Famous South African Women

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South African women have to be termed as extremely hard working, determined and resilient for they have endured—and fought against—numerous gender stereotypes and obstacles that threatened to curb their freedom from the past many centuries. South Africa, a land inhabited by a diverse population is primarily patriarchic and thus women have always been meted out substandard treatment. Situations started changing for the better only from the past few years, yet the women’s fight against patriarchy has been going on from long. Lucy Catherine Lloyd, an anthropologist working during the 19th century became the first woman to receive an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Cape of Good Hope. With time situations improved for females, and the contemporary South African woman does not lag behind any of her counterparts in other countries.

Vote for Your Favourite South African Women
 1 
Charlize Theron
(The First South African to Win an Oscar in Acting)
Charlize Theron
89
Birthdate: August 7, 1975
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Benoni, South Africa

Charlize Theron is a former model and was an aspiring ballerina whose career came to a halt after a knee injury. However, an unexpected encounter brought her in the world of acting and she went on achieve tremendous success including winning an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award. She is currently one of the world's highest-paid actresses.

 2 
Candice Swanepoel
13
Birthdate: October 20, 1988
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mooi River, South Africa

Candice Swanepoel is a South African model known for her association with Victoria's Secret. In 2016, Swanepoel was ranked eighth among the top-earning models, according to Forbes. Also known for her charity work, Swanepoel works closely with mothers2mothers, a nonprofit organization that aims at averting mother-to-child transmission of HIV by providing support and education for pregnant women living with HIV.

 3 
Belle Delphine
(Cosplayer)
Belle Delphine
110
Birthdate: October 23, 1999
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: South Africa
A social media personality with a big fan following, Belle Delphine is known for her glamour and cosplay modelling on Instagram. She also has a YouTube channel, a patron page and TikTok account. However, her videos and photographs, because of their suggestive nature, have attracted criticism and controversies too.
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 4 
Caster Semenya
(South African Middle-Distance Runner and Two-Time Olympic Gold Medalist)
Caster Semenya
15
Birthdate: January 7, 1991
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Pietersburg, South Africa

Two-time Olympic gold medalist middle-distance runner Caster Semenya in an intersex woman, with high testosterone levels. The two-time Olympic gold medalist was asked to take medication to decrease her testosterone levels, to participate in the 2021 Olympics women’s events, and filed a case in the European Court of Human Rights.

 5 
Yolandi
(Singer, Actress)
Yolandi
33
Birthdate: December 1, 1984
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Port Alfred, Eastern Cape
South African rapper Anri du Toit, better known as Yolandi Visser, performs as part of the rap-rave group Die Antwoord, which has released hits such as Enter the Ninja. She has also starred in films such as Chappie. She is known for her signature blonde hair and outrageous fashion sense.
 6 
Embeth Davidtz
13
Birthdate: August 11, 1965
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lafayette, Indiana, United States

Embeth Davidtz is a South-African American actress known for playing important roles in popular movies, such as Schindler's List and Fracture. She also serves as an inspiration to those fighting against cancer as she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, for which she had to undergo a mastectomy.

 7 
Tosca Musk
(Producer, Director and Co-Founder of the Streaming Service ‘Passionflix’)
Tosca Musk
18
Birthdate: July 20, 1974
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: South Africa

South African filmmaker, Tosca Musk, has produced and directed several TV programs, films, and web series. Beginning her career in the early 2000s, she teamed up with Jeff Macpherson to produce the web series, Tiki Bar TV. Her movie, Simple Things, received the California Independent Film Festival Slate Award. She is also the founder of the streaming service Passionflix.

