Zakeeya Patel has warmed the hearts of South Africans with her incredible acting talents as well as her sultry salsas and tantalizing tangos on SABC 3’s Strictly Come Dancing. She was literally out of breath when we stopped to catch up with her to find out how preparations are going for the next episode of the show!
Hi Zakeeya, welcome to Zalebs! You must be pretty busy with Strictly Come Dancing right now, how's everything going?
It’s been insane to put it lightly you start of with four weeks and you are just rehearsing and you literally have one month to learn Latin and Ballroom dancing which is something so foreign to me and then the competition starts then all of a sudden it’s not just about dancing but it’s also about the reality side of things, the other contestants and just dealing with the popularity. I mean half of the competition is about the popularity contest so it’s been a 50/50 type of experience for me. I’m up against people who’ve been in the industry for like ten years minimum so the whole experience was not even insane it’s just been wondrous to be invited onto the show has been an absolute honour I didn’t even believe it when they called me
We were actually at the opening night and you looked stunning. Do you feel you've settled into the show?
Definitely, you actually have no choice but to settle in as soon as possible because you literally begin to live the life of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. I dance for about six hours in the day and I was lucky enough to actually clear my schedule for the completion, also you’re not only dealing with yourself but you’re dealing with up to ten strong individual personalities so it’s important to settle in when you can.
Were you naturally a dancer before this?
Yes! I’ve always loved dancing I have this vivid memory of my sister and my mom laughing at me when I was very little because at the time I had absolutely no rhythm whatsoever. But I think things have changed a little bit.
You're up against household South African names like Connie Ferguson and Kuli Roberts; You're a renowned personality yourself, but can it be intimidating knowing "Wow, Connie has like 150k followers on twitter, those votes are going to flood in!"
Not from a personal point of view they’re not intimidating people, all the personalities are lovely people but it is intimidating when it comes to the competition because after all it is a popularity contest. I don’t consider myself to be that well known by the public; I’m brand new on the scene I’ve been in the industry for about two year now so in terms of popularity that can intimidating for me.
What's your relationship like with the other contestants when you're not dancing?
I really enjoy chatting Kuli Roberts, I love how she speaks her mind. She’s a really wise lady and she’s been around in the industry for so long and I think that’s why she’s so frank about certain things. It’s so easy to not be real in this industry and I just think she’s way past that so I just really respect who and how she is. I really respect people who can have their opinion and defend that opinion it’s commendable to me. Mpho is also the funniest person I’ve met in my life, including Damon, these people are just real.
Talk us through an average day of preparations for strictly?
Average day consists of waking up, heading straight to rehearsals with no makeup or hair done, dance for about six hours whilst also preparing for several other dance routines I’m to perform for the other weeks. So it’s not just preparing for the dance routine I’m doing for that particular week it really is a lot of work. Ryan my partner is not the type of person to let me slack he’s very professional and takes dancing very seriously so you have to eat right and just dancing all the time.
Shooting days we’re at the SABC by 8am, we do the shooting rehearsals, entrances and exits then its straight to make-up and hair a run with the band a full run through then it’s all systems go for the live show!
Every year it seems you're making more and more of a name for yourself, what are the next steps in your career right now?
Right now I’m just focusing on Strictly Come Dancing but what I’d also like to get off the ground soon is my Drama School which I’d like to launch in townships and community halls. I believe this will do wonders for children’s self-confidence, I learned how to be confidant on stage because I believe if you’re confident you can get anything in life. I was a teacher in South Korea for a few year so and teaching is one of my biggest passions so I’m hoping that my Drama School will finally lift off in due time. In January I’ll also be debuting in a new Afrikaans movie so that’s really going to be awesome.
Can you give us a little hint of what we can look forward to seeing on the show from you this week?
Well I’ll be performing the Fox-trot and it’s going to be quite a saucy number so people should really look out for that. I don’t want to say too much though.