Cynthia Shange was born in Lamontville, Durban, in Kwazulu Natal. She started modeling in 1970 and went on to win several titles. In 1972 she won the title Miss Natal, which qualified her to enter the Miss South Africa competition for Black beauty queens. Shange won the Miss Black South Africa title and that made her the first Black beauty queen to win a Miss South Africa title.
Her victory entitled her to represent South Africa at The Miss World competition in 1972. This opened many doors for Shange, resulting in her role in SA’s first black feature film, Udeliwe, alongside co-star Joe Mafela. Udeliwe tells the story of a country girl from Kwa Zulu-Natal to the City of Gold, Johannesburg. She enters the world of fashion and wins a beauty queen title. The fairytale takes a turn for the worse when Udeliwe is involved in a car accident that scars her for life.
In 1986 Shange was cast as “Mkabi” in the five part mini-series Shaka Zulu. She co-starred alongside the late Henry Cele. Shaka Zulu was well received in the USA. Shange became a household name in South Africa, and she became recognised as an actress, and not simply a beauty queen. Shange starred in several programmes in the 1990s and is currently in the SABC 2 Venda soap opera Muvhango, where she plays the mother to the Thandaza character.
Shange has four children: Sihle, Archie, Banele and daughter Nonhle Thema, who has become an international brand.