From the moment young Majenta Gaffar got plopped in front of the telly by her mother to watch Hairspray or Grease, her future was set.
She fell in love with the arts and spent years fantasising about it. But it wasn’t until the age of 10 that she stood on the stage at the local Waiuku theatre company for the first time in Three Little Pigs.
“I just wanted to be on the stage, in the spotlight,” Majenta, 20, says.
Majenta never thought she could turn her passion into education - but after being awarded the University of Waikato’s most prestigious student scholarship, the Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship, her dream became more of a reality.
The programme educates scholars within the values of Sir Edmund Hillary and supports their growth and excellence in sport, creative and performing arts, academia and leadership.
Majenta was encouraged by her Waiuku College drama teacher, and Hillary Scholar, and Waikato alumna, Kate Davison, to bite the bullet.
“I didn’t really take [performing] seriously until I met my drama teacher at high school,” Majenta says. “She was the person who told me I was good enough and I can do it.
“I wouldn’t have my scholarship if it hadn’t been for her.”
“Getting the scholarship meant everything to me; it solidifies the fact that actually, yes, I could have a career in the arts and I can push myself because I have other people who think I can do it.”
The first in her family to go to university, Majenta says she chose the University of Waikato “purely because it has one of the top-performing art schools in the country”.
Plus, she couldn’t look past the wonderful facilities, including Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts.
“I love being at Waikato, being around like-minded people who push your knowledge on theatre is a really amazing thing. It’s something I deeply value.
“Coming from a small town, where we don’t even have a McDonald’s, I was shell shocked.”
Majenta grew up in Waiuku, a rural town south of Auckland, surrounded by a supportive family.
“My mum was a huge influence on who I am, she’s the one who showed me all the musicals, she really pushed me to follow my dream.” Not to mention, Majenta was named after the antagonist in the musical The Rocky Horror Show.
Majenta, who lost her mum to cancer in February 2022, says she wouldn’t be the performer she is without her.
“Whenever I’m on stage, it’s for her.”
Majenta performed in the National Stage Challenge each year between 2015 and 2017, and in 2019 she was in the group which won ShowQuest and received the national choreography excellence award and excellence in lighting.
Their ShowQuest dance was subsequently made into a safe driving advertisement for the New Zealand Police.
Majenta also received the FAME Emerging Practitioner Award - a $10,000 scholarship offered to promising students who have completed at least one year of tertiary study.
Yet, taking the leap of faith to follow her dream didn’t come easy.
“I had my doubts, I still sometimes do. Everyone likes to say it’s unrealistic and it’s just a dream… but getting the Hillary Scholarship and the Emerging Practitioner Award really solidified the fact that just because I’m from a small town doesn’t mean small things are going to happen to me. I’m in charge of what happens.”
In the end, Majenta hopes to make it on the big stage with her name in lights or carry on her high school drama teacher’s legacy by working with the next generation of performers.
Until then, she’s happy doing what she loves.