Thandiwe Newton is taking her name back. In a cover interview for British Vogue, Newton revealed that her stage name, Thandie Newton, is actually a misspelling—one she inadvertently started going by nearly 30 years ago.
The spelling error first occurred when the actor, born Melanie Thandiwe Newton, made her film debut in 1991, costarring in Australian filmmaker John Duigan’s Flirting, with Nicole Kidman and Noah Taylor. She was incorrectly credited as “Thandie Newton” in the film. Ironically, Newton’s Flirting character was named Thandiwe—the correct spelling of her actual name. Since that careless error, Newton has worked in Hollywood under the misspelled moniker for three decades, winning an Emmy in 2018 for her work as Maeve Millay on HBO’s sci-fi drama series Westworld.
But now Newton is correcting the error—telling British Vogue that she’ll be going by Thandiwe (pronounced tan-DEE-way) in all future projects. “That’s my name. It’s always been my name. I’m taking back what’s mine,” Newton said. Thandiwe means beloved in Shona, a Bantu language spoken in Zimbabwe, where her mother was a princess and granddaughter of a Shona chief.
In the interview, Newton recalled other moments in her career where she felt disrespected and the toll it’s taken on her. In 2000, she dropped out of Charlie’s Angels and was replaced by Lucy Liu, allegedly after former Sony Pictures head Amy Pascal made derogatory comments about what a Black female character should be: sexy, not university educated. (Pascal has said she has no recollection of making these comments, per British Vogue.) After speaking out about the sexual abuse and grooming she allegedly faced at the hands of Duigan, Newton also said she had to fire a publicist “who begged her to stop talking about being sexually abused because it was ‘not good for [her] reputation.’” (Duigan has never publicly commented on these allegations.)
“There’s a moment where the ghost of me changed, you know?” Newton said, referring to Duigan. “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 fucked up it was. I was basically waiting for someone to come along and say, ‘Well, what shall we do about this?’”
Newton is now taking her career, and her name, entirely into her own hands, and is grateful for the opportunity to share her authentic self and name. “The thing I’m most grateful for in our business right now is being in the company of others who truly see me,” Newton told British Vogue. “And to not be complicit in the objectification of Black people as ‘others,’ which is what happens when you’re the only one.”
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