Natalie Becker Interview

Credit: IIze Kitshoff

In 2009, NATALIE BECKER won a SAFTA, South Africa’s equivalent to the Oscars, for Best Supporting Actress in the feature film The World Unseen and she starred in four international movies in addition to presenting and producing a top-rated radio show called Cape Town after Dark on Good Hope FM. Natalie also presented a conscious living television show called Free Spirit which also won a SAFTA for Best Magazine Show. Natalie was clearly at the top of her game, so what did she do? She pulled back. As she said to me last year, “I’ve leaped out of my comfort zone and into the flow of infinite possibility and I’m mapping a new path and flowing with it.” I kept thinking how gutsy she was when she sold her gorgeous apartment and left her radio and television career in South Africa to focus on more global aspirations. We’re all products of our upbringing, so to know Natalie is to understand that her fearless and adventurous nature stems from her childhood.

Natalie grew up in a small holding on the outskirts of a township with parents in a “mixed-race marriage” which was considered illegal in Apartheid South Africa, so she developed an inner strength and fortitude that has allowed her to soar beyond heights she never imagined. As a child, Natalie learned to express herself creatively through painting, dancing and playing guitar and she excelled in school going on to earn a degree at university. But more than anything, Natalie learned to trust her intuition and go with the flow. If she was presented with an opportunity, she took it, and that courage has made all of the difference in the world.

Natalie is a major celebrity in South Africa, but to me she is just the really cool girlfriend who sends a note to share an inspirational quote that she loves or to let you know that she appreciates you. She is a seeker of truth. She is authentic. She is real. And after a year of significant life changes, Natalie is ready to talk about her past, present and future in a refreshingly honest and open way.

On the set of “Disgrace” with John Malkovich

So, Natalie, how are you?
Hi, Yolanda, it’s so good to be speaking with you. I am well thank you. Blessed and grateful.

I know this past year has been a transitional one for you, so do you have more clarity now about what you want to do the next 5, 10 years?
Yes, I do have more clarity and more fearlessness. I made some major changes a year ago, which included stepping out of a career in radio and television in South Africa and selling my apartment and making a commitment to take the steps to honour my dream of expanding my career and passions globally.

Those decisions challenged me to move out of my comfort zone and heed the calls that my heart and soul were calling me to do. We know that with change often comes challenge and with breaking new ground sometimes you have to take the step before the road appears and that can be a scary path. It doesn’t mean having all of the answers, it means that you trust the process, it means that you are more in touch with your truth, your instincts and more ready to honour your soul and the path it leads you in and it also gives you the faith to know that everything is for our highest good and greatest joy and that we are always guided and protected.

Yolanda, I make it a point to be present and live in the now, as it is all we really have, but regarding the next 5, 10 years, I know that life will continue to be a deep, enriching and fulfilling journey on all levels in whichever field I happen to be exploring at that time. We can plan, but not know what tomorrow may bring, therefore it is always best to heed the voice within, the call of our soul, and stay true to what it is that makes our heart dance and allows us to remain authentically and as fearlessly and passionately living and speaking our truth.

Did you always know that you wanted a career in entertainment?
I was an only and often lonely child for quite a while before my beloved brothers, Nicholas James and Luke Joseph were born because my mother and step father were in a so called “mixed-raced marriage” and it was seen as illegal in Apartheid South Africa, so we lived on the outskirts of a township in a small holding with not much around. It was quite an insular existence. I daydreamed alot and I learned to occupy my time with creative pursuits such as writing, sketching, painting and I developed a huge imagination. I also learned to play the guitar and took dance lessons. I was quite introverted but had a huge inner life. Perhaps wanting to be in entertainment and being a voice that was heard was bred in those seemingly voiceless moments growing up.

Credit: Haroen Masoet

What about your education?
My education was academic and I graduated from the University of Cape Town with a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree with emphasis in Economics and Industrial Psychology. While at university, I started presenting a radio show on UCT radio and I loved it. I spent two more years cut off from myself trying to fit into a mould of what I thought was expected of me before I hit a crisis and realized that I could go no further that way and I gave it all up. But I started reading books about the power of conscious choice and how we create our own reality, that we are not a product of our circumstances or victims of our past or our emotions, but that every moment is an opportunity to make a different choice and something inside my soul slipped into place and for the first time in my life, I felt home. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted at the time, but I knew the elements I wanted in my life. I wanted to be someone who has a powerful presence and voice in the world, someone who makes a meaningful contribution. I wanted creative freedom and perfect self-expression, and of course great financial success. A series of serendipitous events occurred shortly after that and doors opened and I walked through them. Those doors led to my first presenting job in radio, which led to television, and then film.

