2007 June Woman: Thami Ngubeni

by | Jun 1, 2007

“Thami is spiritual and spirited, and known for her integrity and inner strength. I am sure she will contribute greatly to the magazine and we are confident that it will go from strength to strength under her leadership.

These were the words of Jane Raphaely, chairman of Associated Magazines, as she announced that truly gifted and multi-talented Thami Ngubeni would takeover as editor of O from Kgomotso Matsunyane, at the beginning of May.

And as far as we at gsport are concerned, O Magazine couldn’t have chosen a more suitable woman to the take the magazine forward.
Thami embodies what is truly means to be a strong, centered South African woman, who has gained immense success, and who continues to learn and enjoy her life’s journey.
We’re in awe of her drive, her passion, and her focus, which has already brought her so much joy in her young life.
Thami enjoys her sport: she is a keen tennis and squash player, and she is also a big fan of the famous American Williams sisters, Venus and Serena.
And when life get a bit hectic, Thami turns to Bikram Yoga, which she says does wonder for overall breathing, toning, balance and flexibility.
This dynamic woman is also the founder and MD of Thamzin Media; a company specializing in the creation and production of content for the TV, film, print and radio media.
After seven years spent working for international media giant Fremantle Media as a writer and producer, Thami went on to produce the highly acclaimed ‘The Apprentice: SA‘ with Tokyo Sexwale for the SABC.
In 2006 she wrote and co-published her first book My Sacred Spaces, with Penguin Books.
She has a weekly spirituality show on Metro FM, and previously wrote a monthly column for True Love magazine.
Thami, who is currently living her life between Jozi and Cape Town, can be seen in the popular medical drama series Jozi H on SABC 3.
Introducing gsport’s June Woman, one of South Africa’s most inspiring women, Thami Ngubeni!

Another chapter in the life of Thami Ngubeni, how are you feeling about your first issue in charge of O Magazine?
My first issue will be the July issue, which hits the stands at the end of June. I love the magazine and what it aims to do for the lives and attitudes of South African women.
My responsibility and joy is unearthing those stories and experiences, that will enhance our lives, and enliven us with le joie de vivre.
It’s a constant work-in-progress, and as the saying goes, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,’ and I’m comfortable that mine has been a step in the right direction.
How did this editorship come about?
I received a request for a meeting with Jane Raphaely late December last year. Between then and end February, which is when we agreed to walk this path together, I met and had discussions with Julia Raphaely (MD of Assoc Magazines) and Vanessa Raphaely (Editorial Director of Associated Magazines) regarding the post, its responsibilities and requirements, etc.
I was very humbled by the opportunity of being the prospective Editor for O, as I have long admired Oprah, and her approach to ‘Living Your Best Life’.
I shared my vision for the magazine with them and fortunately for us, we were speaking the same language.
Have you spoken to Oprah yet?
I met Oprah and Gayle early in March, and she is all that I had hoped she would be. She walked into our meeting room at her school carrying my book, My Sacred Spaces, and I thought that was such a personal touch.
She had a bookmarker in there, and we chatted about my work and my life… She’s so at ease… Intense, but at ease. I really liked her.
When we left the room she said in her American accent, ‘You’re gonna do great for the magazine.’ That was her vote of confidence, and it mattered.
What are you hoping to bring to the party as Editor of O Magazine?
As Editor, I am the custodian of the Oprah Philosophy in South Africa, and that philosophy or life/world view is reflected in the magazine.

For me it’s about creating an environment that will inspire us to live more fully; with greater purpose and abundant joy.
I want to bring to the magazine all the things that we as women desire from life; a satisfying career that MORE than just pays the bills, relationships that WORK, dreams that can be realized, a body we are comfortable with, a SELF we are in tune with, and an outer appearance that is flattering and reflective of our mood and sense of style.
I bring myself and the experience I have had in leading teams towards the creation of engaging and meaningful content, for various media.
What are your current projects, and how do you juggle them all?
I’m finishing off the production of ‘Maropeng- Spirit of the Lion King’ for SABC 2 and Disney, which is a six part reality-docie series on the making of the Lion King Stage production, being produced by Thamzin Media and Lebo M Productions.

The Lion King Opening night is on the 6th of June, and we’re also producing a live ‘Red Carpet’ event for SABC.
I have a weekly life/spirituality music and talk show on Metro FM on Sunday mornings 6-9am.
I also do a lot of workshops for adults and young people on personal development, and I have various other business interests.  
I believe in surrounding myself with strong, efficient individuals who share a common vision.
In that way I have great support in the various areas of my life. Umuntu ngumuntu ngabanye abantu.
What did you study after school?

Immediately after school I studied Beauty Therapy, and worked for a while as a trainee Therapist, and also at the cosmetic counters at Edgars, until just after my studies.

