In the wake of performance interruptus in the pandemic, Kutloano Headbush took herself off to the USA and studied for a Masters of Fine Arts in Acting for Film at the prestigious New York Film Academy [LA Campus]. The degree was awarded summa cum laude in 2023. Since then, the dynamo has acted in numerous projects in LA. It was daunting for the Johannesburg born creative who had creamed career milestones in her home country as an actor, dancer, writer and filmmaker but the dynamic creative is relishing new challenges and opportunities:

TheCapeRobyn: After accomplishing so much in South Africa, what led you to make the move to Los Angeles, California and what are you working on right now?

Kutloano Headbush: I always dreamt of furthering my education abroad, and when the Covid-19 pandemic slowed down activities in my industry, I saw it as the opportune time to make the leap. Moving during a pandemic didn’t come without its challenges, but with God’s help, I overcame them. Los Angeles, as the global hub of entertainment, was a natural choice for me, so after being awarded a scholarship at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus, I could not pass the opportunity up. Since graduating I have immersed myself in the industry, refining my craft, growing as a performer, and building my network.

Currently, I’m thrilled that my film, Lapeng is beginning its festival journey. Alongside this, I’m actively involved in two exciting projects in pre-production. These opportunities represent a new chapter of growth and creativity as I continue to navigate and contribute to the vibrant landscape of Los Angeles.

TCR: How have you found it as a South African in the USA and a strong Black woman? Have you experienced challenges as an outsider?

KH: Coming to Los Angeles from Johannesburg, I experienced some culture shock. Adjusting to the differences in daily life and social norms between South Africa and the USA was a learning curve. As a strong Black woman, navigating these new environments has been both enlightening and challenging. I’ve encountered moments of empowerment as I embrace and share my cultural heritage, but also faced obstacles as a stranger trying to find my place. These experiences have shaped my perspective and fueled my determination to succeed while staying true to myself and my roots. I’m eager to see how I will continue to grow and thrive in this exciting environment.

TCR: Where do you see yourself going forward – in front of the camera or behind as producer or director? Any projects in mind?

KH: In the future, I see myself continuing to explore my diverse creative passions, particularly through acting and screenwriting. My goal is to craft stories that not only entertain, but also provoke thought and inspire positive change. I look forward to collaborating with talented artists to create meaningful work that resonates deeply with audiences. At the moment, I’m particularly enthusiastic about a psychological thriller project that is currently in pre-production, where I have the awesome opportunity to contribute my skills and vision.

TCR: Can you tell us what led you to focus on your work in dance, film, or theatre, on “gender-based violence and inclusivity” and on creating “positive change”?

KH: Growing up in South Africa, where the president describes gender-based violence as the second pandemic after Covid, inspired my focus on themes around social justice in my work.  As I grew older, the reality of the longstanding problem of gender-based violence and South Africa became increasingly prevalent.

TCR: Where does the career as an acrobat of 12 years come in? And can you tell us about your work in Butoh and with Unmute Dance Company?

KH: My career as an acrobat spans 12 years and has been instrumental in shaping my artistic journey. It all began with acrobatic dance, which ignited my passion for performance and laid the foundation for my work ethic and flexibility—both crucial in my career as a performer. This early experience also sparked my interest in physical theater and dance theatre, expanding my artistic horizons.

Alongside acrobatic dance, my training encompasses various forms of dance and theater, including Butoh and inclusive dance. Butoh, a Japanese dance-theater style that I studied at the University of Cape Town, particularly resonated with me for its exploration of different physicalities and profound use of imagery. Through butoh, I learned to uncover beauty in unconventional spaces and to approach vulnerability fearlessly in my performances.

My experience with Unmute Dance Company was truly transformative. Collaborating with talented performers of mixed abilities reaffirmed my belief in the power of inclusivity. Inclusive performance practices encourage innovative approaches to performance, choreography, and storytelling by integrating diverse perspectives and abilities.

My diverse training in acrobatic dance, butoh, and inclusive dance has profoundly shaped and positively impacted my artistic journey.

TCR: Were you driven physically because of living with dystonia, a rare neurological movement disorder? Can you tell us about the condition and how you have transmuted the challenges through your work as a performing artist?

KH: I attribute my drive to my upbringing in a family surrounded by hardworking individuals who instilled in me a strong sense of determination. At the age of 12, I was diagnosed with dystonia, a condition that affects mobility. It significantly impacted my life until I underwent deep brain surgery (DBS) in 2018 to treat it. Before DBS, this condition presented numerous challenges in my work, particularly in an industry that often struggles with inclusivity. Despite these challenges, I focused on transforming them into a source of artistic exploration and expression. This experience inspired me to advocate for inclusivity through my art, a commitment I continue to pursue post-surgery.

After DBS, I became acutely aware of how differently I was treated as a visibly disabled performer compared to someone who appears able-bodied. This stark realization motivated me to delve into research aimed at making the performance industry more inclusive.

My journey with dystonia has fueled my desire to use my art as a platform for advocacy and change, aiming to foster a more inclusive and empathetic artistic community.”

TCR:  Anything else to add about being a South African creative, working in the USA?

KH: As a South African creative working in the USA, I bring a unique perspective rooted in diverse storytelling approaches and thematic exploration to my art. Embracing these different perspectives has not only enriched my work but also helped me carve out a distinct identity in a competitive industry. Adjusting to life in the US after leaving South Africa has had its challenges, particularly being away from home, but building a supportive community here has been invaluable.

I’m inspired by the success of fellow South African creatives who are making waves globally. Seeing individuals like Tyla and Thebe Magugu excel in their respective fields fills me with pride and reinforces the impact our country is making on the international stage. It’s gratifying to witness the increasing recognition and understanding of South African culture and identity in the US and beyond.

Moving forward, I’m excited about continuing to contribute my unique perspective to the global creative landscape and to further exploring the intersections of my heritage with new artistic opportunities here in the USA.

About Kutloano Headbush  

Kutloano Headbush is an actor, dancer, writer and filmmaker who was born and grew up in Johannesburg. Her interest in acting was sparked when she was 12 and became involved in a drama club. In high school, she performed on a stage, whenever there was the opportunity. After school, she studied at the University of Cape Town and completed a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Dramatic Arts.  During her studies Cape Town, she developed her interest and skill in film and television. In 2029, she went back to Johannesburg, and at the University of the Witwatersrand, she received her postgraduate BA Honours degree in Movement, Theatre, and Performance. During this time, she worked with a diverse group of creative, choreographers, and theatre makers. In 2021, she moved to Los Angeles and in 2023, she obtained her Masters of Fine Arts in Acting for Film at the New York Film Academy (summa cum laude).

Headbush is committed to using her work to encourage constructive social change and to support victims of gender-based violence, she created and produced, Lapeng, a short film in which she co-starred with Clementine Mosimane.  

SOCIAL MEDIA:  

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Multi-talented: In the wake of performance interruptus in the pandemic, Kutloano Headbush took herself off to the USA and studied for a a Masters of Fine Arts in Acting for Film at the prestigious New York Film Academy. The degree was awarded summa cum laude in 2023. Since then, the dynamo has acted in numerous projects in the USA. Pic supplied.

✳ Joburg born Kutloano Headbush is making waves in LA.