Terry Pheto

Afropolitan has coined the phrase “Ghetto Glam” in celebration of the contrasts (and also the similarities) between the former confines of under-privilege and the rise of the African glitterati! Ghetto Glam explores themes such as: grit versus glamour; upper-class living versus street-smart thinking; traditional values versus forward-thinking attitude; and always knowing where you're going but remembering where you've been. Terry Pheto is our most Ghetto-Glamourista!


What are the most significant similarities (and differences) between living in township and living in Hollywood?

From Beverley Hills High School in the Vaal, to Beverley Hills in California...meet Terry Pheto, the South African actress who has taken the best of the ghetto to enrich her glam life.

I was born and raised in Evaton, a dusty street township in the Vaal. The comparison between Evaton and Hollywood are day and night but strangely my high school name was Beverly Hills High School; so I guess, in a weird way, the stars have always been aligned for a girl from Evaton with Hollywood dreams. 


Have you got ‘street-smarts” Terry?

Any kid who grew up in the township is, in one way or the other, street-smart. We played in the streets with other kids and made the most of everything. Simply from playing a game called ‘Chicago’ (which entailed tins and a tennis ball to Mogusha, which is similar to a jump rope game but made with old pantyhose stockings). We were creative and fearless, and we knew how to look out of cars and take care of the younger ones.

What street-smart knowledge have you been able to bring to a glitzy career path?

I know how to engage with people from all walks of life and I know how to protect myself from undesirable people and situations. But most off all, I know how to make the most of an opportunity.

What was the fanciest moment of your life?

I’ve had a couple! I walked the red carpet at the Oscars, I sat front row at the Paris Fashion Week with Louis Vuitton and then I took The Blue Train to a five-star safari resort in Limpopo! And more recently, I just attended the Glamorous Longines Prix de Diane in Chantilly, in France.

What is the most “street-cred-worthy” moment of your life?

Landing a role in a movie that is set in the world I grew up in, and that movie ended up stealing an Oscar! No more street-cred worthy than that! 


You’re not only talented, but clearly you’re a good businesswoman too. What’s your boardroom strategy?

A clear vision, a strong team and an open mind. 

Who has influenced you most in your life?

My mother. She’s always been a visionary and a hard worker. I still look up to her and ask her for advice, especially with balancing my profession and business. 

Who do you feel you have influenced most in their life?

I hope that I’ve managed to influence anyone who comes from hopeless situations or humble beginnings and for them to know that their dreams are valid too. 


You left Africa for Hollywood, why have you returned to your roots?

I never left my roots. I’ve been blessed to work in Hollywood and the UK, and to be part of international productions that allows me to live my dream as a wanderlust. 

What do you miss most about Africa when you’re abroad?

I miss the food the most! I also always carry a piece of Africa with me when I’m away, whether it’s wearing local designers on the red carpet or keeping my playlist 100% local music. 

How often do you travel to LA?

I’ve been going in and out of the US at least twice a year for the past decade. My US agent and Management are based in Los Angeles so that door is always open for as long as I’m in the film industry. 

Were you able to tell foreigners about your roots and change the way they viewed South Africa?

Yes. When you travel you became an ambassador for your country and it’s always exciting to see how people are so interested in our country. 


How do you retain traditional values while being a dynamic modern-world woman?

Ubuntu and Respect are the two important values with which I was raised. That will never change, regardless of how modern my world may be. 


What are you most honest about it?

I’m most honest about who I am. Not living your truth is the greatest disservice you can do to yourself. 

What has been your biggest splurge?

I have the greatest Longines watch collection ever! 

What is your take on the phrase Ghetto Glam?

Like Beyoncé’s Brown Skin Girl, it’s a secret language few can speak... you have to be part of it to get it!