Do you know that moment when you’re about to chicken out of something you’ve been wanting to do? That is the exact moment to take the leap, and that is exactly what Tshegofatso Mhlongo, stage name Eli Zaelo, 29, did in order to achieve her goals.

Tshegofatso is a multilingual singer. She performs in English, isiZulu and Mandarin, and her passions are music, the arts, and drama. She’s from Pretoria, South Africa, and moved to Hong Kong in 2015 after studying in America – she had realised that the music industry was huge in China.

I asked Tshegofatso what she would choose between being a singer and her acting and she said, “I’d probably be a singer, but just by a small margin. I love them both; but if music is a 10 then drama would be 9-and-a-half. The reason for this is that with music you get to have more of a say, whereas if you’re an actor you’re most likely portraying someone else’s vision – unless you’re a scriptwriter.”
Naturally singing in Mandarin is no easy task as it’s one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn, but Tshegofatso did what she had to do to get herself out there.

“I think learning Mandarin will be a lifelong journey. So, I can really never say that I know it. The goal is to always be more and more fluent. When I was leaving late-2016 my mentor suggested: ‘Why don’t you sing in Chinese?’ The more research I did on it the more it made sense in terms of just connecting with who I am as a person my vision of using music to bring about unity, hope and so many different things. I could see my – position in the gap; I could see how I would fit in.”

Tshegofatso explains that what she is most proud of is that she simply did what she wanted to do despite people questioning her decision.

“Despite the fear, I went ahead and I did it. I jumped when people were telling me why would I sing in Mandarin? … I was brave enough to do it. I could have made excuses not to do it.”

Tshegofatso also expressed that she wants to be proud of the person she is in the process. That is her top priority.

“For the near future I definitely have to release my double album, so that’s really exciting; the process has been amazing. I really want to tour the world; I want to be a touring artist and I’m just speaking it to the universe that there will be sold-out shows everywhere. So, I’d like to do touring and eventually get back to acting.”

When asked who she’d love to perform alongside someday, Tshegofatso said, “In the Mandarin field it would be JJ Lin. In the English world, Maverick City Music. In Africa as a whole, I’d say Wizkid and in South Africa I’d say Focalistic.”

Tshegofatso is flying the South African flag high. Her advice to people entering into the music industry: “You’ve got to be brave; you’ve got to be courageous. Talent is only 20% of it. The other 80% is who you are in the process and who you decide to be. Know what you are doing; what you specifically have to contribute. Because if you don’t know that as well, then you’re just going to be jumping from trend to trend without really sure what’s going on and it’s just not worth it.”

Tshegofatso teaches us to aim for your goals; to take that leap of faith and to always do you.


Tell us: What did you learn from Tshegofatso’s story?

Read more here on what girls want.