It’s 14:05pm and the renowned international actress – come producer – sets foot into the Design Quarter Building where she will have her PREVIDAR Cover shoot conducted. She enters the DNA Brand Architects offices dressed in an all black figure hugging casual dress and sneakers that finish the look off in a cool yet elegant way. Unaware of her stardom, she greets everyone in the office with graciousness and sophistication that is Terry Pheto.
The #PrevidarWomensIssue commemorates the female struggle stalwarts who fought for the legacy of women to be recognised and equally treated on their capabilities alongside their male counterparts. The issue also seeks to inform, educate and empower the younger generation through the lens of women such as Pheto who have risen above the struggles they faced growing up in an era where women were subjugated.
WITH THE HISTORY THAT WE HAVE, WHAT ARE YOU MOST GRATEFUL FOR AS WOMAN IN SOUTH AFRICA?
“I was born in the 80s, which means I was born during apartheid, but towards the end of it and I could see how brave women were. I could see that women didn’t just take a back seat, they fought for the freedom that we have today. I’m grateful that I know amazing women who are role models that I look up to. With the freedom and opportunities that we have, I have no reason to fail or reason to fear because the war is over but there is a new war that we have to fight as women of today. We have to empower each other and be there for one another. For me, when I look at the images from 1956, there was no colour. It was just women who were united and fighting a similar cause, and I feel like we could learn a lot from that and hold hands as South African women. Be inspired by each other and be each other’s cheerleaders. Support each other, be brave and make sure that we succeed and when we do succeed – pull someone up. That’s the challenge that we have, that’s the war that we still need to win.”
DID YOU ALWAYS KNOW YOU WERE DESTINED FOR BRIGHT LIGHTS OR WAS THERE A DIFFERENT DREAM FOR YOU?
“I always knew that there was something special about me even when I was young, but I couldn’t place it. I always felt like I had a bigger purpose than my circumstances at the time. I knew that one day people will know my name but I had no idea what that meant as a kid. There’s always that voice that tells you that something big will happen in your life. I think that everyone has that little voice inside that tells you that things are going to be okay and you’re going to be great. I would say I’ve had that but I had no idea that I’d be a famous actor, I just knew that even if I was a teacher, I’d probably be one of those teachers that the world is talking about.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT HOW WOMEN ARE REPRESENTED IN THE MEDIA, FILM AND POP CULTURE? IS IT AN ACCURATE REPRESENTATION?
“I think it’s a tough question because it depends on the point of view. I feel like sometimes as women we put ourselves out there in a way that can easily come back to haunt us. You look at social media, how it has taken over and the images that young girls and women are putting out there. That’s you broadcasting those kinds of images; at the same time there is a bigger picture where women are still seen as a lesser version of a person. The war that we need to win is to make sure that young girls are given good role models to look up to. The world is so scary right now because information is so accessible; growing up I was protected because we didn’t have Internet or social media. The only time you would see an image of a beautiful woman is when you see Connie Masilo, at the time, on the cover of True Love or Shado Twala. Those were women who were fully dressed and were gracious. When you look at today, 9 year olds have these images of themselves that you question. Why would want to have your sexual being at that age, you’re not even 20, like stop already.”
AYANDA IS NOT ONLY YOUR FIRST PRODUCTION OPPORTUNITY; IT HAS ALSO BEEN A PASSION PROJECT FOR YOU. WHY IS AYANDA’S MESSAGE SO IMPORTANT TO TELL?
“When I went into production, I knew that the first film I’d produce has to be a film with a very strong female character. A film that will have a different voice and introduce a modern role model for young girls. I feel like the world is full of “chicks” with no content and I just wanted women and girls to see this character and be inspired to say that I can be brave enough to follow my dreams. The fact that she’s a young entrepreneur fighting to get her business going is one element that attracted me. I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from achieving the goals that I set for myself, same as Ayanda. Nothing stopped her and she’s brave and bright. She knows what she wants; she’s current and fun. She’s not stuck up and serious, she’s one of the girls and she’s that girl you want to be friends with, or at least you want your daughter or your sister to be friends with.”
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR POIGNANT LESSON IN THE PROCESS OF GETTING THIS MOVIE ON OUR SCREENS?
“We have challenges in the film industry because the budgets are so low. We depend on support from social media and word of mouth and that has been a challenge, the marketing of a film. You can’t make a great film if you don’t have a marketing budget; no one is going to see it. The challenge has been making sure that as many people as possible know about the project. But I have to say it has been a beautiful challenge because the reception has been great. Everywhere I go people want to find out when is the movie coming out. That for me shows that we have done well with no marketing budget.”
