Born in Jwaneng but currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Peniel Morebodi-Makena hails from Maunatlala- a village in Central District of Botswana at the feet of the Tswapong Hills, near the Lotsane River, located 65 km east of Palapye and 60 km from the border with South Africa. A passionate international model and actress, Peniel is geared to take USA by storm after she was selected by international casting director, Kim Myers and independent casting director for Tyler Perry studios Rhyvann Drummers to represent Africa this July. She chats to #botswanaunplugged about her life, career and recent breakthrough…
How would you describe yourself? Where were you born and where do you hail from?
I am a very friendly, driven and passionate person. I was born in Jwaneng but I am from Maunatlala (people don’t believe there are light-skinned people in Maunatlala, so I’m the light skinned Maunatlala girl lol).
What’s sets you apart?
My commitment to each and everything I do. I give everything I do my all, and I think that’s what makes me stand out.
What’s the best advice you have ever received?
International is not impossible (Elsubie Verlinden).
What do you listen to or do when you are looking for inspiration?
I pray, I don’t believe I could do anything without God.
What’s the one thing you wish people knew about you?
That I actually have always wanted to be a Victoria Secret model.
What can’t you live without and how many of you are there in your family?
I can’t live without my family, they are my greatest supporters and cheerleaders. I am the second born of Cecilia and Moshe Morebodi. I have two brothers (Shalom and Raah), a sister (Eliel) and a niece who is my world (El-Elyon). We are Hebrews at home and most importantly I am a wife to Mokgoshi Makena.
Who and what inspired you to become a model and actress?
I was introduced to modeling at the age of 7 by my cousin Mpule Kwelagobe, she was doing a fashion show at Taj restaurant and she said I should come with her, that became my first fashion show and I was in love. Acting came to me through my love for modeling, my husband said I should give it a try because he felt I would be good and it became a part of me.
So, how did your big break come about?
Through my agency Just You Model and Artist Management, they have opened doors that have even exceeded my imagination and their support and drive to see me succeed has been everything an artists can dream of.
Who is your role model and why?
My parents, they are a power couple that thrives for success and they do it with what seems to be effortless.
How do you communicate with people? Are you patient? Are you friendly? How open are you to clients’ requirements?
I’m a “psychologist” so I have learnt the skill to communicate and listen to understand which comes in very handy when dealing with people. I am very friendly and I’m patient. I feel patience is a skill everyone should have because the world would be a better place if we could just be a little patient with one another. In this industry meeting clients’ requirements is the only way because they know what they want.
Do you eat nutritiously? How often do you exercise or go to the gym?
I am a health freak. I start my day with a spirulina and collagen juice with supplements. I am on a keto diet at the moment (I need to be America ready) and I run/walk at least 12000 steps a day.
That’s intense! Do you have any limitations? Would you pose naked for the cover of a magazine for instance?
Posing naked is a no-no for me, the world needs not to be exposed to such shocking things. Ha-ha!
What has been the biggest or favourite highlight of your life or career so far?
Getting a call back from international casting director Kim Myers and Ryvann Drummers – an independent casting director for Tyler Perry Studios, which just takes the cup for me.
Oh yes, we came across this on your Instagram account, please tell us more…
Last year my mother-in-law sent me a Facebook post for auditions in Johannesburg for an international arts talent showcase, where I auditioned for the directors of IATS and got a call back for acting. In October last year I auditioned for international casting director Kim Myers who’s also the director the Applause Rising Talent Showcase in America, Rhyvann Drummers independent casting director for Tyler Perry Studios and Oprah Winfrey Network. From those auditions I got a call back from Kim Myers to audition on her stage in Orlando Florida, USA in July 2019 in front of influential agents, casting directors, managers, records producers from Hollywood through New York, Europe and Asia.
Wow! That’s impressive. What other exciting gigs have you been involved with in the past?
Auditioning for The River Mzanzi.
