The Woman King’s Head Makeup Artist Babalwa Mtshiselwa – a Trailblazer of Note

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“Sometimes it’s not about choosing what you want to do. It’s about being open to what can possibly come to you too…”

Babalwa Mtshiselwa with actress Thuso Mbedu

Babalwa Mtshiselwa is a woman of many talents; she is multifaceted – a Makeup, Hair and Prosthetics Designer.

Born and bred in Cape Town, in Langa Township, the mother of two is passionate about good education for black children and the empowerment of black women.  

Babalwa’s journey to success is quite admirable. She went from being a Human Resource Management Graduate to an award-winning makeup, hair and Prosthetics Designer in film and Television, a major transition that she describes as tricky yet rewarding.

“I was looking for work as a receptionist and ended up being on a film set, this happened as I was praying about my struggle to figure out what I was meant to do. I was struggling to find work and I did not fit into the film world, as I had no education in it. It was a confusing time. I ended up getting a 12-month internship in HR after I worked on the film. At that point, I believed I was meant to do HR as it felt like my prayers were being answered. A month in I handed in my resignation. It was then that I understood what made me happier and I pursued it – Makeup and Hair for Film and Television”, Babalwa said.

Mtshiselwa’s film industry journey spans 12 years, she attributes her longevity in the cutthroat world of showbiz to hard work and dedication.

“It has been a tricky and bumpy and rewarding road. I have had many obstacles along the way and I’ve had to push hard to keep at it. Giving up has never been an option as many sacrifices were made to get to every chapter. I spent two years training. Longer than probably everyone. I assisted for 2 years then I started designing Makeup in between assisting. Eventually I stopped assisting and just designed. This started in 2016. I designed on local productions and then local and international studio collaborations and now I mainly do international productions.”

Babalwa has many accolades under her belt, 11 award nominations – both local and international. She earned five South African Film and Television awards (SAFTAS). Babalwa took us back to the day she won her first SAFTA… “When I won my first SAFTA I just could not believe it. I down played it quite a bit as I didn’t want to be big headed and let it get in the way of my goals. I knew I still still had far to go. I’m most grateful that what I do is also recognised and celebrated. Being rewarded to do something you love and still can’t believe you’re being paid for it, is rather ridiculous, but I am extremely grateful as each and every one of those SAFTA is a reminder that when I believe, I succeed. They remind me that the pressure is on and won’t stop. So I keep going and I’ll keep going.”

This year is proving to be a monumental year for Babalwa Mtshiselwa as she managed to acquire a position as Makeup and Prosthetic Designer on the current number one film in the world grossing a whopping $19 million on opening night, The Woman King, starring Viola Davis and South Africa’s newest treasure, Thuso Mbedu.

When SA POSITIVE NEWS asked Babalwa about her experiences of working in such a gigantic project, she had this to say… “The easy and beautiful part of this job was the makeup and prosthetics day to day. The hard part was the politics, hardships and lack of time to shoot it. It was an incredible challenging space to be In but I’m grateful for the opportunity to do what I love on an empowering and meaningful project.”

The Woman King movie has been one of the most intense productions Babalwa has ever worked on but she is adamant about how empowering it was to be a part of a world where young black people can be inspired to be themselves and know that they are enough. She believes that her experience on The Woman King is worth the change the movie will make in the world.

Babalwa has sights on film sets all over the world and her ultimate goal is to empower black women to be the change they want to see in the world.

“I plan to work on sets all over the world. I plan to train and empower as many black women as possible to have the same opportunities and better. I want to see transformation in the Makeup department all over the world.”

Mtshiselwa is vivacious, beautiful and inspiring – with a thriving career to match. Her message for aspiring Makeup, Hair and Prosthetics Designers is… “Sometimes it’s not about choosing what you want to do. It’s about being open to what can possibly come to you too. Once you find that thing, put passion first, be patient and allow yourself to grow into the next level, don’t jump in prematurely or impatiently, as it will only be yours when you’re ready for it. Never compromise the quality and purpose of your work. Allow yourself to be human and learn how to fight the right battles to protect your energy and well-being.”

The future certainly looks bright for Babalwa Mtshiselwa. We can’t wait to see what else she has in store for us.

“I am currently working on myself. I’m working on figuring out my next step and how to find balance mentally and spiritually. When I’m dealing with the realities of being higher up the ladder, it’s not all glamorous and there are less people you can trust with every step you take so I want to be prepared for next year as I believe it has abundant growth waiting for me”.

SA POSITIVE NEWS wishes Babalwa Mtshiselwa all the best in her future endeavours

By Sinenzolo Mondi – Nduku