“I’ve changed a lot.” A quote that embodies the new era that Thandiwe Newton has been in for a while. Thandiwe Newton encapsulates the concept of handling challenges and adversity both personally and professionally with grace and determination.
If you are wondering where the name Thandiwe comes from – since for years she has been known as ‘Thandie,’ the W slowly made its way out of sight, first verbally when nuns who taught her Catholic school she went to refused to pronounce her name properly. In the industry, she became known as Thandie after one of her credits left out the W, as a mistake, apparently. Reclaiming her name is just one example of the more outspoken and aligned life she has led.
She has been in the industry for 22 years, and her career is still booming. This is not surprising considering the range she has displayed over the years, starring in movies like All the Old Knives, a CIA spy movie, Mission Impossible 2, Flirt and Solo: A Star Wars Story. And has even dabbled in series, the most recent one being Westworld, which is coming back for season 4.
Her spike in popularity over the past few years came after a struggle filled journey with colorism, sexual assault, mistreatment, and losing roles in the industry purely for speaking out on all these issues.
Today, she can pick the roles that truly resonate with her. If a character she is being asked to play does not reflect things she would say and do, she simply does not take it. A shift from her approach in the past where she completely wanted to escape anything that related to herself and her personality.
Another reason she has always refused to play roles that stereotype her as a black woman or as roles that over sexualize her.
Her passion for speaking out on the abuse that women have manifested itself in the work he does outside of acting. Thandiwe is one founder for One Billion Rising, an organization focused on ending violence against women’s campaigns. She also is an advocate for the African American Policy Forum and the #sayhername campaign founded by Kimberlé Crenshaw, the famous scholar and activist herself who came up with intersectional feminism.
Being an activist has become more important to Thandiwe than acting. One gift she says came with speaking out more on issues that matter to her, and she finally found a community that made her feel seen.
Her next battle is the British industry, which is notorious for creating period dramas that make it impossible for black actors to get roles. But Thandiwe has become a role model for women who look like her, seeing that their acting dreams are indeed possible, even if it is outside the UK.
Another role that is equally important is being a mother. Her daughter Nico, who is the youngest, has been acting for four years. Thandiwe is determined to be the voice and protector she wishes she had when she entered the industry – for her daughter.
During a shoot, she will speak up when there is inappropriate behavior or comments made regarding her daughter. Even getting an agent took a while, because Thandiwe wanted to be thorough with the entire process. Every agent had to go through the same level of scrutiny, regardless of if she knew them or not.
Embracing her true self has meant uplifting her heritage, as she insisted that she have looks created from materials that reflect her Zimbabwean and British. This stems from her mom being from the Shona tribe in Zimbabwe, and her father is British. The designers chosen were Duro Olowu, Kenneth Izé, and Cheyenne Kimora.
Thandiwe is truly taking back everything that is hers, like she said – in every way possible.