Botlhale Boikanyo, 21, made history when she won SA’s Got Talent for her electrifying poetry at the tender age of 11.
Over a decade later, the young woman has now grown into her own and knows exactly what she wants to achieve in her life.
Looking back, she says the win provided a way for her family to escape a cycle of poverty and opened her world to possibilities she never imagined.
“When I got that big break, I was hungry enough for it, and had to make everything else work. I missed school for days, but I made sure that all my assignments were done,” she says.
Her achievements include being awarded the SATMA Best Praise Singer Award, performing at the televised live ceremony in 2013, and performing a tribute to Madiba at The Legacy of Hope Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Hospital Campaign Launch in New York, among others.
Despite having a huge platform from a young age, she decided to pursue an education. Boikanyo recently graduated with a BA in Motion Picture Medium from AFDA.
“I was excited to study because I have loved directing since high school. I was always inquisitive about how stories came to life. As much as I have been afforded the opportunity to be in front of the camera, I have always wondered what kind of work goes on behind the scenes.”
Boikanyo wears many hats; she is now an actor, tv presenter, and overall lover of the arts. She says she always wanted to be multi-faceted, and not be boxed in.
“Poetry was my first love. I first stepped on stage when I was six for poetry. I also wanted to pursue other things in the arts.
“I am a creative at heart, so, whether it be through dance, painting or any other medium, I have always wanted to spread my wings. The arts is where my purpose lies, and where God has placed me.”
A perfectionist, Boikanyo says she sometimes struggles to truly appreciate moments. “I am always working on perfecting whatever medium I am currently taking on. But it can also be negative because it does not allow me to fully be in the moment - I always look back and think of all the ways I could have been better.”
Boikanyo escaped the pitfalls of fame that hinder many child stars by having a strong support structure through family and close friends. She also says religion has been a positive grounding force in her life.
“I think it all boils down to one’s character. I was raised to know the principles of humility and God. Those things helped me to not get caught in the dark-sided, fast pace of the industry,” she says.
Her biggest inspirations are Lebo Mashile, Maya Angelou, Oprah, and Jennifer Hudson. She reveres black women, because, she says, they’re powerful, and have to work so much harder to earn their stripes.
The sky is the limit for Boikanyo, who dreams of performing in the Superbowl, starring in a star-studded Hollywood movie, and directing her own TV shows, and films.
Her advice to other young people to is dream big, even to the point where it may seem to be too big to pursue or achieve.