The Docket’s Zakeeya Patel gets candid, talking to Balanced Life’s Jade Taylor Cooke.
It’s drizzling in Cape Town the day I meet Zakeeya Patel in the lobby of The Cullinan, but this 1.57 m tall firecracker has a playful energy that makes everything around us seem less grey. An accomplished actor, she has a diverse repertoire of characters on her CV, from her breakout roles in The Wild and Material, to 2018’s The Docket. Her latest feature film 3 Days To Go is due for release in 2019. In the meantime, you can also catch her presenting SABC3’s lifestyle show Mela, which is a love letter to the South African Indian community.
In light of the countrywide celebrations due to take place on 24 September, I ask Zakeeya how working on Mela
has impacted her own sense of heritage.
‘I don’t tell this story often,’ she says, ‘but my sister and I were six and eight in 1994, and it was a tricky time to navigate as young girls of colour. We’re mixed race; my mom’s coloured and my dad’s Indian. But at school we were never Indian enough to fit in with the Indians, and we were never coloured enough for the coloured people. A bunch of white friends adopted us, but then we were called “coconuts”. Our parents have always been very multicultural, which is a good thing, but I think it left us with a big question mark. Presenting a show like Mela, I’ve learnt so much about my culture – and about myself. It’s been a journey of discovery, figuring out who I am in this space and why I love what I love.
‘My friends always say, “Zak, it looks like a rainbow threw up in your closet.” I just try not to take myself too seriously. I love dressing up as different characters – do I want to be a demure, innocent flower in a beautiful dress and flat pumps today, or do I want to be a vixen in studded high heels?’
’I’m usually terrible at this, but I’m really trying to be more gentle with myself this year. So if I have a day off, instead of freaking out – because the voice in my head is telling me I’m not doing enough, not good enough, not moving fast enough – I’ll force myself to relax. It’s hard, but it’s been so rewarding and I feel so much happier, learning to take a breath and just be gentle. I’m also finding a balance between being busy and being productive, because they’re definitely not the same thing. And then what I’m really good at is balancing work with having a big jol. I like to play, and I want to play hard and with everyone I love. It’s a release.’
Read the full interview with Zakeeya in your September issue of Balanced Life.