Terry & Mam­pho


True Love - - Front Page - By PHILA TYEKANA Pho­to­graphs NICK BOUL­TON

It all un­folds at the so­phis­ti­cated Fo­toZA Gallery in Rose­bank, one of Joburg’s trendy rooftop hotspots, as award-win­ning ac­tresses, besties and now en­trepreneurs Terry Pheto and Mam­pho Bres­cia launch their in­no­va­tive busi­ness ven­ture, Let’s Learn Toys. As with all things Terry and Mam­pho, the event is classy and el­e­gant. Gaut­eng’s Ed­u­ca­tion MEC Panyaza Le­sufi is among the es­teemed guests, as are busi­ness­woman Johanna Mukoki, cast­ing direc­tor Moony­eenn Lee and many more A-lis­ters. The room is packed with cam­era crews from lead­ing life­style and en­ter­tain­ment shows; they’re here to cover the launch and help spread the word about this new ven­ture.

A decade of friend­ship be­tween the two ac­tresses has led to this beau­ti­ful cel­e­bra­tion. Their per­sua­sive skills are ev­i­dent as they con­vince in­flu­en­tial peo­ple to sup­port their kid­dies’ toy range. We’re in awe. Theirs is a unique take on en­trepreneur­ship in a world full of celebs launch­ing books, re­al­ity shows and fash­ion la­bels. Terry and Mam­pho have found a niche mar­ket based on their mu­tual need to em­power and up­lift chil­dren through the medium of ed­u­ca­tional play. The toys are avail­able in a wide va­ri­ety from an online store, let­slearn­toys.co.za. Some 2 000 toys have been sourced both lo­cally and abroad, with some of these pieces de­signed ex­clu­sively for Let’s Learn Toys. The com­pany caters to chil­dren from the age of 12 months to 18 years.

“Let’s Learn Toys is a pas­sion pro­ject; it’s some­thing that Mam­pho and I al­ways wanted to do,” says Terry. “We didn’t al­ways plan to start with toys, but we’ve al­ways wanted to start a busi­ness. We’re both very am­bi­tious and want the best for our chil­dren.”

Mam­pho adds: “We didn’t grow up with ed­u­ca­tional toys. That’s why they’re so nec­es­sary. Plus, my four-year-old daugh­ter, Rainn, is an­other mo­ti­va­tion for me. I had the op­por­tu­nity to study all over the world, and I un­der­stand com­pe­ti­tion. I want my daugh­ter to think be­yond the or­di­nary and to know that she can be any­where on this planet and have the con­fi­dence and abil­ity to com­pete. I started an ed­u­ca­tion fund for her even be­fore I found a part­ner be­cause I want her to at­tend an Ivy League univer­sity of her choice without a lack of fi­nances stop­ping us. I paid part of my univer­sity fees and I never want that for my child.”

The Isi­baya ac­tress says the idea for Let’s Learn Toys was born af­ter she and Terry asked each other what any other par­ent wanted to do when spend­ing time with their chil­dren. “Nav­i­gat­ing moth­er­hood, mar­riage and a ca­reer is not easy at all,” re­veals Mam­pho, “We put so much pres­sure on our­selves, that’s why it’s al­ways an in­ter­nal con­flict to have an­other child. I’ve just created an­other baby through Let’s Learn Toys, and I want to nur­ture it and make sure that it flourishes. It’s a tough bal­ance but my hus­band is amaz­ing. He’s a very hand­son fa­ther.” Af­ter strug­gling with her hus­band of 12 years to have chil­dren for more than five years, the cou­ple de­cided to adopt their South African-born daugh­ter Rainn. Mam­pho doesn’t know if they’ll adopt again but her daugh­ter brings her much joy and she’d love for her to have a sib­ling. “I named her Rainn be­cause she’s ex­actly like the rain; she’s right as rain. She came af­ter a drought. It was a sal­va­tion when she came. Peo­ple al­ways say we did a great thing by adopt­ing but no, she did a great thing by choos­ing us.”

