Thandiwe Newton has spent 30 years in Hollywood going by the name “Thandie,” but she is now correcting everyone on the true spelling of her name.
Born in Westminster, London, England, Thandiwe is the daughter of Nyasha, a Zimbabwean member of a Shona chiefly family, and Nick Newton, a white English laboratory technician and artist. Thandiwe is a name of Nguni origin meaning “beloved.” (Nguni languages are a group of Bantu languages spoken in southern Africa by the Nguni peoples)
Photo: Thandiwe and her parents Nyasha and Nick Newton
The “w” in her first name was excluded from her first acting role (1991’s Flirting) and, subsequently, every role after has credited her as “Thandie,” which is the name she came to be known as in Hollywood. Moving forward she will be credited with the correct spelling of her name. “That’s my name,” she told British Vogue in her May 2021 cover interview, “it’s always been my name. I’m taking back what’s mine.”
The Westworld actress also opened up about her sexual abuse experiences in the entertainment industry, which began with being groomed as a 16-year-old by director John Duigan (who was 39 years old at the time).
“There’s a moment where the ghost of me changed, you know, and it was then, it was 16. He derailed me from myself utterly. I was traumatized. It was a kind of PTSD for sure. I was so distraught and appalled that a director had abused a young actress, and that it was happening elsewhere, minors getting abused and how f**ked up it was. I was basically waiting for someone to come along and say, ‘Well, what shall we do about this?'”
For Thandiwe silence was never an option, and long before #MeToo and Time’s Up, she has been loudly challenging “the great wall of silence and enablement surrounding the high crimes and misdemeanors of the the entertainment moguls” despite the backlash she receives.
The British Emmy Award Winner spoke about how she has lost many acting roles over the last three decades because she profoundly refused to play to racial and sexual stereotyping. One such role was in the 2000 film remake of Charlie’s Angels. She was originally set to star alongside Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore, but was forced to quit due to its objectification of her and following a disturbing encounter with former Sony Pictures head Amy Pascal who made derogatory and ignorant comments about what a Black female character should be. Thandiwe was replaced by Lucy Liu and Pascal has since stepped down in the wake of a hacking scandal that resulted in her private and damaging emails being leaked.
Thandiwe is standing firmly in who she is and not hiding where she comes from. It was important to her that she wear clothes representing her dual heritage on the cover of British Vogue. She opted for a bold Versace suit paired with a length of African fabric and the work of designers such as Duro Olowu and Kenneth Ize featured alongside European-heritage brands.
The Crash star has come a long way in the last thirty years. No longer afraid of the industry, she has found a sense of empowerment as she fights for justice and equality.
“The thing I am most grateful for in our business right now is being in the company of others who truly see me. And to not be complicit in the objectification of Black people as ‘others,’ which is what happens when you’re the only one”
If you or someone you know is affected by sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or find support online at rainn.org.
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