Neville Meintjies from 7de Laan speaks to us about success, potential and mentorship.
Zane Anthony Meas, best known for his roles in 7de Laan and Isidingo, is an inspirational and accomplished figure. He epitomises what our darling Theo Opperman, former Rachels Angels mentor, would famously describe as a brother who has made it.
This interview takes a glimpse at the life and person of Meas, a truly fascinating and compassionate individual. One who has come a long way since his early days as the only black student in the Drama Department at WITS University in the 1980s, becoming one of most successful actors and passionate nation-builders in South Africa.
What is a typical day in the life of Zane Meas?
When I am with 7de Laan for the day, it is quite busy. My day starts at 5.30 and by 6.15 I am on the road to avoid traffic. At the studio we start working from 7:30. Usually I only get home after 20:00 – so it is a full twelve hours on set. When I am not committed to 7de Laan for the day, I make a point of not getting up at 5.30 in the morning. My wife and I would take the kids to school, I would write songs and keep busy. My wife and I also run our own communications company which keeps us quite busy.
What do you like most about what you do?
The fact that I actually like what I do. There are so many people who hate what they do, but I am very happy in that I do what I want to do. I am an actor, a singer, a writer, and I am very happy. I use my God-given gifts and talents.
What do you like least about what you do?
The long hours.
Tell us more about your community work, especially your involvement with the youth.
Last year (and still today) I traveled right across the country to present a message on Redeeming the Fatherhood. I feel that half of the problems in South Africa and the rest of the world are because men who do not take up their roles in society. We need men to understand their obligation to their families and to society – they need to understand that it is their responsibility to set good examples, to be mentors.
You are involved with the Freedom Park Trust, a great nation-building initiative. What do you think is the importance of nation-building in our country today?
We are still a very young democracy, and my greatest desire is to see the potential of our great nation exposed and fully developed and nation-building is an important process in that regard. People are searching for something – they need someone to lead the way, someone to guide. The recent xenophobic attacks in Johannesburg serve as a stark reminder. We do not have enough role models and mentors in South Africa. All of us have a responsibility to help build the nation. Especially prominent people should set an example and be role models and mentors. Unfortunately, many of them think too much of themselves to contribute in that respect.
What motivates you everyday to do what you do?
I had a good childhood and I see the potential locked up in our country. My daily motivation is my desire to see that potential developed.
What is the importance of social and economic entrepreneurship amongst young black South Africans in particular?
We are part of a new world system, an ever-changing [global] economy. Our young people do not have to make the mistakes that we made in the past. It is therefore important that these entrepreneurial aspects are developed. Young people should know that they themselves are commodities in the new economy, and they should therefore learn how to use their gifts and talents to create work for them.
On your journey thus far, you have taken very specific routes to cultivate and reach success. What practical advice can you offer young people on your experience in that regard?
Study, study, study – knowledge is power. It is very important to that you understand how things work. I always say if you want to become an actor, study drama or acting. If you want to become a musician, study music. Things will not just come your way, you have to work hard to understand how things work in the profession you choose.
If you are 16 again, what would you want to be when you grow up?
It may sound too altruistic, but I would want to make a difference, I would want to mean something, to know that my contribution is important … I think most people want to amount to something.
What is your guiding principle in life?
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We tend to forget that. Just the other day a man dropped his R50 without noticing. I ran after him to give it back and I would never forget the expression of shock on his face. He could not believe that someone actually ran after him to give back his R50. I think that story exemplifies what I mean with my guiding principle in life.
What is your yardstick for success?
Personal pride – to be able to look at yourself in the mirror with self-respect and say I did it. So many people would measure success by what others think of them, but I think it is so important to be proud of yourself despite of what others may think.
What is your most notable milestone thus far?
My family put me through university and they wanted me to study to become a lawyer or a doctor, but I wanted to study acting. They decided to trust my decision, and today my biggest achievement is that I have reached success and I have made them proud.
What has been your biggest challenge thus far?
Overcoming my own insecurities. I have learned that one of the most important things in life is to overcome that fear within yourself.
Name a goal that you still want to fulfill.