Mam­pho says wear­ing many hats as mom, wife, ac­tress and now busi­ness­woman, comes at a huge sac­ri­fice. “I’m very self-ab­sorbed, just like most ac­tors. We live in our own world. For me, moth­er­hood is about cre­at­ing small rit­u­als, like when I come off set I take off my make-up and I’m back home as Mam­pho. The best thing about my fam­ily is that they aren’t both­ered by fame. They know the real me and that’s who they care about. As cou­ples, we all fall into the trap of liv­ing past each other be­cause we’re so busy. It’s easy to for­get about the ro­mance in a mar­riage. But my hus­band – who’s so lov­ing and sup­port­ive – makes it easy.”

Although she isn’t a mom, for Terry, Let’s Learn Toys is an op­por­tu­nity for her to give her neph­ews – aged three, seven and 13 – the tools she never had while grow­ing up. “With ev­ery­thing I do, I have them in mind. They’ve in­spired me so much, and I want to give them the op­por­tu­ni­ties I never had, like at­tend­ing great schools. I travel a lot be­cause of work, so when I come back home, I bring gifts. But what kind of presents are they? It can’t al­ways be just guns and dolls.”

The pair re­veal that their range of toys en­com­passes role-play­ing pieces. If your child wants to be a doc­tor or an en­gi­neer, for in­stance, there are toys to help them vi­su­alise and make that dream a re­al­ity. There’s also a cor­po­rate so­cial in­vest­ment com­po­nent to Let’s Learn Toys: some pieces will be do­nated to pre-school learn­ers in dis­ad­van­taged ar­eas.

And they are af­ford­able too. Ex­pect to fork out from as lit­tle as R29 for a toy. For now, the toys are avail­able in South Africa



only, but Terry and Mam­pho plan to ex­pand the busi­ness abroad. “We want to use this as a plat­form to build an em­pire and cre­ate a legacy that will out­live us,” says Terry.

En­trepreneur­ship is never easy. The pair had to roll up their sleeves and do a lot of ground­work. “We part­nered with peo­ple who knew more about the toy busi­ness than us, and who’d been op­er­at­ing in this in­dus­try for a while. They gave us dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives and pointed us in the right di­rec­tion. We had to do a lot, from meet­ing with dif­fer­ent sup­pli­ers, to or­gan­is­ing ship­ments, mon­i­tor­ing the ex­change rate and a whole lot more,” ex­plains Mam­pho.

Both ac­tresses have done well for them­selves and have faith that their new pro­ject will also be a suc­cess. We first met Terry, whose real name is Moitheri, when she played the lead role of Miriam in the Os­car-win­ning film, Tsotsi , in 2005. It served as a launch-pad for her stel­lar ca­reer and Terry has gone on to re­alise huge suc­cesses. In 2011, she landed the role of heart sur­geon Dr Malaika Maponya on the pop­u­lar US soapie, The Bold and the Beau­ti­ful. This year saw her win the Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tress prize at the UK Na­tional Film Awards in Lon­don for her role as Naledi Khama in the movie, A United King­dom. It tells the story of Botswana’s King Seretse Khama’s con­tro­ver­sial mar­riage to a white Bri­tish woman. The role also earned her a Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tress nom­i­na­tion at the Bri­tish In­de­pen­dent Film Awards. Soon af­ter that, Terry caught the at­ten­tion of this year’s Amer­i­can Black Reel Awards for Tele­vi­sion (BRAT), re­ceiv­ing a nod in the Out­stand­ing Ac­tress cat­e­gory along­side Oprah Win­frey, Nia Long, Sanaa Lathan and Loretta Devine for her impressive role as Win­nie Man­dela in the Amer­i­can mini-series Madiba, in which she starred along­side Lau­rence Fish­burne.

This Septem­ber, she jet­ted off to Lon­don for the fourth an­nual In­ter­na­tional Achieve­ment Recog­ni­tion Awards. She gar­nered the most nom­i­na­tions, for her roles in Win­nie and A United King­dom. Terry took home two awards: for Best Ac­tress in Film, as well as Best Ac­tress in TV/Drama. “I al­ways doubt my­self and the work that I put out there,” she says. “For these two projects – A United King­dom and Madiba – I trusted my­self more for the first time. I was will­ing to take risks and let go of all my in­se­cu­ri­ties. It’s great that the risks are pay­ing off. I don’t think it’s an ac­ci­dent that these nom­i­na­tions and awards are hap­pen­ing now; the work that I’ve been put­ting in for the past 13 years in the act­ing in­dus­try is fi­nally pay­ing off.”

