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GLAMOUR Women’s Month Series: Wendy Gumede

The GLAMOUR Women’s Month Series is an ode to women who are following the beat of their drum and doing it successfully. “I am actually a pretty simple, down-to-earth person. I am an artist through and through, I love making people laugh and I am so blessed to be able to have a career that allows me to do that every day,” Wendy describes herself to me.

Wendy started making YouTube comedy skits in 2016 while studying Film and TV Production at the University of Cape Town. “I really wanted to sharpen my skills so I wrote Zulu satire and filmed it using my phone. My aim was to be great at conceptualizing, writing and performing comedy. After graduation, I struggled to break into the industry so I kept making videos hoping that they would grow my visibility and catch someone’s attention.” In 2019, her work saw her seated across executive producers in an interview at Bomb Productions. “In October of that same year, they made me an offer to join their writing team for ISIBAYA and I packed my bags and moved to Joburg where my career as a TV Writer and as an Actress began. 10 months later, I can confidently say that it’s the best decision that I made for my career.” In a candid GLAMOUR Women’s Month series interview, the screenwriter and actress opens up about her late mother, inspiring young girls, black lives matter, self-care, and gender equality.

Which woman has positively impacted you in your career/business? And what is the one lesson she taught you?

My late mother, Lydia Gumede. My mom was the warmest, kindest, most wholesome person to ever walk this Earth. And yet, she was successful in her endeavors and made a real impact in the lives of others. She had influence. She taught me that you’re only as awesome as you treat others. You never have to compromise your humanity for a bag or for an opportunity. That’s something that I’ll never forget.

What are the three words that spring to mind when you hear Women's Day/Month?

August isn’t enough.

To you, what is the most beautiful thing about being a woman?

The most beautiful thing about being a woman in South Africa is the audacity that we as women have, to still show up for ourselves and others in a country that seeks to stifle us.

In your industry or in general, have you seen any more movement to gender equality in the workplace?

I feel that the movement of gender equality is more so in campaigns and in conversations rather than in actual implementation. This country still has a long way to go when it comes to establishing women in places of profession and spaces of influence. There probably has been progress but there’s definitely still more work to be done. And hopefully women won’t be the ones who have to set themselves free from the chains that they didn’t get themselves into.

As a woman who looks to inspire young girls that look like you what are some of the measures you think should be put in place to assure young girls have an equal say in society?

It all starts at home. Young girls are boxed and socialized into a set of identities before they can form their own. Raising girls to believe that they belong in any room they want to enter, that they can say anything they want to say and occupy any space or context they want to is where it begins. Representation also matters. In the corporate field and in the creative industry. The more girls see people who look like them breaking barriers, the more likely it is that they will believe that they can too.

Wendy Gumede (Photographed by Lonwabo Zimela)

With Black Lives Matter being at the forefront and black people calling out racism and transformation. What do you think we can teach the next generation about inclusion and representation?

It’s important that this generation and the next understands that when their names are called, when they achieve any feat, when they get hired and chosen to grab a seat at the table – none of that is a favour. They belong there. They belong anywhere. Transformation and intimidation cannot coexist. Speak up. Your voice matters. Your opinions matter. Your ideas matter. And once you’ve created or entered those spaces of influence, keep the door open for others who look like you to enter too.

Gender Based Violence (GBV) especially women and children abuse has been prevalent in the country for a very long time and there have been various initiatives that speak to this but the scourge of abuse still continues at a large scale, what would you advise as a solution going forward? And who should be involved?

A lot has to change before we see a decline in the number of GBV cases in our country. The biggest issue for me is that men continue to abuse and assault women with little to no consequence. The plight of women in this country is not treated with the urgency that it deserves. Our government continues to fail women when it comes to prosecuting violent men, so I struggle to see how they could ever implement measures of prevention. As women, we march and we campaign and we plead. But as long as rapists and people who’ve committed femicide still roam freely after they’ve committed these crimes – I’m not sure any number of protests or campaigns will ever truly change things.

What does women’s month mean to you and what would you like to be done to push or commemorate this month?

I personally find it very hard to celebrate Women’s Month. What is there to celebrate when we can hardly exist freely in our own country? Being a woman in South Africa means looking over your shoulder, going out and wondering if you’ll make it back, being afraid of your own lover, your own father… a month in our honor is not enough when we live in fear all year round.

As a modern African woman, who is a powerhouse in her own right, how do you manoeuvre the African expectations for what Africa believes a woman should be, particularly in countries that are rooted in patriarchy like ours?

Patriarchy is historical and unceasing. It’s a way of being and a state of mind that has existed generations before me. And I have come to realize that the only way women can rise above it is by living their own truth and doing what they want to do, becoming who they want to become and creating their own rules. Patriarchy thrives within the confines of limitations. So, to combat it, I live a life without any.

What are some of the great possibilities about being a woman in the world right now, that may not be easy to see but you feel women should take full advantage of without being ashamed or afraid?

Being yourself is all you have to be. You are enough. You’re the complete package. It’s been lovely to see brands and some renowned corporations moving away from preaching that perfection sells and moving towards preaching the truth: that who we already are is exactly what the world needs. That’s what I’d like to see women moving towards and taking advantage of.

The imposter syndrome is something a lot of women confess to suffer from or have suffered from. Have you ever had to deal with it? What would you say to another woman reading this about not letting the syndrome run one’s life in anyway?

I am a young, Zulu woman working for one of the biggest production companies in the country; trust me, imposter syndrome is definitely something that I struggle with every now and then. The way that I try to overcome it is by remembering the value that I bring. If I can recognize that the context, I’ve found myself in is ‘supreme’, I can definitely acknowledge that the value I bring to the table matches it. Imposter syndrome comes from a place of comparison and fear – don’t feed that. Focus on the fact that you bring a unique contribution – nobody can do what you do the way that you do it. That’s the truth that matters. Everything else is just noise.

How has self-care contributed to the woman you are in all facets of your life? Why is self care important, particularly for women, as most women are raised to believe that they have to put everyone else first before themselves?

Self-care starts with the self. I realized that I had to take the time to learn myself in order to start taking care of myself. Women spend so much of their lives in living in relation to others. You have to be a decent daughter, a nurturing sister, a modest member of society etc. There comes a time where you need to peel back all those labels and truly meet the person who wears them. When you start to learn who you truly are, you begin to learn what you truly need.

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