Which countries have you travelled to so far, courtesy of your work and which ones were your favourite?
America is the first out of the country job I’ll be doing so I want to go big especially because I believe I am a New Yorker at heart.
How do you handle the pressure that comes with your work?
I work well under pressure so I embrace every moment and stay humble because each opportunity is a gift from God, so I celebrate every step and moment.
What excites you the most about being both a model and actress?
The feeling of being on stage is amazing, I can’t compare it to anything on earth.
Life would be simpler if…
we could all get along.
What’s your typical weekday schedule?
Meeting with potential sponsors, media etc. Being an artist is a lot of work because you have to make things happen.
And your typical weekend?
Lately photoshoots in preparation for America, like this weekend I’ll be working.
What are your favourite out-of-town escapades; tell us where do you usually go to and why?
Exploring nature and I enjoyed Magaliesburg and Mpumalanga.
Where do you enjoy shopping?
I actually hate shopping which is weird considering I love fashion, but that’s the beauty of having a mother who sells clothes, so she does that for me.
What superhuman power would you most like to have?
I wish I could snap my finger and all the pain and headache in the world would disappear. The world is dealing with so much disasters it’s sad.
Something that no one knows about me is… I am super shy.
My motto is… sleep is luxury.
My simplest pleasure is… a cup of tea… I’m a big tea lover.
My guiltiest pleasure is… dark chocolate with almonds.
The craziest fashion trend I have ever followed is… going bald.
What celebrity crushes did you have as a teenager?
The whole B2K crew.
My biggest regret is… I don’t regret things but I rather learn from them so it’s always a lesson learnt. I believe everything happens for a reason.
Before I die, I’d like to… Work with Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts in the same movie if possible.
What surprises you most about adult life?
Being an adult is hard and I yearn to be a kid again in my parents’ house where I didn’t have all these responsibilities. I wasn’t ready (Kevin Hart voice). Ha-ha!
My proudest moment was…Getting a call back from Kim Myers, hands down!
What made you decide to study whatever you studied?
I find the human mind intriguing and that’s why I studied Psychology. It’s actually the only thing I ever wanted to study.
What’s been your worst-ever career disaster… I actually don’t have one which I am truly blessed and grateful for, and pray I never do.
What’s been your biggest life lesson in your career?
That quitting is NOT an option.
depends on how I am feeling, when in touch with my Mexican side I want to go to Salsa otherwise I check out Mantovanis; they have the best of everything there.
Green tea with mint, lemon and honey. Yes honey!!
Eve duet by Eva Mendes.
What’s your grooming regime/routine?
It takes me about 10min just for my face, I cleanse with a facial brush, tone, do a mask and over moisturize.
Favourite pair of jeans? If it looks good it’s my favorite.
What are you listening to right now? Do you have a favourite Botswana artist; African artist and international artist?
It depends on how I am feeling and what I want to hear at that moment so nothing in particular. African artist, I think Samantha Mogwe has a sensational voice. Internationally, have you heard Adele’s voice? The woman has a beautiful voice.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Botswana and Africa right now?
I think the political turmoil in Botswana is a big one, I am grateful that we don’t have some of the challenges other countries have e.g. SA has experienced apartheid, Zimbabwe was the Mugabe regime etc. I pray the peace can continue to reign in Botswana. My heart also bleeds for Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi with the recent Cyclone Idai.
Do you support any charities or NGOs?
I support anything that has to do with kids. I feel children shouldn’t have to deal with any pain. I am involved with a program here in RSA called Beez Kids Academy which uses sports to educate and empower kids to stay away from drugs and abuse. I am also involved in schools against drugs and substance abuse program.
What does it mean to be a Motswana?
To me it means peace, unity and pride in our culture as Batswana.
What’s your message to Batswana, especially the youth?
Wake up, the world is ready for us let’s show them what we have to offer.
Do you have any last words?
It is now or never. Botswana, welcome to America!!