There’s so much more that Terry has done. She has ap­peared in the movies Catch a Fire, Good­bye Bafana, the 2012 film How to Steal 2 Mil­lion – for which she won Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tress at the Africa Movie Academy Awards – and Man­dela: Long Walk to Freedom, in which she starred along­side Idris Elba as Eve­lyn, Madiba’s first wife.

As fate would have it, Terry’s bestie Mam­pho also au­di­tioned for the role of Eve­lyn. “We don’t com­pete; when we au­di­tion for roles, ei­ther one of us has to get it,” says Mam­pho. “For Eve­lyn, we read the script and prepped to­gether, en­cour­ag­ing each other to do our best.”

That’s the kind of friend­ship the two have. They’re truly sup­port­ive of each other. “You can’t be friends with some­one who com­petes with you or wants your life,” adds Terry. “That’s a recipe for dis­as­ter. In the 10 years that we’ve been besties, I’ve never felt in­se­cure of my suc­cess. She’s al­ways the first person to con­grat­u­late me when I do well. She prays with and for me, and vice versa. In an in­dus­try like ours where we’re al­ways pit­ted against each other, it’s not the case with me and Mam­pho.”

Mam­pho is un­doubt­edly one of South Africa’s most recog­nised ac­tresses, pop­u­larly known as the schem­ing and ma­nip­u­la­tive Iris Zungu on Mzansi Magic’s Isi­baya. She’s been play­ing the vil­lain­ous char­ac­ter with ease for four years now. She got the role without re­ally au­di­tion­ing. Mam­pho had just moved back to South Africa from the US in 2012, and De­siree Mark­graaff – who heads up The Bomb Shel­ter, the pro­duc­tion house that pro­duces Isi­baya – told her about the new show, adding that she’d be per­fect as Iris. De­siree was right. There’s a cool vibe that Iris brings to the world of on­screen vil­lains. She seems un­af­fected by all the drama that hap­pens in her life and, as a re­sult, view­ers have a love-hate re­la­tion­ship with the char­ac­ter. “A vil­lain is al­ways fun be­cause you get to be a bad­die without any con­se­quences. I re­ally en­joy Iris; she talks without con­sid­er­ing other peo­ple’s feel­ings. She’s very straight­for­ward and says things that we wouldn’t nat­u­rally say. With the suc­cess of Isi­baya the char­ac­ter cat­a­pulted me into a well-known ac­tress. I’ve been an ac­tress for many years, but with the rise of so­cial media and the state of the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try now, Iris and the soapie put me into the realm of celebri­ty­dom,” says Mam­pho about her pop­u­lar char­ac­ter. Dur­ing her three year stay in Los Angeles – a de­ci­sion Mam­pho made af­ter star­ring in the


2009 Os­car-nom­i­nated movie Dis­trict 9, the ac­tress met with many agents, and au­di­tioned for dif­fer­ent roles. She even au­di­tioned for

Scan­dal – known in Mzansi as The Fixer – but in the end, the show’s direc­tors wanted a known Amer­i­can ac­tress, hence Kerry Washington was cho­sen. While abroad, an am­bi­tious Mam­pho also met with film­mak­ers, in­clud­ing Os­car­win­ning direc­tor Phillip Noyce, and was a part of a num­ber of movie/TV series pi­lots.

Hol­ly­wood is a dif­fer­ent beast, she says. “You com­pete with many tal­ented ac­tors that side. It’s tough com­pe­ti­tion and there aren’t that many roles for black women. I was for­tu­nate enough to find an agent and man­ager re­ally fast through au­di­tions and work­shops. It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence; I had the time of my life! I met ev­ery­one on the cast of the pop­u­lar mini-series

Re­venge, for which I’d shot a pi­lot. I min­gled with the likes of Sean Penn and the cast of the movie Black Swan. I built re­la­tion­ships with direc­tors, who then in­tro­duced me to many other in­flu­en­tial peo­ple.”

But in 2012, Mam­pho had to leave it all be­hind. She’d reached a point in her life where she wanted a child. Her hus­band had been com­mut­ing be­tween SA and LA; his busi­ness in the travel in­dus­try is here in the coun­try. “I chose love and mar­riage, and I’m glad I did it. It’s all great to have a flour­ish­ing ca­reer but sad to have no one to en­joy it with.”