 8 
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
(Politician, Anti-Apartheid Activist)
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
22
Birthdate: September 26, 1936
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bizana, Eastern Cape
Died: April 2, 2018
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela had first met legendary anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela at a bus stop when she was barely 22. They ended up getting married the following year. Winnie’s journey was marred by bans and harassment by the South African government, but the determined social worker revolutionized South African politics.
 9 
Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters
(Miss Universe 2017)
Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters
12
Birthdate: June 28, 1995
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Sedgefield, South Africa
South African model Demi-Leigh Tebow was named Miss South Africa 2017. She then won the Miss Universe 2017 pageant, thus becoming the second South African to win the pageant. A month after becoming Miss South Africa, Tebow was carjacked at Hyde Park but managed to escape using her self-defense skills.
 10 
Sarah Baartman
(A Freak Show Attraction)
Sarah Baartman
9
Birthdate: 1787 AD
Birthplace: Gamtoos River, Kouga Local Municipality, South Africa
Died: 1815 AD
Sara Baartman, a popular subject of feminist criticism, was a South African Khoikhoi woman who was made a freak-show attraction, as the Hottentot Venus, in the 19th century, due to her large buttocks. She was a victim of the European men’s obsession with “exotic” Black women, whom they objectified.
 11 
Reeva Steenkamp
20
Birthdate: August 19, 1983
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Cape Town, South Africa
Died: February 14, 2013

Reeva Steenkamp was a British-South African model and TV personality. She had a successful career as a model before she was shot dead, at the age of 29, by Paralympic champion, Oscar Pistorius. Her death became international news and she was posthumously named SA Persons of the year along with Anene Booysen by the Daily Maverick in 2013.

 12 
Princess Charlene of Monaco
(Former Olympic Swimmer and Princess Consort of Monaco (Since 2011))
Princess Charlene of Monaco
15
Birthdate: January 25, 1978
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
Charlene, Princess of Monaco, was once an Olympic swimmer and represented South Africa at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. She met her husband, Prince Albert, at a swimming competition. She now owns the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation and works for causes related to AIDS, sports, and underprivileged children.
 13 
Lara Logan
(South African Television and Radio Journalist and War Correspondent)
Lara Logan
6
Birthdate: March 29, 1971
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Durban, South Africa

Lara Logan is a South African radio and television journalist. She has also worked as a war correspondent; in 2001, she interviewed General Babajan after successfully infiltrating the American-British-backed Northern Alliance at the Bagram Air Base. Over the years Lara Logan has worked for popular news channels like CBS News and Fox Nation. 

 14 
Alice Krige
(Actress)
Alice Krige
2
Birthdate: June 28, 1954
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Upington

South African actor Alice Krige is best known for her roles in Chariots of Fire and Star Trek: First Contact. She played a dual role in Ghost Story and has been seen in a major role in the Netflix series The OA. She has also produced the film Jail Caesar.

 15 
Miriam Makeba
7
Birthdate: March 4, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa
Died: November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba was a South African singer, actress, songwriter, civil rights activist, and United Nations goodwill ambassador. One of the first African musicians to make an impact on the international stage, Makeba is credited with popularizing Afropop genres. She also advocated against apartheid through music and played a major role in the civil rights movement.

 16 
Juliet Prowse
(Film, Stage and Television Actress Who Had a Four-Decade Long Career)
Juliet Prowse
7
Birthdate: September 25, 1936
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Died: September 14, 1996

Juliet Prowse was an actress and dancer whose stage, film, and TV career spanned 40 years. She gained prominence during the 1960s by appearing in films like Can-Can and G.I. Blues, which accentuated her dancing skills and her attractive legs. Towards the end of her career, Juliet Prowse hosted PBS' Championship Ballroom Dance Competition

 17 
Tanit Phoenix
(Model who appeared as Lilith in Femme Fatales.)
Tanit Phoenix
3
Birthdate: September 24, 1980
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Durban, South Africa

South African supermodel, actor, and make-up artist Tanit Phoenix had begun her career at 14. A sensation in the fashion world, she has graced magazines such as GQ and Maxim, and has also been featured on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit editions. She loves ballet, yoga, and martial arts.

