South African-born actress Roxane Cokas addresses social change through podcast

South African-born actress Roxane Cokas addresses social change through podcast
Roxane Cokas

California-based South African actress and health advocate, Roxane Cokas (nee Hayward), is using her platform for social good and has never felt more fulfilled.

Through the Podcast, The YOU Effect, which she runs with her philanthropist husband Nick Cokas she hopes to positively affect others through simple conversations around big or small actions that have impact.

Hayward’s focus on acting took a back seat with the start of Covid in 2020, but she soon found a new focus.

“My background in the entertainment industry has definitely given me a unique set of skills that, unbeknownst to me, have been huge assets when it comes to working on more philanthropic efforts, but the journey definitely is en-route to a different destination – I went from ‘driving solo in a sports car on my way to the walk of fame’, to ‘driving in a giant bus, filled with a community of people who want the best for each other, their neighbours and their communities’. So, it is most definitely a different ride, but it has never been more rewarding and fun. With my husband and co-host by my side,” she says.

The YOU Effect has been a platform that has allowed me and Nick to grow as individuals, and as a team. We don’t have all the answers – we are still figuring it out, and that is the beauty of the podcast. We allow people to join in on our simple conversations, where we unpack ideas and on how we can create a positive impact in our surroundings,” says Roxane.

Their latest episode focuses on something close to the duo’s heart, homelessness, poverty and addiction.

“None of us are immune whether in our own communities, families, or cities. It appears not a day goes by where we are not confronted with the sadness and helplessness of our environment. Personally, both Roxane and I have had direct relationships with dear friends struggling in all these areas and even contemplating suicide,” shares Nick.

They speak to Evan Feinberg, Executive Director of the Stand Together Foundation. Since 2016, the foundation has committed over $150 million to fuel the innovation of nonprofits around the US as they lead a movement to build stronger, safer communities.

“In this episode, we unpack what is working and what does not work from the South African perspective as well as the American perspective. San Francisco, as well as South Africa, has become one of the globe’s leaders in homelessness, poverty, and drug addiction. It is obvious to anyone who wants to look, regardless of beliefs or background, that the way things are going, and the way these issues have been approached for the past 20 years, is  not working. We believe enough is enough and we want to identify some of the historical ways in which we should be approaching and helping a very sad and forgotten sector of society,” shares Nick.

“There are no quick fixes to build an empowerment culture. It can’t be done by executive decree, but leaders can and must hold themselves accountable for promoting bottom-up change in our communities,” Evan Feinberg.

“We are really excited about the fact that The YOU Effect has become a platform for individuals around the world who are involved in social good initiatives to talk about the work they are doing in their neighbourhoods, communities and countries – including, but not limited to, the CEO of Hope For Haiti, the Executive Director of Stand Together Foundation, as well as the Executive Director of The Fashion Institute of Technology.

“The common theme in The YOU Effect is, ‘big or small actions that positively affect others,” says Roxane.

Their involvement with positive change does not end with just words as Nick Cokas overseas and sits on the board of a fund that, this past year, has placed focus on South Africa specifically – building wells for communities that do not have direct access to water supplies through For Afrika ( They have also done extensive work in the West African country of Burkina Faso.

The duo is keen on having more positive conversations and are always looking for new stories to share on The YOU Effect to inspire and motivate others. They invite interested parties to contact them on [email protected].




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About Roxane Hayward:

  • Roxane Cokas (nee Hayward) was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. Having finished her final year of school at the age of 16, Roxane was given a head start in life. She studied Drama, Dancing and Musical Theatre for four years through Trinity College London and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance London (ISTD).
  • Roxane started her acting and dancing training at the young age of 6. She featured in ‘Jozi H’ 2006 (CBC) as well as ‘Isidingo’ 2007 (SABC) while still in school. At the age of 16, Roxane moved to Cape Town. It was then that she also started modelling and has since featured as the face of many worldwide advertising campaigns. In the beginning of 2011, Roxane made her first appearance on British television where she played the featured lead, ‘Louisa’, in Episode 3 of the hit BBC comedy, ‘Beaver Falls’. At the end of 2011, Roxane finished working on her first feature film ‘Death Race: Inferno’ – a Universal Pictures production. She played the supporting role, ‘Prudence’, alongside Dougray Scott.  Shortly after this, she was cast as a lead role, ‘Angelica’, in the second season of the BBC series ‘Leonardo’ (CBBC).
  • In 2015, she was cast as the role of the historical figure, ‘Susanna White’, in the National Geographic two-part movie event titled ‘Saints and Strangers’ (SONY). In the same year, the first international feature film to be filmed in South Africa where all lead roles are played by South African actors, ‘Accident’ started production – Roxane played the lead role, ‘Caroline’.
  • Roxane has always been a strong advocate for health and fitness. Since starting her Muay Thai training in 2016 with two-time world champion Quentin Chong, she also became a spokeswoman for self-defence and continues to host seminars in South Africa, Los Angeles and San Francisco that focus on human rights, empowerment, safety and teaching individuals how to defend themselves.
  • This interest led to her directorial debut for the public service announcement (PSA) titled ‘Open Your Eyes’ for HeardPSA – an international platform hosted by the Global Sustainability Network (GSN), calling on filmmakers from around the world to create awareness on human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Roxane wrote, directed and produced the PSA which was voted second worldwide by the international panel of judges who include the legendary Quincy Jones, Wesley Snipes and Joseph Fiennes.
  • In June 2017, ‘Blood Drive’ (Universal Cable), the grindhouse style television series in which Roxane plays the role of ‘Mimi Kox’, aired on Syfy. Due to her dance background and dedication to the martial art of Muay Thai, Roxane performs her own fight sequences and stunts in all her on-screen appearances to date.
  • Roxane was cast in her on-stage debut as the leading role of Viola De Lesseps in the Disney produced production of ‘Shakespeare in Love’ at The Fugard Theatre in Cape Town, South Africa. After a successful, sold-out two-year run, Roxane made her USA stage debut in 2019 alongside French Stewart in the much-loved Mary Chase play, ‘Harvey’ where she played the role of Nurse Ruth Kelly at The Laguna Playhouse.
  • Her on screen presence continued to grow in the US where she worked on national campaigns for the likes of major brands and companies such as Cisco, Dolby, Honey, Johnny Was and LG. Starting in 2020, Roxane has been a regular face on Kron4 San Francisco, interviewing individuals and local Bay Area companies.
  •     Launched in 2020, Roxane was asked to join Nick Cokas as co-host of ‘The YOU Effect’ podcast which features simple conversations around big or small actions that have impact. To date, the hosting duo has interviewed the likes of, including, but not limited to, the CEO of Hope For Haiti, the Executive Director of Stand Together Foundation, as well as the Executive Director of The Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.