Ladies taking the lead

2014-07-20 15:01

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‘I changed my hair, now I have to introduce myself to everyone,” smiled Terry Pheto as she extended a hand in greeting, looking gorgeous in her new look cream print dress and high leather boots.

Pheto was greeting guests in a room of opulent beige leather couches and buffets of food in the Maharani Hotel on the Durban beachfront.

The Tsotsi star was launching the Leading Lady Lounge at the Durban International Film Festival, welcoming as her guests first lady Thobeka Madiba-Zuma and rising young film star-to-be Fulu Mugovhani.

“Tsotsi was my first film and it exposed me to international media and film festivals. I noticed a gap in South Africa. There’s no space where talent and brains can intersect, network and exchange ideas.

So her lounge – designed to push the agenda of women in the film industry – was hatched by Pheto’s company Leading Lady, sponsored by the eThekwini Municipality and endorsed by the first lady.

“I hope we can also groom young women to see themselves as leading ladies. We are the stars of the films and we sell the movies. Our voices need to be heard.”

She used the opportunity to announce a shift in her career. Pheto is set to co-produce her first film, along with veteran Robbie Thorpe.

It’s called Ayanda and the Mechanic and will be directed by Sara Blecher, who was behind the successful Otello Burning.

Pheto was discovered by casting uber-agent Moonyeenn Lee and plucked from virtual obscurity.

Now she wants to do the same for young actresses.

“When Tsotsi happened there was no one for me when I needed support and grooming.”

For her part, 24-year-old Mugovhani was overwhelmed by all the attention.

The Scandal supporting actress told us that “it’s only starting to sink in now … I packed jeans and a leather jacket and headed to Durban. When I got here I realised I needed to urgently go out and buy an outfit.”

The engaging young star-in-the-making said she was delighted to be starring in a film written, directed and produced by women. Ayanda is a mechanic in Yeoville and the romantic comedy has a strong pan-African flavour in the form of a Nigerian love interest.

“I grew up in Venda and went to a maths and science school. I never imagined I would find myself here,” said Mugovhani, as police arrived to sweep the room for bombs ahead of the arrival of the first lady. She arrived several hours late wearing a knee-length black skirt, a Nelson Mandela Day T-shirt with a chunky gold necklace and stunning gold high heels that revealed just one glittery gold toenail.

Madiba-Zuma chatted to Pheto, then met with a group of young women from the Ekhaya Multicultural Centre’s theatre group.

She said she was delighted to be surrounded by their energy and enthusiasm as her schedule is exhausting.

The first lady spoke with the youngsters about the need to tackle diverse careers, such as in the film industry, and not just accept becoming teachers or nurses.

When she sat down with City Press, though, she laughed when asked if she wanted to be a movie star when she was growing up.

“No, not especially,” said Madiba-Zuma. “I was more likely to be a doctor. When we played I was always the one saving people. My mother always said I was going to turn out to be a doctor or a nurse.”

She referred frequently to Mandela, having spent the day on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast visiting child-headed households, bringing support and food to those in most need.

Turning the conversation to lighter matters, City Press asked Madiba-Zuma how she had managed to lose so much weight recently.

“It was a life-changing decision I took to start investing in my health and add years to my life by watching what I eat. It was healthy eating. I never tried any of those crash diets.”

She said the change was in line with her TMZ Foundation that focuses on women’s health. Good eating, she says, strengthens immunity.

Asked if her new diet had impacted on the President’s weight, she laughed again.

“I ensure that he eats healthily. I am happy with his weight. And actually he’s always been mindful of what he eats. He likes vegetables and isn’t into over processed food. He likes his traditional dishes and homegrown chickens. In fact the whole family is like that, even the children.”

We couldn’t resist asking her where she found the gold shoes. With another big laugh, she said. “Honestly I don’t know what brand they are. I don’t really worry about brands as long as something is comfortable and looks good.”

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