Netflix’s South African series, “Savage Beauty,” is a riveting story of an influential family and the foundations on which they have built their empire. Embedded under the conspiracy and the revenge is the harsh reality of a society that has created toxic beauty standards for itself and coerces individuals to abide by them. A society that fuels inhibitions in a person because of the color of their skin is like a plague; if not dealt with properly, it would lead to serious consequences. So let’s dissect this revenge drama and explore the truth that lies beyond the glitter and glamor.
What Was The Secret Business Of The Bhengu Family? Who Became The New CEO of Bhengu Beauty?
“Savage Beauty” followed Bhengu Beauty, which was one of the biggest family-owned beauty companies in the country and had been under the scanner for overly editing the images of its models and encouraging unrealistic standards of beauty. Mr. Don Bhengu, the head of the company, wanted to change the perception that the people held about them. The audience voted Zinhle Manzini as the face of Bhengu Beauty. This was the first time that an unknown person was given the mantle, which earlier was owned by actresses and supermodels. While Zinhle was walking down the ramp, amidst all the applause, the projector in the background showed images of her. To the horror of the Bhengu family, those pictures were heavily edited, such that they had lightened the skin tone of Zinhle, and showed her to be a notch fairer than her actual skin color. There was widespread chaos. The media was present on the scene, and Don Bhengu knew that this time they wouldn’t spare them. Their reputation had gone for a toss at a time when they were really trying hard to make up for the past debacles. Linda and Phila, the two older siblings, were asked about how they could be so careless to let this happen. The event management company was held responsible for the mishap, though even they couldn’t explain how it had happened.
The Bhengu family, on the face of it, was one of the most powerful, affluent, and well-known families in the country. They camouflaged their dysfunctionality pretty well. There were many ugly truths, hidden inside the crevices, that were broadening with every passing moment. Don Bhengu had two wives, Grace and Thando Bhengu. Grace was the first wife of Don, and she considered herself to be second in command. She was very protective towards him and often very insecure too. Grace never wanted Don to marry Thando, but her wants were never taken into consideration. She was treated with the utmost disrespect by Don, but she didn’t raise a word against him. It was her need to be known as Don’s wife. It was her identity, and she took pride in it and often turned a blind eye towards the discrimination that she had to undergo to be with him. She was ready to compromise on everything but never entertained the thought of leaving the Bhengu family. Thando was not like Grace. She wanted to escape the marriage somehow, but Don didn’t give her an option. She shared no emotional bond with Don Bhengu and was constantly belittled by Grace.
Don, on the other hand, did what he wanted and got much better treatment from others than what he actually deserved. He was oblivious to the needs of his first wife, often disregarding her opinions and views in the most brutal manner. He had many affairs, and was unapologetic about them. It was a true blue patriarchal setup, with the oligarch controlling the reigns of the lives of each and every member of the family. Don Bhengu had gone to visit a girl named Ruby, with whom he had an extramarital affair. She was put up in Don’s penthouse, which served as a playground for his illicit deeds. He was sharing an intimate moment with her when he got a heart attack. He was rushed to the hospital, and the whole family also reached there. The siblings were not like their parents. They were rational in their approach and shared quite an amicable bond with each other. Though Phila and Ndu were Grace’s real children, Linda was born to another woman, and that is why she was often ridiculed by Grace whenever she got an opportunity. While in the hospital, Grace came to know that Don was actually with a woman in his penthouse when he got a heart attack. She went to meet the girl and told her how her life would be ruined if she married Don. She told him that she would get trapped as divorce was not an option for the Bhengu family. Ruby got scared, and she decided to end her relationship. Don knew that Ruby couldn’t even think of leaving him unless and until she was threatened by somebody. He knew that Grace was behind all of this.