Raised by strict par­ents who em­pha­sised the im­por­tance of aca­demics be­fore act­ing, Mam­pho jug­gled both while still a learner, and con­tin­ued to au­di­tion for plays while study­ing for a po­lit­i­cal sciences de­gree at Wits Univer­sity. In 1998 she pre­sented a show called Re­al­ity Check. Since then, she’s ap­peared on

Gen­er­a­tions, Isidingo, Home Af­fairs and MNet’s Jacob’s Cross. Last year she also ap­peared on SABC 1’s Mfolozi Street. She has also pre­sented DStv’s The Home Chan­nel. Ma­jor film roles in­clude her star­ring in 2015’s The Jakes are

Miss­ing. Did you know that Mam­pho is flu­ent not only in SeSotho and isiZulu, but also in Ja­panese? She re­ceived a schol­ar­ship to study in Tokyo, in Ja­pan, af­ter com­plet­ing her de­gree.

Of her fu­ture plans, the ac­tress says: “My life is so full right now. I have to be care­ful not to clut­ter it. I’m a mom and our busi­ness ven­ture is new, and I want to han­dle it with care. I’m also working with My Ital­ian Link, which pro­motes Ital­ian lux­ury brands. It’s ex­cit­ing and makes sense to me. I was ap­proached by the com­pany be­cause they thought I was the per­fect can­di­date to link Africa and Italy. I’m mar­ried to an Ital­ian man, and so I un­der­stand the lan­guage. I’ve done quite a few things in the in­dus­try, it’s just that I never had as­pi­ra­tions to be an it girl or chased the ca­reer for fame. It was for the love of the arts.”

Terry chips in: “My friend is a bril­liant ac­tress. I love her as Iris. She’s the modern

‘um­fazi wephepha’ and I love how Isi­baya has changed her. She comes from a dif­fer­ent world and the cul­tural as­pect of the show gives her more knowl­edge of that. I be­lieve in her so much. Her act­ing is one of the most at­trac­tive things about her. She ex­cels in ev­ery­thing she does, be it act­ing or speak­ing for­eign lan­guages.”

But, the suc­cess the friends have hasn’t come without chal­lenges. For Terry it’s re­jec­tions. “I went to more than 20 au­di­tions abroad and I didn’t book any of the jobs. It’s so easy to be dis­cour­aged. It’s tough be­cause you’re hun­gry and you want to work. Luck­ily, the good thing about awards is that they open more doors. Af­ter win­ning my award in the UK ear­lier this year, I was ap­proached by a Lon­don-based direc­tor for a role in a film called Faces. I ac­knowl­edge that I’m fly­ing the SA flag high and I have to take a mo­ment and be grate­ful. I also have to pat my­self on the back and say ‘well done!’. There’s a lot of work be­hind the well-mean­ing head­lines but noth­ing hap­pens overnight.”

For the Soweto-born Mam­pho, the chal­lenge is al­ways be­ing told she doesn’t look or sound South African. “I don’t get where the mis­con­cep­tion comes from. In fact it’s stopped both­er­ing me. I can’t change how I look but I can act.”

So, how did the two be­come such close friends? It seems they’re al­ways to­gether on the red car­pet, at events and even when in­doors. “Terry and I are in­ter­twined. That’s why we’re able to work to­gether and come up with these ideas, which we ex­pand on and turn into a busi­ness. Terry is my daugh­ter’s god­mother, and my hus­band knows that Terry is the ‘sis­ter wife’,” says Mam­pho. “Our part­ners have no choice but to ac­cept the friend­ship!” Asked if they have other friends, Terry says: “I trust the love I have for Mam­pho. I’m not threat­ened when she’s with other friends. We have other peo­ple in our lives too.” The pair met on the set of Jacob’s Cross. Mam­pho played Zanele and Terry played her neme­sis, Mbali. “It was love at first sight,” says Terry, laugh­ing. “We knew of each other but had never met be­fore. She asked me what my next

pro­ject was and I told her I wanted to be a Bond girl. It turns out that she had the same 007-girl as­pi­ra­tions. We hugged and lived hap­pily ever af­ter! Although we’re so dif­fer­ent and come from dif­fer­ent back­grounds – I’m from the Vaal – we have so much in com­mon and love each other very much.”

