Suzzi Swanepoel – SA’s Golden Girl!

There’s nothing I love more than being able to interview someone young, vibey and up and coming and I got just that when I got the chance to interview SA’s up and coming golden girl Suzzi Swanepoel who has just come out of Season 1 of Sterlopers (Kyknet) in which she played one of the leads, Isabel Richter. 

She has also just released her single Ek Probeer which you can download free on SoundCloud! 

You got into Idols a few seasons back – was that your first big exposure, getting publicity or getting known out there?
Yes, because when you do theatre people don’t necessarily recognize you. It’s mainly TV actors and celebrities who are in the media so ja,  Idols was definitely my first taste of life in the spot-light 

It was quite hectic. I was young, only 24, when I did Idols. I didn’t really know who I was and how I wanted to represent myself. Now that I’m 29, I have a much clearer idea of who I am and what I want to do with my life

Working with guys like Randall Abrahams … Randall must be quite a tough one.
He was, but he thoroughly enjoyed my singing, I just don’t think he quite enjoyed the person I was. But that’s also okay, I am one of those people, either you like me or you don’t. You can’t be everybody’s cup of tea. 
2009 Idols was a bit controversial if I remember correctly.
Yes, because Sasha Lee won and then it was like “Oh no Jason won”, and then it turned out that they had both won. But I am glad I did Idols. I only wish I could have made it into the top 10 or the live performances. Even if I had fallen out at that stage, it would have been fine with me. 

How did that situation affect you? Was it a learning curve being involved indirectly in that kind of controversy?
Absolutely. You can never stop learning – from mistakes or from doing well. Especially in this industry it’s a hard knock life. You’ve got to take some things personally and allow them to shape your decisions; while other things have to be like water off a duck’s back. Because you’re constantly putting yourself out there, you can’t take everything personally. People are going to agree or disagree with you. You’ve got to stick to your guns and just roll with it. When I left Idols I said something in the interview afterwards I still live by: “I’d rather be who I am and be hated than be somebody who I’m not and be loved”. I think that  this statement still rings true for me in my everyday life. 
Your heart must get bigger, not your head. The minute you start losing track of what you love and start thinking that you’re too cool for school is when you lose touch with yourself. I am a very diverse person (Suzzi sings, dances and acts). I have to make sure that I know all the facets of myself, and how to channel them into my characters. . I was on Jukebox on Saturday and it was hard for me to speak suiwer Afrikaans!  ! I now realize for the first time how I mix my languages, so I’m really focused on just speaking English or just speaking Afrikaans. I know that the Afrikaans public doesn’t like it when we mix the two languages, but when I’m in an English crowd I like to throw a bit of Afrikaans into the mix to inspire my English friends to get to know my language a little better. 

My best friend Lisa is an English speaking girl and when I met her two years ago she couldn’t speak a word of Afrikaans and now the other day I said goodbye and she was like “lekker” and I was like my work here is done.  I like inspiring people, whether it be with language or with a smile or whatever.

You went to work on the ships –
Yes, I worked on  Costa Deliziosa ship as the production singer for 8 months. It was such an amazing experience, I saw so many countries, met people with many interesting ideas, learnt from their cultures. Those showgirls taught me how to do makeup, I am indebted to them! I loved it. I’m still in contact with some of those people. If I ever want to go to Brazil or Italy, I have people to contact there.  It was an amazing experience but I was happy to come back and eat my mom’s food again!
You’ve been in a lot of shows. 
I have been in the industry for 8 years after studying jazz singing for a year and then musical theatre for 3 yrs. Since then I’ve done mostly theatre. I love workng in theatre and have learnt so much from it. I love the people and the mentors I have had and am feel so blessed and grateful for all of them. My last theatre show (Cabaret) was in 2012. Since then I switched mediums to film and TV. 
You’ve got a film coming out next year.
Yes, I just finished a short film for for Kyknet Silwerskerm Fees: ‘n Liefdeslobotomie then I’ve got a film coming out next year called Mooirivier. I’ve got a small little role as Bianca and she’s not the good girl like Isabel in Sterlopers.I tried to channel April from Parks and Recreation. The entire show and April in particular is very dry, sarcastic and still. I really tried to channel her for Bianca in this film. So ja ,I’m keen to see how people react to that side of me. This antagonist character is almost a complete contradiction to Isabel from Sterlopers where I’m the innocent girl. In Mooirivier I’m quite the antagonist – making people’s lives difficult. Such fun! 