Though Zinhle was living with the Bhengu family and had become the face of the brand, she had some hidden intentions that nobody knew about. Zinhle had burn marks on her face that she used to conceal it with makeup. She tried to kill Don when he was lying unconscious in the hospital. She went to meet her own family, and we came to know that she wanted to destroy the Bhengu empire and reduce it to ruins. Why she wanted it was still unknown, but she had more to her than met the eye. Don wanted to choose his successor as the sudden heart attack had shaken him. He wanted either Phila or Linda to take up the mantle. He was ready to give both of them an opportunity to prove their worth. Phila was overconfident that he would be the next CEO, but Linda knew that her father saw her as more professional and hard-working than her stepbrother. Zinhle, on the other hand, wanted to play to her benefit. She was vouching for Linda, as she knew a secret about her that had the potential to ruin the family’s reputation. Grace wanted her son to be the next CEO. She was not leaving any opportunity to influence Don and make him understand how Phila was the more deserving candidate for the post. On the day of the interview, Don found a pouch of cocaine on Phila’s table. Though Phila did do drugs, he refrained from doing so at work. Zinhle had planted it in order to make Linda the CEO, and she got what she wanted. Don decided that Linda would be the next CEO, but Grace once again was able to influence him. Don wanted to show both the contenders the other side of Bhengu Beauty and see how well they took the revelation. They used to manufacture and package skin-bleaching products that were banned in the country. The product was called Yellowvate, and Don had plans to expand the distribution throughout the African continent. Phila becomes enraged and devastated after learning about the illegal business. His conscience didn’t allow him to get involved in it. Linda is finally chosen as the successor of Don Bhengu, but Zinhle has other plans. Don organized a party to make the big announcement, and a video clip was played in front of everybody, where it was disclosed that Linda had a secret relationship with Don’s second wife, Thando. Zinhle had sent a friend named Vee to a party where she knew that Thando and Linda would be meeting. While they were sharing an intimate moment, Vee took a recording.
The news reached the media, and it spread like wildfire. Linda believed that Phila was behind the conspiracy as he wanted to become the CEO. Thando was happy as Don had finally agreed to give her a divorce, and he asked both the ladies to leave the premises. Phila took over the responsibilities of the CEO.
What was Zinhle’s secret plan? Why did Zinhle want revenge on the Bhengu Family? Who was Kolobe?
Zinhle, her brother Bonga, and her late sister Amahle, were among the children on whom the trials of Don’s bleaching cream was conducted in the past. They were kept in a warehouse where they were exposed to a lot of chemicals. The warehouse was intentionally put to fire and many of them didn’t survive. Don and Grace didn’t want to leave any witness who would come and haunt them in the future. But fate had decided otherwise. The three siblings escaped the fire but were burning on the inside to take revenge.
Amahle died of liver cancer eventually, because she had been exposed to chemicals. During the public voting, Bonga had hacked into the system and had successfully turned the votes in his sister’s favor, making her the face of the Bhengu Beauty. She had been given a cottage to stay in the same compound, which allowed her to monitor each and every move of the family. Don was showing a lot of interest in Zinhle, even when she was in a relationship with his son Edu. Zinhle had met a man at the party named Kolobe, whom she recognized immediately. He used to handle the warehouse in which they were kept as children. She had a plan in mind, but in order to successfully execute it, she needed to know the whereabouts of the warehouse where the cream was being manufactured.
Kolobe’s real name was Calvin Madimetja Mamabolo, and he had a special affinity for Don’s wife, Grace. Kolobe was a good man, and he never intended to hurt the children. He handled the illegal affairs of the Bhnegu family only because he loved Grace. Bonga managed to get all the details of the warehouse. Zinhle broke up with Ndu, giving him the reason that they belonged to totally different worlds. In the back of her mind, she knew that even though she had developed a liking for Ndu, the relationship had no future. She was trying to destroy the family and didn’t have the privilege of getting emotionally involved with him.
Bonga, as decided, set the warehouse on fire. Zinhle asked Phila to come with her to a party and help her cope with her breakup. She took Phila near the warehouse intentionally, so that he would notice the fire. Bonga had already called Angela Makwetu, who was one of the reporters from a leading news channel, on the scene. She came and found Phila and Zinhle with the skin-lightening cream. The clipping she took was played on all channels, and it came to light that the Bhengu family, who boasted of their noble intentions, were in fact running an illegal business.