AS A WOMAN WHO HAS WORKED SO HARD TO BE WHERE YOU ARE, WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON KIM KARDASHIAN’S RISE TO SUCCESS?
“There will always be those phenomenal stories and Kim Kardashian is one of those. Sometimes you don’t have to explain a phenomenon; it doesn’t always have to make sense. I respect the fact that they identified an opportunity and they went for it. As entrepreneurs they have achieved so much for themselves and have excelled in the world of reality television. People weren’t familiar with it before the Kardashians so that affects entertainment. That affects the kind of content we have to put out there as producers. What do people want to see, do people want to see women scratching each other or fighting? Or do they want to see stories where you can commission a writer to tell a story or adapt a book and turn it into a film. So it has actually taken a lot from people that have invested in scripted television. But I guess that there is a market for everything and we live in a world were people want things that will shock them. It’s always refreshing to see someone bare they’re lives and their souls out there and the Kardashians have done just that in a massive way. They are a success when it comes to that genre of television.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST ISSUE FACING MODERN WOMAN TODAY?
“I think it is knowing who we are, and being brave and not afraid to want more in life. Not being boxed and told what to do and who to be. But I’m happy to say that today’s women are braver and going for it. What we still need to deal with is lack of support amongst each other. We need a group hug. It’s embarrassing to see that when there’s something negative about one woman, most women will be so excited; look at social media. Things that make women so excited is when another woman is down, it’s a shame.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK WOMEN CAN DO TO MAKE SURE, ESPECIALLY IN SOUTH AFRICA AND AFRICA AS A WHOLE, THAT THEY SUPPORT EACH OTHER & THAT THERE IS STRENGTH BETWEEN WOMEN?
“When women come together amazing things will happen. Understanding in strength is more important. Knowing who you are, because if you know who you are you know how to contribute and you won’t be threatened by another person. We think everyone’s journey will be the same and everyone’s success will be the same. For some people it will come overnight and others will have to work a little harder. Its just about knowing who you are and what role you have in society and what you have to offer. There can only be one you and we have to compliment each other. If you stay in your lane you will always come first.”
AS A WOMAN TAKING ON BUSINESS AND DEALING WITH POWER PLAY AGAINST MEN, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE TO DATE?
“Challenges are everywhere and sometimes I’m happy that there are other opportunities that are there for women in the film industry. There’s funding allocated for women in film but I don’t want gender to limit how far I can go. I don’t want my success to depend that fact that ‘Oh because she is a woman she was given that’. I want to know that what I have to contribute is relevant, important and is worth people’s money and time. As an actor the biggest challenge we have in South Africa is a lack of stars. We don’t have a star rating system and when we have stars we have a profitable industry. In Nigeria they have major Nollywood stars, your Omotola and Genevieves. In Hollywood it’s the same thing, they work on the star system where we’re not afraid to celebrate one person. We push them and mount a campaign to make sure that whatever it is they do they succeed so that that can also inspire others.”
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SAY TO WOMEN IN SOUTH AFRICA GIVEN THE HISTORY THAT WE HAVE?
“I would like to see more women take charge of their lives and take the drivers seat, don’t wait for handovers or left overs. I’d like to see more women writers, women pilots and chefs. I want to see women in every industry; I mean we are more than 50% of the population so we should be more represented. I’d like to see a female president where it won’t be a big debate on what they have done before or if they are ready and capable. There’s never a question if a man is a president or candidate for president but if it’s a woman we have discussions. I think that’s a shame and its embarrassing especially now that we’re approaching 60 years of the women who fought so much. So I hope by 2016 and moving forward when we celebrate 60 years of those women who were brave enough to say we won’t tolerate the way treated, I hope that will come with a female president for the country. That will be a great celebration for the country.”
It is now 19:15pm and we are about to wrap up the afternoon long shoot.Time flew and fun was had. Last outfit changes and final shots concluded the evening of glam. Exhausted but relieved with a stunning and inspired shoot collection, the lights went out and the champagne took centre stage.
AND FINALLY, HOW WAS YOUR PREVIDAR SHOOT?
“The shoot today was great, I was honestly a bit nervous. I’m a fan of Previdar and I’ve seen the treatment and the style and its always so high fashion, so out there. I’m not a model and I don’t know how to spin my leg and tilt my head so I had to channel a bit of Naomi Campbell and just be an actor.”
Interview by Star Khulu. Article by Khangi Dziba. Make-Up supplied by REVLON cosmetics, Make-Up Artist: Vuyo Varoyi. Hair by Lajawi-Hair. Fashion Stylist: Bontlefeela Mogoye. Dressed by Gert-Johan Coetzee. Directed & Photographed by Lawrence Manyapelo.