Shock as groundbreaking LGBTQ actor and stylist Iko Mash dies


Iko Mash, who took on one of the first transgender acting roles on South African television, has passed away.

According to reports, the much-loved Soweto-born personality, who also went by the moniker Cinderella, died on Friday morning, apparently after a struggle with cancer.

Mash is perhaps best known for playing the transgender character of Zahr on the eTV soap series Rhythm City.

The performer was also an LGBTQ activist, socialite and a celebrity stylist and make-up artist to the likes of Khanyi Mbau and the late Lebo Mathosa. In 2007, Mash announced plans to launch a make-up range “for the ultra-feminine woman who is a no ‘make-do-woman'”.

It’s unclear if Mash identified as transgender and was described over the years in the media as “gay” and a “cross-dresser”. (Mash’s personal Facebook page uses the male pronoun but Mambaonline has chosen to use the singular “they” when referring to Mash.)

Speaking about scoring the role of Zahr in 2015, Mash said: “Zahr is a transgender woman who doesn’t want to be seen for her sexuality. She’s unconventional and different. Usually we expect gay people and transgenders to be in the beauty and hair industry but Zahr is here to show people that she’s not a stereotype. She’s an events organiser, working for a corporate company.”

Mash told Sunday World that coming out as LGBT was not well received by their family: “I’ve always felt like a girl. When my aunt died my cousins wanted nothing to do with me. They kicked me out of the house.”

Celebrities have taken to Twitter to pay their respects to Mash, remembering their defiant and proud determination to be themself. SAFM presenter Khanyi Magubane said she was “broken” at the news of the loss of her friend and “makeup artist extraordinaire”.

Feather Awards creator Thami Dish‏, wrote: “Rest In Pride Iko Mash. Thank You for being You and thank You for contributing to the LGBTI.”

Sports presenter Mpho Maboi added: “If there was ever a person who was unapologetically themself, that was Iko Mash… A ray of sunshine!”

A groundbreaker, a unique personality and a brave soul, rest in peace Iko Mash.

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