Feisty, fun-loving Zakeeya Patel is no stranger to movie goers and soapie junkies. Born and raised in Durban, this self-proclaimed ‘raging feminist’ shares some of her fondest Durban memories and talks about her role in the critically-acclaimed Showmax original dark drama series, The Girl from St Agnes.
Growing up in Sherwood, Durban, Zakeeya, a former Maris Stella learner, always wanted to be an actor – or a mermaid, but quickly realised being a mermaid was going to be tough.
“I loved impersonating people and doing accents and impressions and was inspired by people like Jim Carrey and Robin Williams.”
She was in South Korea teaching English when her break came. She had successfully auditioned for the movie Material and got the part to play Riaad Moosa’s sister. “I flew back home, shot the movie and went back to South Korea to finish my contract.”
It was just the push her career needed and soon after she landed a role in the wildly popular TV series The Wild. After 11 months on the show, the soapie was cancelled but there was no stopping Zakeeya who went on to do High Rollers and then won the hearts of South Africans with her dance moves in Strictly Come Dancing, winning the sixth season of the popular show. Mela, Die Pro, The Docket and Isidingo followed in quick succession. Currently, besides The Girl from St Agnes, she’s also busy with 3 Days to Go and The Docket.
“I’ve been so blessed that I’ve been afforded such a diverse and fulfilling career!”
In The Girl from St Agnes, Zakeeya plays the role of Sharon, a matron at St Agnes School for girls. “What I loved most about her is that she is so layered. She’s not just a matron, she’s jealous at times. insecure, lusty and crazy. She’s so different from me, so it’s been a huge challenge. I really got to flex those acting muscles!
Zakeeya tells an amusing story about her audition for the part. “I called one of my best friends, Glen, who lives downstairs from me and who is also an actor to help me rehearse. So one day I would be rehearsing with my husband upstairs and with Glen downstairs. My neighbours must have thought I was having an affair because one night I’d be screaming at my husband upstairs and the next night at Glen downstairs!”
She loves …
Her family are her solid rock of support and the most important thing in her world. “We are very close, my mom is naturally ‘the neck that turns the head’ in our home. She is a warm, creative genius and one of my great sources of wisdom. My dad is my super hero and a truly beautiful story teller. My sister is my best friend in the world. She is my protector and teacher, she’s the Patrick Swayze to my Baby!”
“My husband Rob believes in every outrageous dream I have and supports me in every way until I achieve it.”
“It’s not easy being married to someone in this industry. The hours and demands are unusual and challenging on a relationship. He is only ever patient and incredibly graceful. He’s also the cook in our home. I am so jealous of his innate ability to mix flavours and create Master Chef worthy dishes from whatever is lying around!
Durban hangouts …
No matter where she finds herself, Durban is her hometown and steeped in childhood memories. “Growing up in Durban, my favourite hangout was always the dance studio called Barre One in Morningside. I spent most week days and all weekends there. I loved roller-blading on the beachfront and going to the Saturday fleamarket on Essenwood Road. My entire room was full of decoupage everything, and as a teen I loved the Pavilion!
Five reasons to love Durban …
Zakeeya answers without hesitation … The food! “When I’m in Durban, I like to eat … seriously, the super caramel ice cream at Mozarts; the kiwi martinis at Bel Punt, anything made by The Chilli Chocolate Chefs and Vivah Trousseaux’s designer sweetmeats, are just a few!
Also making it onto her list of five reasons are Ike’s Bookstore, On Fire Comedy gigs all over Durban, frolicking and nymphing in the warm Indian Ocean and rickshaw rides on Durban’s beachfront.
She can’t leave home without …
“A colourful, and fun selection of clothes that express exactly who I am. My Matis City Protect SPF 50 – it not only protects the skin from harmful rays and aging, it also protects the skin from pollution; baby bum cream (Bepanthen) for my lips – it literally looks like you’ve had lip fillers when you use it. Don’t know how it works, but it plumps them up!”
Her go-to outfit …
“A bright, happy summer dress or my red racer shorty shorts! It must be colourful and have too many prints and patters or bold colours!”
Heels vs sneakers …
“You’ll find me in skyscraper heels or running takkies, because I like to move fast – in heels or sneakers! Most people don’t know I’m tiny – 1.56m, so I love, love, love heels. My favourite pairs are a completely impractical pair of gold winged Louboutins and a pair of lightweight tan wedges I bought on sale from Aldo years ago. I had seen them and thought better of buying such expensive yet plain shoes, then when I saw them on sale and enquired flippantly if they had a size 3 – because they never ever do – they did! It was fate! Six years later and they’ve walked and run me across continents and danced me through every music genre!”
On my nightstand …
“You’ll find fresh flowers … right now there is a turquoise jug full of the brightest, most joyful sunflowers next to my bed. You’ll always find a book, right now I’m simultaneously reading Women who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetypes by Clariss Pinkola Estes and Michelle Obama’s, Becoming.”
Girls’ night out …
“Anywhere I can dance! Bombshelter Beasts are a local band I love jamming to, or at home with all my girls plonked on my kitchen counter experimenting with some kind of decadent recipe. A few faves are lime meringue ice cream and naartjie cardamom cake!”
You can stream the eight-episode Season 1 of The Girl from St Agnes on Showmax.