I watched the film, Rocky, the other day and one of the things that stood out for me was the scene where this guy asks Rocky why he still wants to fight after all those years. Rocky replied that there is still something within him that has that fighting spirit. I think everyone has that – you must be true to yourself and fulfill that need. Maybe you want to start a business, become a singer, take up painting, whatever the case may be, it is important to be true to yourself. Being true to myself is a continuous goal that must be fulfilled everyday. I am bringing out a CD soon with songs about fatherhood, love and family and it is called Hart van die Vader – that is being true to myself.
You were one of the first black drama students at WITS during the early 1980’s. What are you memories of that period – personally and politically?
It was wonderful. We were lucky because WITS was a very liberal campus. We always had marches and rallies. It was at university that I had most of my political education – it was my greatest political learning phase. It was also a great eye-opener. I grew up in the coloured area of Johannesburg and only attended coloured schools. Suddenly, for the first time in my life, I was exposed to white people at university. So I learned a lot and I would never change that experience.
Do you have a mentor, and why?
Yes, I have quite a few mentors. In my church life it is my pastor, in my family it is my wife and kids because they teach me how to be a father and I also have a few mentors at work. Everyone needs a mentor. My dad died when I was 14 and today I miss him than I missed him when I was 15, 16 or 17. Even a grown man needs a mentor for guidance, someone to listen, to give advice, someone to look up to.
What are the three most important tools any mentor should have?
Firstly, it is important to be a good listener. Sometimes people just need someone to listen to them. Secondly, I think a mentor should be able to see his/her mentees needs, and speak to those needs. Thirdly, I would say that a mentor should also be someone who has proven themselves worthy of being a mentor, someone who has reached some level of success, who is an example.
How important is it for young people to have confidence and self-esteem, and how does one cultivate that?
It is extremely important. It is precisely my motivation for the work I do among young people in particular – to see that potential exposed. That is the reason why I do what I do – to make them believe that they can become anything they want to be, that they can reach the highest sport if they work towards it.
Adversity creates resilience and determination in some, but not in others. What drives some individuals to rise above their circumstances, and others not?
A goal, a purpose, a dream. If you do not have that you do not want to go on, because there is nothing to reach for. It is important to live a purpose-driven life – work towards your goals and reach for your dreams, no matter what your circumstances may be.
What world leader would you like to meet most of all, and why?
I have met Mr Mandela twice, but I would like to meet with him for a third time. He has always been the world leader who inspires me most. I cannot think of any other leader I would like to meet more than him. He is still the one.
Which three characteristics describe Zane Meas the best?
My sense of humour, my enthusiasm, and my smile!
Give us two interesting facts about yourself that people may not know?
I am a praise and worship leader at our church and my wife is pregnant with our third baby.
What are your greatest passions and how do they drive you?
My family and my faith. My faith is the foundation upon which I base everything in my life.
You have traveled to many places around the world. How has this impacted your view of life, people and the world?
Everyone should travel beyond our country at least once – I have the experience that I only truly became African once I left Africa. I appreciate and love Africa and our country so much more after all my travels overseas. People should travel in order to see how they fit into the bigger scheme of things.
What is your favourite cause?
Definitely the upliftment of people. I am most passionate about helping people see and understand their potential.
What is your favourite book?
I love books – I have stacks of them at home. There are too many to choose from.
Your favourite music?
I love gospel and a variety of music genres. I also like classical music and I’m a great jazz fan.
What is your biggest past time outside of work?
When I get the chance, I like to play golf for recreational purposes, but most of my time outside of work is spent on community work which keeps me very busy. Any free time I have is family time.
If you had one wish for South Africa, what would it be?
We do not always achieve because we do not always see our potential, for example, take a look at sport in South Africa. I do not think we understand our potential. We are a wonderful nation and my wish would be for us to work towards that.
What is in store for the future of Zane Meas?
Many things. I still want to bring out a CD, work on another movie, and many other things. I have only recently started on it.
Indeed, Zane Meas exemplifies all the traits of a highly successful person. He knows exactly what he wants – he calls it a dream, a purpose, a passion. He dares to dream and has the courage to act on it, to unleash his potential and that of and other people. He has an avid hunger for knowledge and surrounds himself with confident-building, fear-destroying mentors and role models.
Zane Meas understands that to TRIUMPH, you must TRY first, and then UMPH… you try enough and one day… TRIUMPH. In a nutshell, success calls for commitment, hard work, patience and that I sure can do attitude.