I love acting as I get to explore different sides of myself through the characters I play. In the process I actually get to know myself better.  Acting is another person’s reality, but that character ends up living inside you. Like the character, Lalie, I played in the short film, n liefdelobotmie for the Kyk-net silwer skerm fees, she was super feminine and artistic – quite the hippy type!  Discovering that feminine energy within myself was such a challenge but I loved it because I learned about another facet of myself. For me, acting is not escapism. Rather, it allows me to find these things inside myself in order to become the character. Through that character, I then learn something about myself. 

Sterlopers must have been the most amazing experience.

I cannot tell you how much I learnt from the actors, the director, the crew. I cried on the first day I was on set. The moment was just too big for me and I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m a stage actor, I felt I can’t be too dramatic or big on camera.  I’d done a couple of adverts but it was the first time I was on set for 3 – 4 weeks straight and that’s also amazing, because you get to know the ins and outs of the set and how it works, you learn so much just by sitting there and watching everything happening. That’s the best way. I did go for an acting course after I shot Sterlopers just because I think, you can never stop learning about your art form.

I hope that Sterlopers has another season. Have they said anything yet?

They have a meeting this week, so I’m hoping. Sterlopers was a risk for Kyknet because the grading on Sterlopers was different, the way they shot it was different, all the actors are up and coming young actors. It wasn’t the usual crowd. So it was a definite risk for them, but I think – it’s been very popular. The market is ready for something else. Just like the music industry. The market is ready for people that do something left of centre. 
I find the Afrikaans market is always ready for something new.   I think so anyway, am I right?
I think you are right. We’re starting to make romantic comedies, horrors etc. We’re searching for other avenues, to become more international and grow with the times.  Pad Na My Hart just went to Australia, they showed the film in the theatre for a week. Jacaranda just gone to London with SA top singers, So they’re definitely including all the exapats to feel closer to home. 
Ek Probeer, what an awesome thing!
I thought what a brilliant opportunity now that people have seen me singing in Sterlopers. I got together with more experienced song writers and you know, one has to strike the iron while it is still hot. The single is doing really well I got 1,000 hits on Youtubeon two days, which was like overwhelming for me. I couldn’t believe it. To realise the support that I have. I was blown away.

Life is hard, work is hard, relationships are hard, friendships are hard, but when you fall, dust yourself off, learn something and move on with your life. You’ve got to try. “Probeer”. You have to keep on trying. I think that’s what my main message was with Ek Probeer. I’m writing a lot of romantic songs about love and heartbreak but I think as life changes my songs messages will also change. They say you should write about things you know and what I knew in this last year was heartbreak and mending it, but now I’m in a completely different space. I’m in such a beautiful space in my mind, my soul and my career. Now that my life has changed, my attitude has changed, I can now start writing about those kinds of things again. 

Any other singles on the way?

The second single is coming out late September. It’s a little bit more alternative, but I think it will do well. My mom is like you shouldn’t release it it’s not the same sound.  My mom and my dad are a big part of my career, and I respect and listen to their opinions all the time.  I just think because I’m focussing so hard on the fact that I’m not one thing. Being Afrikaans doesn’t define me. I’ve got lots of facets of myself and I want to express all of them.  With the second single I’m pulling younger people, so I think I’m trying to draw all kinds of crowds and ages, and different markets. The third single I want to release in December is a ballad. I don’t want people to pay for my song. That’s why I released it on  Sound Cloud and Reverbnation. It’s freeIt’s free. If you give you receive. And you want to get the song out there, you want people to download it so they have it on their phones and in their cars. If you give you receive. And you want to get the song out there, you want people to download it so they have it on their phones and in their cars

 I wanted to ask about the switching from jazz singing. Do you still do jazz singing?
I do for corporates and functions I very much still enjoy it, even when I switched from jazz to musical theatre, I still listened to a lot of jazz, it completely changed my ear and the way I perceived music – jazz is a part of musical theatre, Eg. Summertime a famous jazz song from a George Gershwin musical, Porgy and Bess. .   There’s an Ella Fitzgerald song How High the Moon with a 2 minute scat and when I was at tech I learned it off by heart, and it was super hard, because you have to do it just like her. It was difficult but I did it because I wanted to understand what she was doing theoretically and emotionally.  I made the switch because, I loved jazz, but my brain wasn’t busy enough for the jazz. With the musical theatre course, I could sing act and dance, do ballet, modern and tap. It broadened my horizons into the industry, the more things you can do the better. That’s why I switched. 

Thank you to Collett of the CoLab Network for setting up the interview and to my friend Alison for taking the awesome pics!

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Writer, transcriber, proofreader, editor, lover of the arts.

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