But something unexpected happened that derailed the otherwise perfect plan of Zinhle and Bonga. Kolobe was still in the warehouse when it was set on fire. Bonga had to rescue him and bring him to his own house since he didn’t know where else to leave him. Kolobe had recognized Bonga, and the siblings were not left with much of an option other than to kill him. But a move by Don and Grace once again shifted the balance in Zinhle’s favor. They put all the blame on Kolobe and told the media that they were unaware of anything that was happening inside the facility. Zinhle convinced Kolobe to help them take revenge. She appealed to his moral conscience, and he agreed. He had all the documents that could incriminate the Bhengu family and prove that they were well aware of whatever was happening in the warehouse and were running the show. But before he could do anything, Don caught hold of him, took him to a remote location, and shot him point-blank for betraying the family. The death was called a suicide, and a note was planted by Don, in which Kolobe had taken full responsibility for the illegal business. The Bhengu family was once again back on track, and Don was sure that he would resume the production of the bleaching cream once the dust settled.
‘Savage Beauty’ Season 1: Ending Explained: Was Zinhle Able To Expose The Bhengu Family?
Ndu had decided to leave his house as he had ideological differences with his father. He didn’t approve of risking the lives of millions just for earning profits. He was appalled just by knowing the kind of things his father was capable of doing. It changed his perception that he held for his father. But Don didn’t feel even an iota of remorse for his actions. He didn’t even make an effort to stop his younger son from leaving him. Zinhle had come to know that Thando didn’t have a miscarriage, but Grace had given her a pil to make sure that she didn’t give birth to a baby. Grace couldn’t stop Don from having affairs, but she could stop him from having babies with other women. When Thando was telling Zinhle about her devastating experience, she secretly recorded the whole thing.
Zinhle was intentionally giving Don all the false hints, as she knew that he was interested in her. She crossed her moral boundaries because she believed that it would give her an opportunity to take revenge and get his confession. Grace tried to kill her because she sensed that Zinhle was getting involved with her husband. She knew that Don might marry her as he wanted to have more kids. But when Don heard the recording and Grace got exposed, she was forced to leave the house. Phila also left with her. Linda came to know about this new development when Phila brought her mother to apologize to Thando. For quite some time, Linda had a hunch that Zinhle was behind the video that was shown during the party, in which she was sharing an intimate moment with Thando. She got in contact with Vee and, through her, got to know about Bonga. Grace told Phila that when the company was started, Don had promised her they would be partners in the business, but he went behind her back and made the registration solely under his name. Grace now wanted her share of dignity, and started plotting a strategy to get the full ownership of Bhengu Beauty.
Don had decided to marry Zinhle, and she was running out of options to stop him from doing so. Bonga decided to contact a detective named Selekane, who had pledged his allegiance to Don Bhengu. He told him everything, and Don believed that Bonga wanted to kill him because he wanted to avenge the death of Kolobe. He went to Bonga’s house and tried to buy him off. But instead, Bonga got infuriated by the look of him and told him that he was one of the children on whom the cream was tested, though he didn’t say anything about Zinhle’s involvement. They entered into a scuffle, and Don shot him. Zinhle arrived at the scene but couldn’t save her brother. Linda admonished her father against Zinhle, but he didn’t listen to her. Later that night, Zinhle drugged Don and recorded his confession. She was about to leave when Don came after her. As an impulse, she hit him, and Don fell flat on the ground. Zinhle believed that he had killed him, and put him in the car trunk, and decided to leave the premises. Just then, out of nowhere, Edu arrived at the scene and saw her all nervous and gasping for breath. Don, still inside the car trunk, opened his eyes, and the screen turned black.
“Savage Beauty” Season 1 ended on a cliffhanger, where though Zinhle had recorded the confession, it wasn’t made public yet. Phila and Grace were still unaware of the developments and were busy planning a coup. Zinhle believed that she had killed Don, but he was pretty much alive. With “Savage Beauty” season 2 definitely on the cards, it will eventually be determined whether Zinhle will be able to make the testimony of Don Bhengu public and expose his illicit affairs, or if Don will once again get the better of her.
“Savage Beauty” is a 2022 South African Drama Thriller series created by Lebogang Mogashoa.