 18 
Graça Machel
(First Lady of Mozambique (1975-1986), First Lady of South Africa (1998-1999))
Graça Machel
3
Birthdate: October 17, 1945
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gaza Province, Mozambique

Graça Machel is known for her association with Mozambique’s FRELIMO movement and has been the country’s first education minister. She has also been married to both former Mozambican president Samora Machel and South African president Nelson Mandela. Through The Elders, she is devoted to working for women’s and children’s rights.

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 19 
Glynis Barber
(Actor, Film actor, Television actor)
Glynis Barber
0
Birthdate: October 25, 1955
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Durban

Best known for her roles in Dempsey and Makepeace, Blake's 7, and EastEnders, South African actor Glynis Barber has also showcased her skills in theater, appearing in plays such as High Flyers with Hugh Grant and Killing Time with Dennis Waterman. She is married to co-star Michael Brandon.

 20 
Zola Budd
(Former South African Middle-Distance and Long-Distance Runner)
Zola Budd
1
Birthdate: May 26, 1966
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bloemfontein, South Africa

Zola Budd is a South African former athlete who used to compete in long-distance and middle-distance running. Budd represented Great Britain at the 1984 Olympic Games before representing South Africa at the 1992 Olympic Games. Zola Budd also took part in the 1985 and 1986 World Cross Country Championships, winning gold medals on both occasions.

 21 
Brenda Fassie
1
Birthdate: November 3, 1964
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Langa
Died: May 9, 2004

Brenda Fassie was a South African dancer, singer, songwriter, and activist. Renowned for her bold on-stage antics, Fassie earned the nickname Madonna of The Townships. Also dubbed the Queen of African Pop, Brenda Fassie won five South African Music Awards and three Kora Awards during her illustrious career. She was also named in the Top 100 Great South Africans list.

 22 
Jodi Balfour
(South African Film and Television Actress)
Jodi Balfour
4
Birthdate: October 29, 1986
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cape Town, South Africa

Jodi Balfour is a South African actress whose portrayal of Gladys Witham in the TV movie Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy earned her the Canadian Screen Award under the Best Lead Actress in a Television Film or Miniseries category in 2015. On 30 June 2021, Jodi identified herself as queer, gaining popularity among the LGBTQ community.

 23 
Nadine Gordimer
(Writer, Political Activist)
Nadine Gordimer
4
Birthdate: November 20, 1923
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Transvaal, South Africa
Died: July 13, 2014

Nadine Gordimer was a South African political activist and writer. Gordimer, who wrote extensively on racial and moral issues such as apartheid in South Africa, was honored with the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature. An important member of the anti-apartheid movement, Nadine Gordimer's advice to Nelson Mandela led to his famous 1964 defense speech, which eventually led to his conviction.

 24 
Elize du Toit
(Actor, film actor)
Elize du Toit
3
Birthdate: February 21, 1980
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Grahamstown, South Africa
Born in South Africa, Elize du Toit moved to the U.K. with her family at 14. While she initially studied history, she later switched to theater. Best known for her role in Hollyoaks, she has also appeared in movies such as Skyfall and series such as Doctor Who.
 25 
Ilana Kloss
(Tennis player)
Ilana Kloss
2
Birthdate: March 22, 1956
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa

Former professional tennis player, Ilana Kloss is also a tennis coach, and commissioner of World TeamTennis, since 2001. She was the World's No. 1 ranked doubles player in 1976 and World No. 19 in singles in the year 1979. Born in Johannesburg, the Jewish player won the US Open doubles and mixed doubles championship on the 35-and-over tour, in 1999. 

 26 
Evelyn Mase
5
Birthdate: May 18, 1922
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Transkei
Died: April 30, 2004
 27 
Leleti Khumalo
(Actor, Film actor)
Leleti Khumalo
2
Birthdate: March 30, 1970
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Durban

Leleti Khumalo is a South African actress best known for her portrayal of the title role in the 1992 musical drama film Sarafina! She has also played the role on stages and on Broadway, receiving an NAACP Image Award in 1987 and a nomination for the prestigious Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 1988.