The entertainment industry can be tough, so was there a time when you wanted to give up?
I have learned that when you focus internally on your vision and passion and keep that strong and keep taking steps towards your dreams and maintain a strong mental attitude, you create your own realities and miracles despite what you experience on the outside. Yes, there have been times when I’ve been challenged but I learned that there was always a reason and lesson in that and to flow with it and learn what I can. I believe that in the times we are being tested and challenged we are being prepared for bigger things.

If we pay attention, we can co-create our ultimate destiny…
Yes, we really are the masters of our destiny and the co-creators of our magnificent universe and if we can dream it, we can do it.

Considering how focused and positive you’ve been about your career, when you won a SAFTA for Best Supporting Actress in The World Unseen it had to be pretty special?
My heart was beating like a drum, Yolanda! I was squeezing my mum, Marlene Theresa’s hand so hard and my ears were ringing so I almost couldn’t hear a thing. It was such an immense blessing to have my mum there with me that night as we have both walked such a path together and to share that moment of utter joy with her was priceless.

Were you speechless?
I was speechless for a moment, until I realized I had to go up on stage and make a speech! I actually managed to remember most of the people I had to thank and as I left the stage, award in hand, the most incredible feeling of love and gratitude filled me. A magical moment.

“Atlantis” cast: Reece Ritchie, Tony Mitchell (Director), Natalie, and Stephanie Leonidas

You have a new BBC movie Atlantis: End of a World, Birth of a Legend just released, right?
It aired on May 1st here in South Africa and is scheduled for international release over the next couple of months. It is based on new factual evidence unearthed by the BBC in the Santorini region of Greece where it is believed that Minoan civilizations existed many years ago. Atlantis tells the fascinating story of what Plato referred to as the Lost City of Atlantis in his morality tale. I’ve always been fascinated by this mysterious story and was thrilled to be apart of the brilliant cast. I worked with Reece Ritchie, who you may have seen in The Lovely Bones, Stephanie Leonidas and the great director, Tony Mitchell. My character Ariad is complex and I loved playing her. She is a powerful Atlantean Priestess bound by duty but also passionate and vulnerable. She’s a woman in love, torn by her passion and her duty. The entire movie was shot on a virtual back lot in the style of the Gerard Butler movie 300 but with new, never-used-before technology.

Do you have any plans to conquer Hollywood?
All the movies I’ve made so far in South Africa have been international movies or South African-American or British collaborations with global releases. And more audiences abroad have seen my movies than South Africans. So, yes it makes sense that the next step for me is to work abroad. I plan to visit New York City and Los Angeles this May and I have meetings scheduled with casting and film directors, producers, and agents. I want to be well represented abroad so that I can further my career globally, so yes, watch this space!

That’s so exciting, Natalie. Which actors would you love to work with?
There are so many brilliant actors in this industry that it is almost impossible to name all of them. As you know, I’ve had the privilege of working with John Malkovich in Disgrace and would love to work with him again. I’ve also worked with William H. Macy and Meg Ryan in The Deal. Other actors I would love to work with are Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Sean Penn, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Laurence Fishburne, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Ed Norton, Will Smith, Hugh Jackman, Leonardo Dicaprio, Hilary Swank, fellow South African Charlize Theron, Naomi Watts, and Meryl Streep, but my actual list is much longer!

And what about directors?
Again, there are so many that I have such respect for including Clint Eastwood, Peter Jackson, Darren Aronofsky, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Spike Lee, Gavin Hood, Ang Lee, Steven Spielberg, David Fincher, the Coen Brothers, Ridley Scott, Tim Burton, Wes Andersen, Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, Kathryn Bigelow, Mira Nair, Nora Ephron, and Nancy Meyers.

Natalie, you’re a huge celebrity in South Africa and people have perceptions of you because of that, but how would you define your personal style?
I would say that my style is feminine and sophisticated with a touch of sex appeal. But Yolanda, I’ve come to realize that style has everything to do with wearing garments that make me feel comfortable and confident with cuts and fabrics that flatter my shape. I’m definitely more of a dress girl, but I love a well-cut pair of jeans too. I like to travel light, so less is more and I prefer to keep things fresh and simple with good colors that work for my skin tone.

For evening, rather than the little black dress, I enjoy channeling bohemian chic with long flowy dresses with beautiful prints and bold jewelry such as chandelier earrings and wrist cuffs. But even my bohemian chic couture has to be well-made, so I love Pucci, Missoni, or similar classic prints.

Who are your style inspirations?
I like women who wear their clothes and not the other way around. And women who look like they haven’t tried too hard. So, women like Scarlett Johansson, Charlize Theron and Angelina Jolie who always manage to look understated, stylish and classy with just the right dose of sex appeal. Charlotte Gainsbourg in those Gerard Darel ads with that timeless, effortless, iconic French style is just gorgeous too. Your first lady Michelle Obama looks so good and dresses so stylishly yet understated–she’s definitely a style icon. I also love Kate Moss’s eclectic style and her knack for managing to put outfits together so well.

