After three decades in the film and television industry, actor and activist Thandiwe Newton has decided to return to the original spelling of her name. Newton’s choice to reclaim the lost “w” in Thandiwe was revealed in British Vogue’s glowing cover story on the Westworld star, whose award wins include a 2018 OBE award for her accomplishments in acting and activism—the latter of which is covered in great detail in journalist Diana Evans’ lengthy, excellent feature on Newton, who has long been an outspoken advocate for survivors of sexual violence, including herself. Newton’s mother is from Zimbabwe and is the granddaughter of a Shona chief, which makes her a princess; according to Shona custom, Thandiwe (pronounced tan-DEE-way) and her daughters are a part of that royal lineage, which makes them princesses as well.
The actor’s mother and her father, who hails from Cornwall, named their daughter Thandiwe to honor that lineage. In the Bantu language of Shona her name means “beloved”—a name shared with the character she portrayed in the 1997 adaptation of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Near the end of the Vogue feature it’s revealed that the “w” in her given name was “carelessly” omitted from her first acting credit, Flirting, a 1991 drama directed by John Duigan—the man who sexually abused her. Compounding the offense, Newton’s character in that film was actually named Thandiwe. Addressing the decision to revert back to her given name, Newton is characteristically assertive: “That’s my name. It’s always been my name. I’m taking back what’s mine.”