Glamour (South Africa)
Businesswoman, actress and mother Connie Ferguson opens up about everything: body insecurities, mental health, career, family life and fitness.
The businesswoman, actress and mother gets candid
Iusually check my Instagram app first thing in the morning, and businesswoman and filmmaker Connie Ferguson’s workout and dance videos are regulars on my feed. Often featuring her daughter Alicia or her personal trainer, the videos are light-hearted and playful. I enjoy seeing this side of Connie: a fitness enthusiast and mother trying to choreograph the perfect TikTok dance with Alicia.
The videos also showcase a certain realness far removed from the Connie I’ve seen on TV. Entering our lives as Karabo Moroka in South Africa’s most popular soap opera Generations, in 1994, Connie, was an elegant lead actress, who dressed immaculately and exuded power. The soap was a game-changer for local TV and introduced us to many entertainers who, like Connie, have remained household names to this day.
“Generations was first commissioned as a 52-episode series, broadcast once a week for a year. At the time, this was huge because we were used to shorter contracts of 13 episodes per series, 26 at the most,” she says. “To be cast in a lead role on a series that was a first for black local television was equally huge. But even then, no one could’ve anticipated how legendary it’d become. I would be with the show for the next 16 years.
“My life changed in more ways than one. Back then, roles were few and far between, so to make ends meet as a freelancer, I had multiple jobs: a presenter, an actress on shorter projects, a researcher and production assistant on a few shows, and occasionally a translator. Generations brought stability to my life. At last, I had a guaranteed salary, and I was able to plan my life accordingly. For the first time, I qualified for a bond and could buy my first car. I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity Mfundi Vundla and the Starks gave me and how the show was instrumental in building the Connie brand.”
Watching Connie in front of the camera while she poses for this story is something else. She’s comfortable, graceful and knows how to work her angles. But, she admits, this wasn’t always the case.
“As a teenager, I was extremely shy and quiet, afraid I’d say the wrong thing. I expressed myself better with a pen and paper because I preferred writing down my feelings to vocalising them.
“I was a tall, skinny child, while my friends who were the same age had curves. I never felt beautiful”
“I was introverted and only came alive when I was performing or doing sports. In primary school and high school, I was part of a traditional dance group and then part of a group that idolised Michael Jackson. We all wore similar jackets to the one he wore in ‘Thriller’ and imitated his moves – those were fun times!”
Connie grew up in a small town called Lobatse in Botswana, where career opportunities were limited.
“Becoming a teacher or nurse was considered a big achievement, but you’d only become a doctor or a lawyer if you were one of the elite few. Anything to do with the arts wasn’t an option at all. I modelled as a hobby and had aspirations of being a fashion designer,” she says.
Connie wasn’t always this comfortable with her body, though her parents supported and believed in her. “I was a tall, skinny child, while my friends who were the same age had breasts and curves. My arms were unusually long and my collar bone was pronounced, which meant I was teased a lot,” she says. “This fed my insecurities when I was growing up. I never felt beautiful, and was more comfortable being a tomboy. My parents always told me I was beautiful, but they seemed to believe it more than me.”
Did being a mother to two daughters, Lesedi and Alicia, change her in any way?
“I was fascinated by how my body changed during my first pregnancy with Lesedi. I was 22, which is young. It was an easy pregnancy and I carried on working. My body snapped back a week after she was born, so getting back into shape was no trouble at all. With Alicia, on the other hand, it was a completely different story. I was 32, and she was a lot bigger than Lesedi. The snapback wasn’t as easy. I trained as soon as I was well enough, but postpartum depression hit me hard.
“My mother recognised it before I did. I was irritated by the smallest of things, and cried over anything and everything. I’m so grateful she was there because she never once made me feel bad for what I was going through, and my husband Shona was my rock.
“Having had these experiences, I respect and honour my body because I know what it’s capable of. My mind can overcome matter. I’m still a work in progress – and always will be.”
As someone who suffers from chronic depression, exercise is an outlet for Connie that helps her improve her mental health and wellbeing.
“I usually get depressed during winter, but this is the first time in two years that I haven’t been on antidepressants, and it’s mainly due to exercise. For me, it’s more than physical: it’s mental and emotional. It gives me that feelgood feeling. A bonus is that it makes you look good.
“I believe that when you’re depressed, you don’t even think you are. Even when I struggled with it when I was younger, I didn’t know that I was depressed.
“I would blame other circumstances for how I was feeling, such as a loss in the family.
“It was only later that I found out my hormones were unbalanced, which had also contributed to my depression. I suffer from what’s known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). A lot of people don’t even know about this condition, which manifests as episodes of suffering during certain times of the year. It’s a lot of things, but exercise has helped me to manage it. I’ve never been happier in my life.”
As business partners, Connie and Shona are a powerhouse. They co-own Ferguson Films, which produces popular TV dramas, such as The Queen and The Throne.
She counts working with her husband as a blessing.
“We get each other, and we share the same dreams and goals. I honestly believe we’re better as a duo than we are on our own. Shona’s my biggest cheerleader, as I’m his. Even though we’re dynamite as a couple, he still encourages me to pursue my other passions: beauty and fashion. He’s my best friend, and he has my back no matter what.”
Connie on self love
Understand your state of mind, emotional state and your body. Self-love is the best love. Taking time for yourself isn’t selfish; it’s necessary. I believe that when you’re happy with yourself, you can give the best of yourself to the people around you.
Connie on style
My style is simple and classic. I love the Cinnel Store in Sandton as I can walk in there and find something that fits. My absolute favourite local designers are Biji, gertJohan Coetzee, David Tlale and Orapeleng Modutle.
fun faCts about Connie
1 I’m the biggest clown and don’t take myself seriously at all.
2 My right toe doesn’t bend at the joint. I’m not sure if I hurt it when I was younger, or if I was just born this way.
3 My great grandfather was from Holland, and my great grandmother was Saint Helena.
“Taking time for yourself isn’t selfish; it’s necessary”