 28 
Oti Mabuse
(Dancer on the British television series, Strictly Come Dancing, and its German equivalent, Let's Dance)
Oti Mabuse
4
Birthdate: August 8, 1990
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Pretoria, South Africa
 29 
Arlene Dickinson
(Entrepreneur)
Arlene Dickinson
2
Birthdate: October 8, 1956
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Germiston

Apart from being a successful Canadian businesswoman, Arlene Dickinson has also gained fame for her appearance on the business reality show Dragons' Den. The Venture Communications CEO was born in South Africa but later moved to Canada with her family. The Calgary-based entrepreneur was also named one of Canada's Most Powerful Women.

 30 
Musetta Vander
(Actor, Film actor, Model)
Musetta Vander
0
Birthdate: May 26, 1963
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Durban

Musetta Vander is a South African model, actress, and dancer. Over the course of her modeling career, Vander has appeared in commercials for popular brands like McDonald's, Sanyo, Mercedes, Diet Coke, and Heineken. Musetta Vander has also appeared in American films like Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Wild Wild West, and Under the Bed.

 31 
Zindzi Mandela
(Diplomat)
Zindzi Mandela
3
Birthdate: December 23, 1960
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa
Died: July 13, 2020

Zindzi Mandela was a South African poet and diplomat best known as the daughter of the famous anti-apartheid activist, Nelson Mandela. From 1996 to 1998, she also served as a temporary First Lady of South Africa. Over the years, she has been portrayed in films and TV films, such as Mrs Mandela (2009), Invictus (2009), and Mandela (1987).

 32 
Sibongile Mlambo
5
Birthdate: June 25, 1990
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Zimbabwe
 33 
Ela Gandhi
(politician)
Ela Gandhi
0
Birthdate: June 1, 1940
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Durban
Ela Gandhi is a South African politician and peace activist whose immense contribution to society and politics is widely recognized. Over the years, she has been honored with several prestigious awards, such as the Community of Christ International Peace Award, Padma Bhushan award, Shanti Doot International Award, and Pravasi Bharatiya Samman. 
 34 
Lauren Brant
(Television personality)
Lauren Brant
0
Birthdate: 1989
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bloemfontein, South Africa

Born in South Africa, Lauren Brant later moved to Australia. The former member of the children’s music group Hi-5 has also gained fame with her appearance in I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! She was also part of the traveling Humphrey Bear show. She is married to footballer Barry Hall.

 35 
Louise Barnes
(Film actor, Television actor, Stage actor)
Louise Barnes
0
Birthdate: April 26, 1974
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: KwaZulu-Natal
 36 
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
4
Birthdate: January 27, 1949
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Natal Province

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is a South African anti-apartheid activist, politician, and doctor. One of the most popular South African politicians of her generation, Dlamini-Zuma has served as the country's minister of health, minister of foreign affairs, and minister of home affairs at different periods of time.

 37 
Mary Renault
(Writer)
Mary Renault
1
Birthdate: September 4, 1905
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: London, England
Died: December 13, 1983

Mary Renault was a British writer best remembered for her historical novels. Some of her historical novels, such as The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea were adapted into a BBC Radio 4 serial. Although she is renowned for her fictional portrayals of prominent real-life characters like Alexander the Great, Mary Renault also wrote Alexander's non-fiction biography.

 38 
Helen Zille
(Politician, Journalist)
Helen Zille
1
Birthdate: March 9, 1951
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Johannesburg

Helen Zille is a South African anti-apartheid activist and politician. A former journalist, Zille played a major role in exposing the cover-up surrounding the death of Steve Biko, a fellow anti-apartheid activist. In 2008, she was chosen as World Mayor of the Year.

Zenani Mandela
3
Birthdate: February 4, 1959
Sun Sign: Aquarius
 40 
Baleka Mbete
(Politician)
Baleka Mbete
0
Birthdate: September 24, 1949
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Transvaal

Baleka Mbete is a South African politician who served as the deputy president of South Africa under President Kgalema Motlanthe. From 2014 to 2019, she also served as South Africa's Speaker of the National Assembly. One of the most controversial South African politicians in the recent past, Mbete is an associate of Tony Yengeni, who was accused of defrauding parliament.

