In 2018 Lois Du Plessis returned home to South Africa after almost 12 years of living in the United States, and touring the globe as one of the core members of the 4-time Grammy award-winning Gospel collective ‘Israel and New Breed’. In 2020 Lois was nominated for a Naledi Theater Award for her incredible performance as Justice in the musical ‘Rock of Ages.
AoS caught up with the multi-talented Singer/Songwriter, Worship Leader, Actor, Television Host, and Accessories Designer for a reflective and in-depth conversation about her career, journey and faith.
Q. In the early 2000’s South Africans were introduced to you as a contestant on ‘Coca-Cola Popstars’ and many of us got to know and love you as a member of ‘Afro Z’. Can you take us back to the moment when you knew that you were destined for the stage?
Wow, you went way back. I think my first memory of knowing that I loved the stage was at the age of 3 or 4, singing at our community hall in Nasaret… I loved it then and knew that the stage would always be a part of my life.
Q. If someone had to identify 3 characteristics that distinctly define you, what do you think or hope those would be?
My Smile, My heart, My hair …
Q. What are some of your fondest childhood memories?
I grew up in a small town, Middelburg Mpumalanga, the township I lived in is called Nasaret. I think some of my fondest memories are playing in the street with my friends who lived in and around Riversdale street. We would play games till late. I think what I love most is that we were all raised by the community you know.
Today we live in a different world.
Q. What does family mean to you?
Gosh what a loaded question lol…
I think once you’ve lived apart from family, you realize how important family is.
But you also build your own community or should I say family wherever you go. So family means everything to me both relatives and chosen family. I am truly blessed.
Q. There was a lot of industry talk about how Afro Z was the more talented group and deserved to win their season of Coca-Cola Popstars. How did you shut the noise out, focus on your dreams and essentially grow where God had planted you in that particular season?
Oh, the industry and its talk… to be honest, that was a very challenging time for us as young “stars” one day no one knew who we were and then all of a sudden we were known everywhere. Although we were treated as winners, we didn’t have the perks that went along with it. I think we managed to push and work hard to maintain our sanity and make the best of the journey we had together starting out as young strangers and eventually becoming like family. We were young and driven and were allowed to live a dream and so we did everything in our power to make it work. Back then failing wasn’t an option for us, so no matter how difficult it was, we pushed ourselves and each other. I think that’s what helped us. I came from a small town, the rest of the group from Cape Town and here we were in JHB living a dream…
You make it work!
Q. One minute you’re working hard to build your career in South Africa, then the next thing we know you are living in Texas and travelling the world ministering with the Multi-Grammy Award-winning Christian worship collective, ‘Israel and New Breed’! When and how did that happen?
How surreal does that sound? I still pinch myself sometimes. Yes about 4 years after Popstars. I was back pursuing my acting while still trying to be a part of Afro Z as best as I could. I was busy travelling with the Musical ‘We Will Rock You’, when I had an opportunity to meet Israel Houghton and his family. There is a whole backstory (it’s a jaw-dropping backstory) but I’ll keep it short and sweet. This all happened in 2016, they invited me to visit for Thanksgiving and Christmas and then the rest is as they say history! I ended up staying for what was supposed to be a year but ended up being 12 years.
Q. Your Christian faith is very important to you and you were/are a very active member of your local church. How did you muster up the moxie to step out from the box of expectations for a young beautiful, gifted, and anointed woman like yourself to marry and settle down but instead you up and moved to the U.S. to pursue your dreams?
Yes, I grew up in church, it has always been a huge part of who I am. I’ve always believed that God’s timing in my life is what matters most. I’ve come to adopt the saying “Never out of time when you’re in God’s timing”-Chris Lawson
So I never wanted to make moves based on what society dictated I should have or could have done. I always wanted to make sure that whatever I did, was done from a place of peace and feeling led that it was the right decision for me. So truthfully, I never felt like I was choosing between career or marriage. I always felt that what was for me would never pass me by and till now marriage just hasn’t been for me yet. Moving to the US wasn’t even a desire for me at first. I was just going on holiday there and even had shows lined up when I returned. So deciding to stay there didn’t come easy or without consequences. But I stepped out in faith and did it because I believed that it was what was the right decision for me at the time and I believe that God gives us moments. Some moments are 6 months, others are 12 years. So being present in those moments is what is important.
Q. We are taught to honour and give credence to those in church leadership and while it’s important to honour those in positions of leadership it’s more important to honour the will and call of God. What advice would you give a young woman who is currently wrestling with the tension of respecting the voices of the well-intentioned people/leadership in her Church community vs the God-sized dream embedded in her heart?
As a woman who has served in leadership positions, I believe the church is still learning to embrace and find its rhythm with us who are not married and I believe there is a ton of room for growth but it has to go both ways. Both us (single women) and the church have to be open to finding solutions. The church like many other religious institutions has been doing things a certain way for a long time. But we live in a different age now where the reality is, in the church, more single women are serving and I believe that if you have a leader who sees the gift of God inside of you beyond your marital status, they will encourage you to pursue it and give opportunities for us to lead. I have been fortunate to have such leaders in my life but I do know that it is not everyone’s story. Thus, I believe that platforms like this one will open conversations and opportunities for us to be able to look at those structures in place and find ways to navigate the future.
Q. African artists are conditioned to believe that moving to America is the ultimate destination and space for their artistry to grow. You’ve essentially lived that narrative and shared space and the stage with prolific artists such as Jonothan Butler and if I’m not mistaken Alicia Keys to name but a few – how did your years and experiences in America and travelling the world shape your artistry and how do you plan on using all that you learnt now that you’re back home?
