Mbatha was a guest speaker at the recent Marie Claire Power Summit. Pictures: Supplied

“You cannot be standing still and trying to prove yourself because when you’re doing that, you’re stealing time away from actually building and changing the world that you live in.” This is Nomzamo Mbatha’s message to those that have tried to discredit her hard work.

The KwaMashu-born actress was a hot topic in recent weeks after making the cover of the August issue of Cosmopolitan. Called the Activism Issue, it sparked a debate about her activism credentials, thus making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Instead of celebrating her role as a fierce fighter for gender equality and youth empowerment, poet Ntsiki Mazwai slammed the magazine and Mbatha.

The 28-year-old seems to be taking the clapbacks in her stride by concentrating on the work at hand. “There are so many titles that are given to human beings. The only title I ever want to own is being a decent human being and that I stained the earth with things that I was passionate about.”

But this story isn’t about feeding the tabloid beast, it’s about one woman’s drive to succeed in not only her career, but by using her voice for those who do not have one.

A guest speaker at the recent Marie Claire Power Summit, she says she was excited to be part of the panel. “Finally we get a space where as women we get to feed off of each other, we learn and we share,” she adds.

Mbatha’s personality is loud and fierce, and she’s not afraid use her celebrity status as a tool for reaching out to the masses. The Cosmo cover reaffirms that she is the face of the new female - confident, unapologetic and assertive.

She's used these traits to her advantage. One just needs to look at her impressive CV of activism work, including raising awareness as an ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The experience has been somewhat surreal for her and made her even more determined to highlight the refugee crisis on the continent.

When she goes on to speak about youth empowerment, there’s a slight timbre in her tone.

Mbatha used her graduation to raise awareness about depression, anxiety and mental illness, wearing a dress bearing SADAG’s toll-free number.

“Youth empowerment is a great social ill in this country. I believe that there are so many young people who are so passionate about different things, and there are all these avenues that are supposedly there but there’s no bridge to get the information to them.”

Mbatha finds it interesting that in the age of feminism and the fight against patriarchy more conversations are not taking place about the boy child. “We can’t just work on empowering women alone, we have to help the boy child,” she says.

“I do believe that there’s a huge gap. He doesn’t know how to navigate his way through right now.”

Even mental illness has been on her radar because she has been personally affected by it “and every day fighting through it”.

After obtaining her BCom degree in April, her graduation ceremony dress was a trending topic on social media. The dress was a unique design that had special meaning for her. She later explained on Twitter that the faces on the dress were of all the people in her life that had passed on, including her late sister and father.

She even brings up UCT Professor Bongani Mayosi, who suffered from depression and took his own life at age 51: “It’s now opening up the conversation that you can have so much money, the biggest fame and the greatest accolades but still fight the darkness that is mental illness.”

It’s clear that she’s not afraid to speak about issues that others are afraid to tackle - nothing is off limits for her. But there are also layers to her personality. Yes she’s an actress and now a director, but who is the real Nomzamo Mbatha?

She laughs and says “She’s just a girl from KwaMashu with dreams too big for her own boots but is willing to go after them anyway.”