 41 
Albertina Sisulu
(Political activist)
Albertina Sisulu
1
Birthdate: October 21, 1918
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Tsomo, South Africa
Died: June 2, 2011
 42 
Yvonne Chaka Chaka
1
Birthdate: 1965 AD
Birthplace: Dobsonville

Yvonne Chaka Chaka is a South African singer, actress, songwriter, humanitarian, entrepreneur, and teacher. Nicknamed the Princess of Africa, Chaka Chaka has been one of the most prominent figures in South African popular music for nearly three decades. An internationally recognized personality, Chaka Chaka has performed for US President Bill Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II, and South African President Thabo Mbeki.

 43 
Mamphela Ramphele
(Politician)
Mamphela Ramphele
0
Birthdate: December 28, 1947
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Transvaal
 44 
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
0
Birthdate: November 3, 1955
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Durban

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the UN Under-Secretary-General, was initially a teacher and has also worked at the World YWCA. A women’s rights activist, she works for gender equality and education and has established the Umlambo Foundation. She has also been the South African deputy president. Four of her five children are adopted.

 45 
Amanda Coetzer
(South African Former Professional Tennis Player)
Amanda Coetzer
0
Birthdate: October 22, 1971
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hoopstad, South Africa

In spite of her short stature of 5’2”, tennis sensation Amanda Coetzer was named The Little Assassin for her aggression. She began training in tennis at age 6. In the 1990s, she stunned the world by defeating no. 1 tennis stars Steffi Graf, Lindsay Davenport, and Martina Hingis.

 46 
Kasha Kropinski
(Actress, Voice Actress)
Kasha Kropinski
0
Birthdate: August 27, 1991
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: South Africa
 47 
Sandra Prinsloo
(Actor, Film actor, Television actor)
Sandra Prinsloo
0
Birthdate: September 15, 1947
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: South Africa
 48 
Caron Bernstein
(Actor, Musician, Film actor, Singer, Model, Beauty pageant contestant, Songwriter)
Caron Bernstein
0
Birthdate: August 16, 1970
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Johannesburg

Caron Bernstein is a painter, model, singer-songwriter and actress, all rolled into one. Born in South Africa, she started modeling for Ford Models at the age of fourteen, debuting in films at the age of 22 with Waxwork II: Lost in Time and shifting her focus to singing at the age of 23. Now a successful portrait-painter, she likes to capture the darker side of her subjects.

 49 
Anneline Kriel
(Actor, Model, Film actor, Beauty pageant contestant)
Anneline Kriel
1
Birthdate: July 28, 1955
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Witbank

Anneline Kriel is a South African model, actress, and beauty queen. She came into prominence after winning the Miss World and Miss South Africa in 1974. She then went on to become an established model and served as an ambassador for many beauty brands. Anneline Kriel then started appearing in movies, including the 1981 action film Kill and Kill Again.

 50 
Lebo Mathosa
(Singer)
Lebo Mathosa
4
Birthdate: July 16, 1977
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Daveyton, Johannesburg, South Africa
Died: October 23, 2006

Lebo Mathosa was a South African singer best remembered for her association with the popular band Boom Shaka. Mathosa is credited with popularizing kwaito music among South African women. Her style, sexuality, and outrageous stage outfits inspired many youngsters and nonconformists. Her life and career inspired the 2019 biopic, Dream: The Lebo Mathosa Story. 

Nadine Gordimer won a Nobel Prize for her writing and made her motherland proud as did the poet Elisabeth Françoise Eybers with her poems in Afrikaans which familiarized the world with South African culture. Actress Charlize Theron perfectly symbolizes what it means to be a South African with her strong character roles and disciplined off-screen persona. Browse this site to learn more about the various famous South African women who made this world a better place.