Buyi Zama was born in South Africa and enjoyed many opportunities to travel all over the world. Now, Buyi is enjoying the experience of traveling all over the United States as she plays Rafiki with the tour of THE LION KING. I recently had the opportunity to ask Buyi Zama of questions about her experiences playing Rafiki with the tour.
Thank you for the chance to share with Broadway World of Austin your experiences working with THE LION KING.
Tell us a little about yourself and your career.
I was born in South Africa. I enjoy travelling and think of myself as a citizen of the world. I love culture shock and meeting people from different cultures. Being a part of THE LION KING has afforded me the opportunity to travel the world, and to get paid while doing it.
What was your first big break?
My first big break was in January 2002 when I was cast in West End production of THE LION KING in London. I later went on to perform in numerous worldwide productions of THE LION KING, including Sydney, Melbourne, China, South Africa and now the North American tour.
Prior to THE LION KING, I performed with a gospel group and had other singing jobs in South Africa. I actually never sought a professional performing career, but rather it found me. I accompanied a friend to Johannesburg, where she was attending an audition for THE LION KING. While I was waiting for her, a Casting Director asked me to sing, which I did. Four days later I received an offer to join the show in London. I immediately rented a VHS tape of the animated film, as I had never seen it or the stage production.
Tell us about the role of Rafiki.
Rafiki is a spiritual guide; a person to whom you go when you are in need of help or guidance. She is wise, open and welcoming and appears when there is trouble. Rafiki bridges the line between the show and the audience, as she is the only character who interacts with the audience.
What are the similarities between you and the character of Rafiki?
Rafiki and I both love to laugh and help people. We are both kind, compassionate and love life. And like me, I'm sure that Rafiki is a vegetarian and practices yoga.
What's it like to get the make-up on every day for your character? How long does it take to get the make-up on?
My make-up application takes about 35 minutes. I enjoy the process and it's during this time when I start getting into character. I have assigned personal meaning to each of the colors used in my make-up. Blue, the first color applied to my face, reminds me of water which has a calming effect on me. The second color is red, which represents the strength of the people around me. Yellow, the third color, represents the sun and light. The final color of white is symbolic to me of purity and clarity.
When you get free time, what do you like to do?
It depends on what I'm city I'm in. I always try to get a personal trainer in each city, so that it forces me to work out. Occasionally, some of my cast members and I also do the Insanity workout two hours prior to show time. We hit it!
I also enjoy yoga, taking walks, cooking, reading and going to brunch. Once I find a good restaurant in a city I stay loyal and continue going back.
Currently I'm working on my music and recording in a mobile studio. Check out my website for more details! www.zuluchyld.com and you can follow me on Twitter at @ZuluChyld
If you had not gone into show business, what career would you have chosen?
I suppose I would have pursued a career as a travel writer, which would incorporate my love of travel and books. Prior to joining THE LION KING, I was studying Library Information Science at a university in South Africa, so that could have been an option as well.
What advice do you have for people thinking about getting into show business?
If you're young, you should do whatever you need to do to sing, dance and act. You need to take classes and workshops, and really listen to your instructors. You need to put time into developing your craft.
And to the parents of children with aspiring performing careers, you should provide unconditional encouragement and support to your kids. Not everyone is going to be a doctor or dentist, so it's important to encourage your children to pursue whatever it is they are passionate about.