Benu Mabhena

When actress Benu Mabhena smiles, she lights up the room with her rare beauty. That’s because the Blood Diamond (2006) actress loves life and appreciates where acting takes her.

While shooting the multiple award winning film, Benu and actress Jennifer Connelly would visit and volunteer on their days off at an orphanage in Mozambique — an experience that Benu believes was one of her most memorable.

The determined actress — whose last name (Mabhena) represents a totem for cheetah that translates in Zulu as “speed” — spent most of her life on the run, living in exile. Benu’s family roots are with the Ndebele Tribe and their heritage stems from the Zulu. Her parents and five brothers were born in Zimbabwe, while younger Benu and her sister hail from London. After spending four years in London, the family traveled back to Zimbabwe, where they stayed for two years. Then, they went to Botswana for a year; South Africa for several years; then back to Botswana; back again to South Africa, and on to Lesotho. Finally, the US government granted the family asylum, and they settled in San Francisco, where Benu spent her teenage years.

At an early age, Benu decided she’d like to be an actress. When she was eight, she told stories and did impressions — a practice that annoyed her sister, but always made her mother laugh. It was after she went to see a stage production of “Les Miserables” with her seventh grade class that Benu felt inspired.

While in high school, Benu wrote and recited poetry. Although intrigued by Robert Frost and other poets, she wanted more. Her teacher recommended that she try working with monologues, and Benu found reading monologues in front of an audience gave her a “big thrill.” A member of the school choir that toured schools and churches across the country, she later joined a drama group.

After graduating high school, Benu continued her studies at Diablo Valley College, where she performed community theatre, acted in student films and wrote and recorded songs in the studio. Yet it was acting that provided Benu with her greatest incentive.

After she graduated Diablo with an Associate Degree in Education, Benu knew exactly what she wanted to do and headed for Southern California.

Shortly after her arrival in Hollywood, Benu auditioned and landed the role of Jassie Vandy, Djimon Hounsou wife in Warners Bros. Pictures Blood Diamond (2006)’. Nominated for fourteen awards — including five Oscars — the film not only earned five wins, it garnered Box Office success and International acclaim.

She guest-starred in “Jazz Man” on the cutting edge Web series “Night Walkers” for KoldCast TV and starred in the American Film Institute’s Princess (2006). Benu can also be seen as Herself in Life on the Edge: A Global Crisis (2008). She resides in Los Angeles.

Related Posts