Born and raised in the Southern African country of Zimbabwe, Thembi Mawema is only 28 years old and already a major powerhouse behind The Shade Room (TSR), one of the most influential Instagram platforms in the world. Not only that, the recognizable executive is funny, fashionable, smart, and making major moves on her own in Hollywood. After coming to the states in 2008 she attended Chico State University in the Northern Sacramento Valley and graduated with a degree in Communications. The African beauty began her media career at KCSC Radio as a Promotions Coordinator then quickly moved on to become an award-winning Radio Talk Show Host. In Fall of 2015 Mawema became a social media brand ambassador for the well-known website XONecole, the online destination of influencer Necole Kane. Mawema moved to Los Angeles in 2016 and had a chance run in with Angelica Nwandu, CEO of TSR during an event hosted by the young entrepreneur and burgeoning actress/director Issa Rae. Mawema made quite the impression because following the event she says, “I actually received an offer from both Angie to join TSR, and Issa’s team to be a part of a project she was working on at the time, “The Peak.” Mawema ultimately chose TSR as her and Nwandu hit it off immediately and the rest is Instagram history. “Angie was open to the ideas I had to help scale the brand to what it is today, I was hired on the spot.”
Over the course of the last 6 years, she has climbed the ladder Creative Content Director to Managing Editor to her newfound position as Director for The Shade Room. In this position, Mawema oversees all content placed on their social media platforms, including Instagram which boasts almost 27 million followers, or as she likes to call them “Roommates”. Mawema says, “I think about the Roommates before posting anything. It’s kind of like The Shade Room is for the Roommates by the Roommates: They all let us know what they want.” Mawema works directly under Angie and says, “I love that the number one company in this space is founded and led by a woman–a black woman–an African woman. Whew!” Whether she’s fact-checking stories, running analytics, or tuning into the latest dramatic viral episodes, Mawema has a keen eye for what the Roommates want and need to know. Working behind the scenes she can be credited with breaking some of the largest stories on the internet.
In addition to her role as Director, she has stepped out in front of the camera working as a host for The Shade Room where she can be seen on numerous red carpet events such as the VMAs, Billboard Awards, Grammy Awards, and the BET awards. She has landed memorable interviews with everyone from Saweetie and Queen Latifah, to Cardi B and Diddy, with her signature white braids and Gele’ head wraps becoming a staple at most major events. During the pandemic, Mawema could be seen on The Nick Cannon Show where she was sought out to appear as a celebrity commentator in a segment titled “Shading with the Stars,” and another called “Shoot Your Shot.”
There is a Zimbabwean proverb “A ripened fruit does not cling to the vine” and Mawema has indeed heeded that and spread her wings. Outside of her work with The Shade Room, she is widely known for her fashion tips and lifestyle YouTube channel. With fashion partnerships ranging from Shein to beverage partnerships with Simi Wines, she has been spotlighted on Fashion Bomb Daily, Marie Claire and All Things Ankara.
On her style Mawema says, “As a Zimbabwean, it’s always been important to me to wear African Attire on an international/American red carpet–mainly because that’s not the norm unless it’s “Wakanda.” I finally did it at one of the bigger carpets I’ve covered–The Billboard Music Awards! I won’t be wearing anything else from here on out. I styled myself as always, but I’m wearing @allthingsankara”
Mawema says she’s living her best life right now and is excited to be considered a cultural leader. Follow her on Instagram at @thembitv_.