I have not yet shared a stage with Alicia Keys, one day soon! Thanks for speaking it! 🙂
Through my travels with Israel and New Breed I was fortunate to meet some incredible Artists and yes had the opportunity to share the stage with them. Although we may have been conditioned in the past to believe it, I don’t however believe that America should be our Ultimate Goal as African artists. The World is so big!
Although America is at the forefront of many things, I believe there is so much in Africa to draw inspiration from and the rest of the world does draw inspiration from us, we just need to start seeing it and believing it for ourselves. I think the biggest lesson I have learned on my journey while meeting and working with incredible artists around the world, is that we are all just humans on a journey.
I’ve learned to see beyond the persona and try to see the human. Travelling to different countries and living in America exposed me to different views and ways of thinking. Understanding that there is more than one way to conclude. I’ve grown in many ways and hope that I can use those experiences to help make an impact on the next generation of young people who I encounter and work with in the future.
Q. What/who are you currently listening to?
Maverick city music has been the soundtrack for my soul lately and of course, to get me dancing, I throw on some Soca music!
Q. You have lived & lived an extraordinary life. Can you share a highlight reel of God doing exceedingly and abundantly above all that you hoped, dreamed of, and prayed for in your life? How have these experiences shaped who you are as a person and artist?
It’s Crazy that this is how this question is presented, I just told a friend of mine that I felt that this is how my journey has been, exceedingly, abundantly…. Above and beyond my wildest dreams. I have walked a very surreal journey…
God has exceeded my expectations over and over again and I guess the biggest highlight I can share is that God healed my mom. A heart attack, stroke, and Covid. God has sustained her through it all! It has shaped me to never stop believing! So no matter what I do as an artist, I know who God is to me!
Q. Jay-Z once told Oprah that he cannot remember what and if he’s learnt anything from his successes’ but he can account for the lessons he’s learnt through his “failures.” What have you learnt about yourself through your trials and what have you learnt about God in moments of disappointment?
I have learned…. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and that the Joy of the Lord is my strength! Those two scriptures have kept me sane in the most difficult times. Understanding that even when I had to take on some things that I really didn’t enjoy doing, I wasn’t alone and that God strengthened me through it all. So even in the times when I felt like a complete failure, there was always something for me to learn and a way for me to get through it. I’m still learning as I go, I don’t believe we ever stop learning.
Q. The last two years have highlighted the importance of being open and ready for change. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited as saying, “change is the only constant in life.”- can you share with us how you have managed to stay rooted in who you are as a woman yet open to learning and growing from the constant change you’ve experienced both professionally and personally?
Change is challenging but necessary for our growth. I think the last two years during this pandemic has taught us what is truly important. Being open to everything being stripped away and finding joy in simplicity is what I take away from it. I took on gardening and now have beautiful potatoes growing in my garden. Also being pliable and open to learning new things, especially because our industry basically shut down for a while. We have to be open… life is always changing. But God is always God through every change!
Q. You started an accessory line called “De-Anne Ju’anita”. Can you share with us what led you to start it?
When you live in another country, you always have to have a side hustle. To be honest it started as a hobby but then I realized that I could make some money from it and it grew into a business. I grew up sewing with my mom, but it only became a passion when I was away.
Q. Where can people purchase your beautiful accessories?
Currently from my Instagram page @de_annejuanita
Q. How do you balance the juggle of being an entrepreneur, artist, actor, worship leader, caregiver, etc?
Honestly, one step at a time. I’ve learned the art of saying no and letting go of what I cannot handle and learning to prioritize what’s important in each season.
So if I cannot do one thing in a season it’s okay.
Q. You are currently acting in House of Zwide on E-TV and I know that similar to music acting brings you great joy and a sense of purpose. When did you discover your love for acting?
I’ve always loved Acting. I started with an acting coach (Sonja Myburgh) in grade 11 and then won a bursary through DALRO to study to be an Actor. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do but since my career started I have had a lot of singing opportunities, so most people only know me as a singer. I’m grateful that in this season I get to live out my dreams pursuing acting.
Q. What can you tell us about your character, Pearl?
Pearl is really warm and loving. She loves her job and likes stories or should I say she likes things. She is passionate about everything she does.
Q. Can we look forward to Lord willingly seeing you on the big screens in the future?
From your mouth to God’s ear! I believe we will.
Q. If there is one word that defines your life it’s faith. What are you currently believing in God for professionally and personally? (Does it include new music? Crosses fingers..)
Professionally: I’m really enjoying getting to develop the character on House Of Zwide and hope to work in a film soon.
I’m currently and finally working on some music. I’m very excited about it and after all these years being in the music industry, I believe I’m finally ready. There are some other things I’m believing for but those I’m not yet ready to share.
Q. What does growing where you’re planted mean to you and in what ways do you feel you’re being led/challenged to grow in 2022?
Growing where you’re planted to me means accepting the Now! Being fully present and taking root. Just today I was in the garden digging up potatoes I planted last year. When you look above the ground you see a plant that may look dry but when you dig into the ground you find the root which ultimately is the potato, the good stuff. Growing where you’re planted to me means finding your roots where you are and growing from there. It may take time and it may not always look pretty but it will be fruitful with time! Just keep growing! I’m challenged in 2022 to let go of fear, trust the process even more and live a little!