Over the years, some peo­ple have tried to break up the two, but Terry and Mam­pho see through the neg­a­tiv­ity. “We don’t have a big circle of friends, and we’re too en­grossed in our friend­ship to no­tice any external chaos or mad­ness. We’re also too fo­cused on our own growth and on be­ing bet­ter as peo­ple that it’s easy to shut out the noise,” says Mam­pho.

In life, as with any­thing else, noth­ing is per­fect. Both Terry and Mam­pho have dealt with the tragic loss of a par­ent. Terry’s fa­ther died from di­a­betes ear­lier this year. Mam­pho was her shoul­der to lean on. In 2013, it was Mam­pho who lost her mother to a heart at­tack. Terry was there for her. “I re­mem­ber she woke me very early in the morn­ing, and said: ‘Buddy, mom has been rushed to hospi­tal. Can you bring socks and other ne­ces­si­ties?’,” says Terry. “I’m so grate­ful that I was able to be there for her. When my dad passed away, I called her first. There are no words to de­scribe that kind of sup­port. Any­one can just show up for you, but some peo­ple are there and it mat­ters to know that you have some­one who has your back – to ask you if you’re okay, if there’s any­thing you need, and so forth. Mam­pho un­der­stands that I’m the el­dest at home and ev­ery­one is look­ing to me to make things hap­pen.”

Both get emo­tional at this point. Mam­pho says: “I didn’t have a cul­tural up­bring­ing. I’d never buried any­one be­fore my mom passed away. I had no idea what hap­pens, so I was a mess. Terry was there to help and guide me through­out the cer­e­mony. You need a friend who’s there for you even at your low­est point and shines with you dur­ing the best of times.”

Peo­ple bring dif­fer­ent traits to ev­ery re­la­tion­ship. For Mam­pho and Terry, it’s hu­mour. “Terry’s fun­nier – she has an in­cred­i­ble sense of hu­mour and I think be­cause she looks so stoic all the time, the things that come out of her mouth are un­ex­pected and smart and witty. I’m al­ways laugh­ing,” says Mam­pho.

“I love how she al­ways has a plan. I’m freespir­ited, but Terry al­ways has a plan in terms of what needs to be done. I love that kind of strat­egy for our so­cial life; it’s per­fect now that we want to go into busi­ness be­cause she has that fore­sight. I’m a ‘live in the mo­ment’ type of person. Terry gets me and she knows when to say, ‘stop’.” Terry says: “We bal­ance each other per­fectly. She brings out the fun in me and I think my se­ri­ous­ness helps – or we’d be in lots of trou­ble! In Mam­pho I have a part­ner, soul­mate, best friend and sis­ter. Over the years, we’ve grown and learnt so much from each other and fallen in love. We also fight a lot and don’t agree on ev­ery­thing.” Mam­pho is quick to agree: “We fight about the sil­li­est things; like why she’s away for so long.” But be­cause the pair is so close, Mam­pho says she misses Terry ter­ri­bly when she has to travel for work. “I feel like I’ve lost an arm and I’m in a bad mood all the time.” Terry has an­other film in the works, fol­low­ing the suc­cess of Ayanda

and the Me­chanic, which was co-pro­duced by her com­pany, Lead­ing Lady Pro­duc­tions. The up­com­ing movie is a short film shot in the US ti­tled The

Lock­smith, also pro­duced by her. “I don’t star in it. I just pro­duced and ex­ec­u­tive pro­duced it. We’re de­cid­ing if we’ll go to fes­ti­vals with it or pitch it to stu­dios as a pi­lot.” As for star­ring in a lo­cal series or film, the ac­tress, who has both a lo­cal and an in­ter­na­tional agent, says she’s very busy, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t read­ing scripts. Mam­pho will star in an in­ter­na­tional mini-series, which she can’t di­vulge much about. She also wants to branch into dif­fer­ent gen­res, and con­tinue to es­tab­lish her­self glob­ally.

For now, the besties are ex­cited about their new ven­ture. “It’s the first of the many things we’ll do. We still have to co-pro­duce to­gether,” says Terry. With Let’s Learn Toys set to be­come a suc­cess, the busi­ness­women will surely be­come the moguls they’re in­tent on be­ing.

Mam­pho: Top and Pants Mar­i­anne Fassler Terry: Top Mar­i­anne Fassler Skirt Zara Ear­rings Pichu­lik

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