m a very independent woman. But I hate weaves and anything artificial. I have short, natural hair and I hardly wear any makeup.”
It’s hard to believe considering she started out as a model when she was 13.
FROM SHY GIRL TO BEING IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Back in Botswana, her mother, Naledi Seno (55), took her to auditions for adverts and TV shows, but she struggled with low self-esteem.
“I was very shy growing up,” Sharon says. “People teased me for being the tallest girl among my peers. I thought I was ugly because of my height and my big lips.”
While Naledi encouraged her to love herself and believe in her dreams, Sharon couldn’t shake her insecurities – until one day when she was approached in a mall by a modelling scout.
“That moment changed my life. I realised there was nothing wrong with being the tallest girl in the room.”
From then she dedicated all her time to modelling. While older brother Thabiso (34) has his master’s degree in architecture and baby brother Talent (22) is studying heavy plant mechanics at a technical college in Botswana, Sharon doesn’t have any qualifications.
“I’ll probably go back to school to study drama one day,” she says.
Before heading to Joburg, Sharon starred in Botswana drama series Colours and Ntwakgolo. Apart from Muvhango, Sharon’s biggest claim to fame is reaching the top five of Miss Botswana in 2013.
She publicly humiliated herself, she admits.
“I was asked by the judges what I thought the biggest problem young people were facing at the time. I said homosexuality,” she says. “I truly regret it.”
Asked what her thoughts are now, the actress says she believes everyone should be free to live their sexuality without being criticised. The biggest challenge facing the youth, she says, is the fight for education and employment.
Sharon is doing her bit for young women from rural areas who dream of modelling and acting. Through her company, Models Empowerment Association, she mentors 19 women in Botswana.
Travelling between two countries leaves her with little time for anything else – let alone romance.
“I’ve been single for almost a year,” she says.
Dating is daunting, she adds. “I’ve heard a lot of men say they’d never date an actress because of the kissing scenes, because they’re always in the limelight and get too much attention from other men.”
She’s not looking for love but if it does come knocking, she wants someone who’ll love her for more than her looks. Until then, she’s happy to be making her mark in SA’s showbiz scene.