Who are your favorite designers?
There are a number of brilliantly talented South African designers that I love and they are KLUK/CGDT, Hip Hop, Elbeth Gillis and Gavin Rajah for their spectacular evening creations and then I absolutely love the designer Cari Stephens from Tart who makes the ultimate versatile little dress with great fit and fabric. David Tlale for his design vision and spirit. Internationally, I like Missoni, Gucci, Valentino, Giorgio Armani, Tom Ford, Dolce and Gabanna, Marc Jacobs, Stella Mc Cartney, Ralph Lauren, and Herve Leger for Max Azria.

Obviously you travel quite a bit and spend alot of time on movie sets, so I have to ask, what are your must-have beauty essentials?
I would say nothing beats good rest, drinking lots of water, regular exercise and regular meditation to keep you functioning optimally, especially when you’re on set. When traveling, I plan ahead and make proper arrangements to try and keep that part of my routine constant because it is my saving grace in terms of staying healthy and strong, keeping my skin clear and fresh looking, and keeping my energy levels up. But I always make sure that I have YSL Touche Éclat No. 3 on hand as well as loads of Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream, and the entire range of Comfort Zone skin care products.

On the set of “Scorpion King 2”

Name one unforgettable place that you’ve traveled to.
There are many special places for me and all of them have their own appeal and hold a special place in my heart, but it would come down to two places. One of the most fascinating has been Malta where I was filming a while back, the history, culture and architecture is so unique and it is breathtakingly beautiful. But the place that has the most inspiring effect on me is New York City. When I first traveled there years ago I felt that anything was possible in that vibrant and pulsating city and I really could make all of my dreams come true. It was one of the most awesome experiences ever and I met so many wonderful people. I felt like I had come home.

Name one place you would like to see before you die.
There are too many to mention but I have to say, Paris. Predictable, but true. I would also squeeze in Mexico.

Credit: Haroen Masoet

Since you were once a radio host, which artists are you listening to right now?
I listened to so much commercial music as an on-air radio presenter that I’m really enjoying classical music at the moment. I’m also loving Native American Indian and Indian Transcendental music as well.

What song takes you someplace special whenever you hear it?
Currently, it’s a piece of music by Barber: Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 performed by Eugene Ormany and the Philadelphia Orchestra. It’s such a lyrical, poignant and haunting piece of music and it touches me deeply. It’s a journey…

In addition to being a talented actress, beautiful model and being really smart, you work tirelessly with at-risk youth. What inspires your humanitarian work?
Thank you for such a lovely compliment, Yolanda. I guess what inspires my humanitarian work is remembering where I came from and what it took to make the choices I did and the lessons I’ve learned so far knowing that in some way I can be of assistance or inspire and help uplift and empower others through my story.

Sometimes in life you can’t make sense of the things that happen or the challenges that you are faced with, but when you are able to transmute those experiences into wisdom or lessons you can share with others to help them along their paths in life, that’s when it becomes a treasure to you rather than a burden. We are all master alchemists who know how to transmute our most painful experiences into wisdom and lessons that others can learn by and then our crown of thorns turn into a shining crown of gold. I also believe that the platforms we’re given are a gift and if we can use them to give a voice to those causes which need to be heard, we should.

Credit: IIze Kitshoff

And somehow you found the time to write a children’s book.
I was invited to speak at the Center for the Book in Cape Town on World Book Day addressing learners on literacy and they found my words inspiring and published part of one of my speeches and then asked me to write a short piece to be published the following year in their World Book Day publication. It’s called the Tao of Nat and it’s only a few pages long, but it’s a manifesto for inspired living for learners, using some insights I’ve learned from my journey so far. It speaks about how we are all magicians who carry the magic wands of conscious choice to lovingly create the lives we dream of. The Tao of Nat and writing for children is something that I plan to expand on in the coming years.

One word….

What advice do you have for young women?
Be your own best friend. Love yourself. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Trust your intuition. Break the silence. Ask for guidance. Yes and no are the two most important words you will ever use. Become conscious of your power of choice and use it to lovingly create the life you have always dreamed of. I would also tell them that every moment is an opportunity to make a different choice and to love yourself enough and the world will have no choice but to reflect that love back at you. And lastly that the world needs you to be the best version of yourself, so believe in yourself and believe in your dreams.

Asked to write your memoirs, what would the title be?
Perhaps the Tao of Nat or Inspired Destiny.

Credit: Haroen Masoet

Interviewed May 2011 by Yolanda, editor of Zavvi
Photos © BBC, Universal Pictures, Haroen Masoet, IIze Kitshoff and Natalie Becker.
© Zavvi 2011. No part of this interview may be used or reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the Editor of Zavvi

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