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.
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.
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.
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.
10 Tosca Musk
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.
11 Prue Leith
British-South African chef and culinary expert Prue Leith had begun her career with a lunch-supplying business. She later launched her Michelin-starred restaurant Leith's in Notting Hill and a culinary school. Best known as a judge on The Great British Menu, she is also associated with various charitable initiatives.
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.
14 Lara Logan
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.
15 Alice Krige
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.
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.
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.
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.
19 Graça Machel
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.
20 Oti Mabuse
21 Cariba Heine
Cariba Heine is an Australian actress and dancer known for playing important roles in TV series like H2O: Just Add Water and Blue Water High. Before establishing herself as an actress, Cariba Heine received training in tap dance, jazz dance, classical ballet, rhythmic gymnastics, and acrobatics. She is also a trained singer.
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.
23 Zola Budd
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.
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.
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.
27 Ilana Kloss
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
33 Evelyn Mase
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.
35 Lauren Brant
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.
36 Ela Gandhi
38 Jodi Balfour
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.
39 Yael Cohen
40 Helen Zille
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.
41 Baleka Mbete
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.
42 Mary Renault
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.