Cynthia Shange was born in Lamontville, Durban. Shange was the first black beauty queen to represent South Africa in Miss World in 1972. She is well-known for her leading role in uDeliwe, and her other role as Mkabi in the five part mini-series Shaka Zulu.
Shange became a household name in South Africa as she was recognised as an actress, and not simply a beauty queen. She starred in several programmes in the 1990s and she was on SABC 2 Venda soap opera Muvhango, where she played MaNkosi, mother to the Thandaza character. She was awarded the Golden Horn (South African Film and Television Awards) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 for her .