Pilasande Mpehle is a 19-year-old film and media student from Tsolo in the Eastern Cape who is currently based in Johannesburg. In his first year in the City of Gold, Pilasande has already taken part in shooting local short films as both an editor and location manager. This same year has also robbed him of someone who meant the world to him, so we caught up with him over a virtual cup of coffee.

Ndibulele Sotondoshe: Please tell us who Pilasande is.

Pilasande Mpehle: Pilasande is a young ambitious man from Tsolo in the Eastern Cape. I’m currently a first year student in Film and Media at Revolution Media Academy. I’m a loving person man and very caring. I can be quite shy at times when I’m meeting you for the first time but I loosen up eventually. I love life, food and anything that is good (laughs).

NS: How was life growing up in Tsolo?

PM: Life was great man! But growing up gay in an environment like that was quite challenging. People would call me with names that didn’t sit well with me. I really don’t know how I survived that. But I knew that if I didn’t accept myself they would continue insulting me. So I decided to just come out to everyone around me and I accepted myself the way I was born. So the insults slowly faded away because people could see that I wasn’t fazed any longer.

NS: So, what kind of a learner would you say you were at school?

PM: I was an average learner, man. But I only realise it now that I wasted a lot of time in my matric year 2019. Yes, I have to say there was a lot happening in my life. My parents were divorcing and that got to my mother; she was in and out of hospital. That affected my granny as well. Her health was deteriorating that she was also in and out of hospital. It was just a very bad year for me I couldn’t focus at school. I feel like I could’ve qualified to do Dramatic Arts and Theatre Performance at Wits or BA in Drama at the University of Pretoria.

NS: So when did you discover your love for media?

PM: I discovered my love for media and television early 2016. Growing up, I always wanted to be a nurse but everything changed that year. I couldn’t clearly decide what career to head into. One Wednesday afternoon I got home from school and sat in front of the TV. YOTV was on. The presenters that day, Thato Dithebe and Candice Modiselle, looked so happy but yet they were working. I knew that day that I wanted a job where I could be that happy and I realised that it was T.V. that could give me that satisfaction.

NS: What challenges are there in your industry?

PM: Only breaking into the industry seems to be the biggest challenge. Once you’re in there then things fall into place. We live in the digital age now where we have smartphones, so we are able to expose our work and talent on social media. It’s not the same as before where there were few platforms available to showcase what you have. I’m just grateful to have been accepted to study because film schools in South Africa cost a lot of money

NS: Do you feel like you’re doing exactly what you were called for now?

PM: So my first love is presenting so I couldn’t get into AFDA because I wanted to Study BA in Live Performance which is stage performance/theatre. But my family couldn’t afford to take me to AFDA because of the fees and I couldn’t get a bursary. So I had no choice but to study the production side of the industry, which is challenging because I am not a writer and not as creative behind the scenes. But I want to finish what I’ve started as it will help me understand all sides of this industry. In five years from now I see myself as a host in one of the broadcasting radio stations.

NS: You recently lost someone whom you describe as the pillar of your life.

PM: Yes, my grandmother. I used to call her MaXaba wam (clan name). She basically taught me everything I now know. She made it a point that I got everything that I needed in life. I used to chat to her about almost everything. Every 15th day of the month she would always spoil me rotten as she worked as a nurse. She used to buy me dolls, I think she knew ‘it’ before everyone else (giggles).

NS: Any last words before we let you go back to class?

PM: Tyler Perry once said, “Never stop dreaming because there are people’s dreams that are tied into your dream.” Those words keep me going every day. I hope they encourage you too. Also, love what you do and keep the passion burning. Because through all that you are going to face passion is going to sustain you.


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Tell us: What can you learn from Pilasande’s story?