Steve Harvey on fam­ily, fame & Africa

In an ex­clu­sive chat with DRUM, Steve Harvey talks fam­ily, trac­ing his roots and his favourite lo­cal food

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HE’S one of the fun­ni­est guys on TV so when we meet Steve Harvey we are look­ing for­ward to a few laughs – and he doesn’t dis­ap­point. His eyes twin­kle and his trade­mark mous­tache twitches as he cracks one joke af­ter the next in his boom­ing Amer­i­can ac­cent. e en­ter­tainer, hav­ing re­cently landed a ma­jor deal to bring his pop­u­lar Fam­ily Feud game show to South Africa, is clearly in good spirits. As we sit in his pres­i­den­tial suite in a five-star Jozi ho­tel wait­ing for his wife, Mar­jorie, to join us, there’s some­thing im­por­tant he needs to tell us be­fore she ar­rives. “Listen when she comes out, do what­ever she says,” Steve (62) tells us. “This is her shoot and I’m just here to do what she tells me.” From the look on his face it’s clear he’s only half-jok­ing. He may be the house­hold name, the per­son every­one makes a fuss over, but the way he sees it she is the real star. In in­ter­views he’s cred­ited Mar­jorie (54), his third wife, with mak­ing him a “bet­ter man”.

His face lights up as she fi­nally en­ters the room, dolled up in a ma­roon-and-white Yves Saint Lau­rent dress, and joins him on the couch.

They are both nat­u­rals in front of the cam­era and a few clicks is all it takes for our pho­tog­ra­pher to get his shots.

IT’S not their first time on South African soil. Over the years the cou­ple have spent hol­i­days in Jo­han­nes­burg, Dur­ban and Cape Town. Now with Steve hav­ing landed the li­cens­ing rights to pro­duce a South African and Ghana­ian ver­sion of the pop­u­lar game show he hosts in Amer­ica, he’s look­ing for­ward to spend­ing even more time here.

The Amer­i­can show, which Steve has hosted since 2010, sees two fam­i­lies com­pet­ing to name the most pop­u­lar re­sponses to gathered sur­vey ques­tions to win cash and prizes.

With spin-offs in 50 coun­tries, South Africa and Ghana are about to get the first two African edi­tions next year, which Steve will host him­self.

“The show will prob­a­bly be a bigger hit here in South Africa and Ghana than in the United States be­cause of the diver­sity of peo­ple,” he pre­dicts.

Be­fore land­ing in SA the cou­ple made a spe­cial pil­grim­age to Ghana. They’d been plan­ning to do the trip for eight years in the hope that it would help Steve trace his roots, so it was a mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion when they ar­rived in the West African coun­try.

His grand­fa­ther was a slave and al­though they have no records of where he was orig­i­nally from, they sus­pect he may have hailed from Ghana.

“It was very emo­tional for us to come on this trip,” Steve says.

“Amer­ica is our home but Africa is our home­land. We are the first generation of peo­ple in our fam­i­lies to re­turn.”

Mar­jorie can’t get over how warmly they were wel­comed by the Ghana­ians.

“We felt right at home. It was like com­ing home but to a place you have never been,” she says.

They were also very ex­cited at the prospect of re­turn­ing to SA.

Mar­jorie re­veals that upon land­ing at OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Joburg, one of the first things she did was hit the restau­rants so she could order her favourite lo­cal del­i­cacy, malva pud­ding.

“That is the best dessert I have had in

my life, “she says. “I even asked for the recipe.” Steve finds it hard to re­sist a steam­ing hot bowl of pap. “In the US it’s al­most like grits, but the African ver­sion is in­cred­i­ble,” he says. “We love it along with favourites such as spinach with peanut sauce and goat meat.”

STEVE is look­ing for­ward to giv­ing back to the con­ti­nent that has fed his soul and of­fered him so much. He was hor­ri­fied to dis­cover that our un­em­ploy­ment rate cur­rently stands at around 29% and hopes that by of­fer­ing jobs to lo­cal pro­duc­tion crews he could do his bit to help rec­tify this grim statis­tic.

Steve only found fame in his early 30s so he knows what it’s like to strug­gle.

“I have been un­em­ployed many times. I’ve been laid-off, fired, went to work and they closed the com­pany.”

At one point things got so bad that he found him­self home­less and was forced to live in his car.

He says he’s liv­ing proof that it’s pos­si­ble to turn around just about any sit­u­a­tion. “If you change your at­ti­tude, you change your alti­tude,” he says.

“Suc­cess is be­tween your ears. We want young Africans to help themselves and to stay mo­ti­vated, and we hope Fam­ily Feud will help cre­ate em­ploy­ment.”

Now an in­ter­na­tional star, Steve says he owes his con­tin­ued suc­cess and stability to Mar­jorie and his seven chil­dren, four bi­o­log­i­cal from his previous mar­riages and three stepchil­dren from his mar­riage to Mar­jorie.

“My wife is the glue that holds our fam­ily,” he says.

“Ev­ery­thing I do is for my fam­ily and my chil­dren. You can have all the money in the world, but with­out a fam­ily, you are lost.”

In ad­di­tion to be­ing a fa­ther and grand­fa­ther, he’s also a co­me­dian, TV show host and ac­tor. How on Earth does he man­age to jug­gle it all?

“You’d be amazed by what you can achieve in 24 hours,” he says.

“I read scrip­tures, I med­i­tate every day. I make time for my fam­ily. I eat right and I take power naps in be­tween work.”

Ba­si­cally, it all comes down to plan­ning. “I care about every minute of my day and spend­ing it wisely.”


ABOVE: Be­fore com­ing to Mzansi, Steve and his wife Mar­jorie vis­ited the Cape Coast Slave Cas­tles in Ghana. BE­LOW: The cou­ple with their kids dur­ing a re­cent fam­ily hol­i­day in Monaco.

ABOVE: Steve on the The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon play­ing Fam­ily Feud – the TV show he is bring­ing to South Africa and Ghana.

‘Ev­ery­thing I do is for my fam­ily’

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