Terry Pheto has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, and is making waves locally and internationally. 

Terry first launched her career with her role as Miriam in the 2005 Oscar-winning film, Tsotsi. Since then she’s starred in a number of other films such as Catch a Fire, Mafrika and Goodbye Bafana, and has appeared in numerous TV series, among them Justice for All, Zone 14, Hopeville and The Bold and the Beautiful.

In September last year the Vaal-born actress, entrepreneur and producer won two Best Actress awards at the International Achievement Recognition Awards (IARAs) in London – for playing Winnie Mandela in Madiba and for her role as Naledi Khama in A United Kingdom. She also walked away with the Best Supporting Actress award at the UK National Film Awards.

Hers is not a story of overnight success. It has taken more than a decade of commitment, hard work and discipline to get where she is, and she believes that her successes in 2017 are a testimony to everything she’s done before. ‘It didn’t just end with Tsotsi,’ she says. ‘The movie showed me the opportunities and the many doors that are waiting for me to open.’ She believes that the universe was showing her the infinite possibilities that life has to offer.

As she posed for pictures with her award in hand, few could have guessed at the personal heartbreak she was experiencing. Behind the glamour was the pain of losing her father. Terry says this is nothing new. ‘This has always been my experience’ she says. ‘When something big happens in my career, something else in my private life goes wrong.’ At the peak of her success with her breakthrough role in Tsotsi, she was dealing with the loss of her little brother. ‘I was celebrating at the Oscars but mourning his death,’ she says. However, she has no time for self-pity. ‘I know everything happens for a reason,’ she smiles. ‘You can never be given too much to handle. God always has a plan.’

"I know everything happens for a reason. You can never be given too much to handle. God always has a plan."

"I was never poor; I was born into a poor family but I knew something special was inside me."

‘We honestly didn’t have much growing up,’ she says. ‘The early years of my childhood were tough. We lived in a squatter camp but life got better eventually. I always say that I was never poor; I was born into a poor family but I knew something special was inside me. I was going to make a success of my life. I just had to work hard.’


  • Cooking with my family. My mom is an amazing cook and whenever we’re together I make sure she cooks so I can get some tips. 
  • Going to church together as a family is my fondest childhood memory. I come from a religious family and enjoyed visiting different churches whenever I’d visit relatives.
  • South Africans, their diversity and spirit of Ubuntu are what I love most about SA.
  • When I’m out of the country I miss the little things – the weather and of course the food! 
  • I love makip-kip (coloured popcorn) and All Gold tomato sauce. Nothing compares.

Terry’s mother wanted her to become a teacher, but she knew she was destined for the stage. ‘I am grateful she eventually recognised my passion,’ she smiles, ‘because acting was always my dream.’

She still finds the time, however, to exercise her entrepreneurial skills. Her latest business venture, co-founded with her best friend, actress Mampho Brescia, is Let’s Learn Toys, an online store that sells educational toys.‘Mampho is the person I spend the most time with,’ says Terry, ‘and I am her kids’ godmother, so the partnership made sense.’ She adds that she also wanted to provide others with the tools she never had as a child. ‘I know how it feels to not have much. I am a product of that. I want to help kids develop,’ she says. Terry also has a production company, Leading Lady Productions, and she’s playing the lead in an upcoming film shot in the UK by another production company.

‘I plan to grow as an artist and entrepreneur,’ she says. ‘I want 2018 to be a year of reflection. I also want to grow the seeds I planted.’ Judging by her successes to date, the possibilities are endless.


It is important to have someone in your life with more life experience, who can answer your questions and guide you. We all need teachers. You should never stop learning.

You need a clear vision of what you want. Even if you can’t articulate it well, a clear vision will help you focus. Sometimes people don’t achieve much because there is no destination. You need to direct yourself there.

I want to do the things I love. I want to break the cycle of poverty in my family. Money changes lives; I know what it can do. I work hard because I want it. Don’t let money threaten you or it will control you.

CELEB PROFILE: TERRY PHETO CELEB PROFILE: TERRY PHETO Reviewed by Zandile Xabendlini on March 14, 2018 Rating: 5
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