I started my degree as a Communications major, but went on to study Film and TV in the US.
How have you enjoyed your role on the medical drama series, Jozi H?
Jozi H was a real treat for me. As an actor, you look forward to working with well-developed scripts that have intricate plot lines, and well-mapped character arcs.
And that’s exactly what Jozi H had to offer, along with the opportunity of working with the cream of SA acting talent, well-respected international writers, directors, producers and HOD’s.
What prompted you to write My Sacred Spaces?
Before I took on the Editorship of O, The Oprah Magazine, I used to write a column on True Love Magazine which was a practical look at life and spirituality based on my life experiences, observations and philosophies.
My radio show on Metro FM also deals with spirituality in a very applicable way. One of our listeners actually planted the seed to write ‘My Sacred Spaces’.
She’s an Air Hostess who had been listening to my show on the Sunday, and as I was flying out on Monday morning, said: ‘I was listening to your show yesterday. Why don’t you write a book?’ I told her I would… and I did!
And to produce the popular Apprentice South Africa, that must have been quite something?
It sure was! TV production is demanding but rewarding. The show brought me into contact with the incredible entrepreneurial minds of  young South Africans.

Not everyone could make it onto the show, but most of the individuals we saw had started their own small businesses in one form or the other, or at least had ambitions to do so.
We put together a high quality production that the nation could relate to; that entertained and informed them at the same time.
Working with Tokyo Sexwale was also a rare privilege. He is a man of great leadership and charisma. I learned a lot from observing him and continue to do so.
What do you think has been the key to your amazing successes to date?
In all honesty, to me success is doing what I love, and being able to live a life that fulfills me.
I believe it’s important to not limit yourself, and to be aware of when fear sets in, so that you can navigate your way around it.
As Marianne Williamson wrote, and Former president Nelson Mandela reiterated, ‘It is our light and not our darkness that most frightens us.’ I am blessed, I realize that.
But I also work hard, and want to do everything I do well.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?

To thine own self be true.’ When we’re true to ourselves, our lives are so much more joyful.
Not necessarily easier, or without the usual hiccups, but at least you’re more centered and clearer about who you are, and why you do – or not do – what you do.
How do you keep fit?
At this point in my life, I exercise mostly in my head. But at my best, I run with my girlfriends or on the treadmill.
I love yoga, specifically Bikram Yoga: It does wonders for your overall breathing, toning, balance and flexibility.
I also play tennis and squash, and am a dancer at heart, but I do that in front of a mirror, usually in my private space.
What is your favourite spectator sport?
The first time I watched motor car racing was when Tokyo Sexwale staged the Grand Prix In Durban last year.
I was captivated by the noise, adrenaline, speed and general buzz. It doesn’t feel the same when you’re watching it on telly, though.
The same goes for live soccer and tennis: Crowd dynamics add to my enjoyment and pleasure of sport.
Who is your favourite sports star?
The Williams sisters, for their talent and flair. Thierry Henri for his va-va-voom, Lucas Radebe for his excellence in sport and ambassadorial contributions, and Tiger Woods for his focus.
gsport strives to celebrate femininity. How would you define femininity?
Embracing the different aspects that make you, you. We as women, are multi-faceted, we can be gentle, graceful, wise yet determined, adventurous and fiery.
When a woman is in touch and comfortable with who she is, she is at her most feminine and powerful.
What’s the most amazing thing about being a woman in these times?
It’s an exciting time to be a woman in South Africa today. We are encouraged and propelled for positions of leadership in our professional lives, and yet still have to deal with the traditional male views and attitudes regarding women in the work place.
We have a constitution that supports us, and now we have to support ourselves by positioning ourselves for success and achievement, by working from the inside-out.
Our male-female relationships also require a lot from us, as most of us are not ‘conventional’ wives: We have careers and ambitions that extend beyond the home, yet our relationships and families remain important to us.
The challenge is being all that you can be, without alienating or neglecting those closest to you.
What inspires you?
Life and being alive. Having dreams and knowing that all things are possible.
Achievement, relationships that work and the many little ‘Thank You’s’ I get inspire me.
How do you deal with challenges life throws at you?
I am not always strong, but when I am weak I don’t try to fight it. I acknowledge it and pray, sing, read, meditate, talk myself back to wellness.

There’s a Yolanda Adams song I play often on my show called ‘Still I Rise’, She sings ‘At times I feel lost, yet still I rise above all my problems… God is Able to strengthen me.’
I can relate to that. My primary relationship is with my God.
What is your advice to women and young girls struggling to find their true passion in life?
I know that we all know what our true passions really are; the things we enjoy doing from the core of our being, that ignite our spirits and make us feel alive and validated when we do them.
Those are the things that will lead us to our true vocation, our true calling. If something doesn’t exist, create it.
Make your life’s work tailor-fit you, your personality, desired life style, interests, and the contribution you want to make to your family/community/country/world.
gsport’s theme for June is Indulgence: What is your favourite indulgence?
I love feeling spoiled and pampered, even if I’m the one doing it for myself.
So warm blankets and fireplaces, hot chocolate with cream, firm oil massages, a room filled with lit candles, incense and music to suit my mood are my indulgences ju jour…
They are my first aid kit for the cold winter months. Not forgetting umqhusho (samp) and oxtail!!!
Who are your role models?
My mom, for her life-embracing attitude, strength and stick-to-it-iveness. I have various mentors in business who inspire and advise me.
And Oprah Winfrey, for her approach to life and incredible achievements as a woman in entertainment.
What’s your greatest ambition?

To be joyous, at peace and live a life that means something to somebody.

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