A beautiful, petite Nina Hastie walks into our offices. Dressed smart-casual with her dark hair pulled into a bun and wearing some seriously cool glasses, she is graceful and bubbly.
Her friendly-greeting to everyone in the building generates much excitement as many recognise the comedian.
A guest on “Beyond the Spotlight”, a new biweekly Independent Media Lifestyle podcast, she is as eager as me to sit down for a heart-to-heart.
Of course, there is more to this talented funny woman, she is a first-rate scriptwriter and voice-over artist, too.
Although she makes her successes look effortless and does so with a smile, her life story is enough to make you cry.
The trauma she suffered and her downward spiral into substance abuse will break your heart. But her determination to clean up her act and put her past demons to rest is truly inspiring.
“It’s easy to look at me and think I’ve arrived on the scene yesterday. I’m 36 years old. I’ve been in this industry for 23 years. It’s been a very long walk to freedom.”
From a 13-year-old girl who, in her determination to be famous, started as a radio announcer to later landing work as a voice-over artist on KTV, she struggled with acceptance at school and her grades slid when she wasn’t made the head girl. It was a huge knock for her and, unfortunately, the setback didn’t end there.
“The bad thing, to me, happened after school, between the age of 18 and 30. That is a 12-year stretch. It’s still an intense period of your life and also your formative years.”
She continued: “For the longest time, I avoided looking at what the thing was that changed me, what happened. And I think to a large extent, the one catalyst was not being made the head girl in high school. For some reason, when it’s the only thing that your whole family and everyone around you pushes you (towards) since Grade 1; that you must do everything and win everything, and, that thing doesn’t happen, you think they are not going to love you.
"The pressure of that and then the failure and fear of a strict and hardcore family. That’s the one thing. But the real thing is the sexual violence that happened.
“I’m 18, I just finished school and I just started a temp job because I thought was going to study at Unisa because I didn’t get the marks in matric that I expected. I was a straight-A student my whole life. Then, didn’t get made head girl. I lose interest in school completely. I think I just scraped through matric.”
“I sneak out one night and go to the pub down the road from my house. And I’m drinking. This guy, who was much older than me, like 35, keeps buying me drinks and I get very, very drunk. This guy takes me home and I wake up with this man on top of me. Basically, I get date-raped. This is obviously now the start of the shame, the guilt, the ‘I did it, it’s my fault’ blame. I didn’t tell my parents I snuck out of the house so I couldn’t tell them what happened to me. So I keep that to myself and I start keeping all my pain to myself…”
The pain continued to weigh on Hastie, who suffered a similar fate twice more. As before, she buried her emotions.
In trying to “fit in” and make new friends she started using cocaine and that led her down another dark road, filled with physical abuse and suffocating despair, which led to a few suicide attempts.
Of course, there was a crucial moment amid the abyss of fear and unhappiness when Hastie realised she needed to heal and get her life back on track and, in so doing, she has become a beacon of hope for so many women.
Interestingly enough, the laughter she spreads through her work has become a catalyst in helping her heal beautifully, inside and out.
Listen to the full podcast interview below:
Warning: The podcast isn’t for sensitive listeners.
“Beyond the Spotlight” is an Independent Media Lifestyle biweekly podcast, where we enjoy a no-holds-barred chat with the entertainment industry heavyweights, newcomers and trailblazers.
The podcast was produced and edited by Faheem Khota.