Most of the time there’s no red carpet. Even for a movie star

 

Terry Pheto has never settled for average. The first movie she starred in won an Oscar. Even with no formal acting qualifications, her ability to connect with and portray a character endeared the actress to local and international audiences, as Tsotsi propelled her from township theatre to global acting acclaim. But Pheto knows she’s capable of making even greater contributions to the world of film. The acting icon is now going behind the scenes to give other young actors and filmmakers the chance of a lifetime.

Pheto could have revelled in her early success, but she hasn’t stopped striving for more. She just won Best Supporting Actress at the National Film Awards UK for her role in A United Kingdom. Walking red carpets, rubbing shoulders with celebrities, winning awards, and scooping a stint on The Bold and the Beautiful add up to a glitzy life. It’s a far cry from the township of Evaton where she grew up. But being an actress is just one way of telling a story and the profession has a lifespan. Wanting to make a lasting commitment to the film industry, Pheto established her own company, Leading Lady Productions with the aim of empowering South African women in film. Its first feature, Ayanda, was the opening film at the Durban International Film Festival in 2015 and was distributed to international audiences.

As fame beckons, it’s easy to turn to Hollywood and never look back. But Pheto is returning to where she began, recognising the abundance of talent in the country and giving performing artists a platform to pursue their passion. Tsotsi was the ultimate story of redemption, telling us the tale of a criminal humanised by his crime. More than 10 years on, Pheto is still contributing to stories of hope over despair, this time behind the camera.