The 36-year-old award-winning actress says that for years Winfrey has inspired her. “Even today she is one person I look up to,” says Pheto in an interview with the Saturday Star, sister newspaper of Pretoria News Weekend.
“She is a symbol of hope and excellence for hard-working women. She gave black women permission to dream and work hard, and not apologise for that. A young girl who came from humble beginnings can relate to her.”
So, it’s hardly a surprise that Pheto was thrilled to learn she had been nominated alongside the global powerhouse at this year’s prestigious Black Reel Awards.
Pheto is nominated in the same category as Winfrey and actresses Sanaa Lathan, Loretta Devine and Nia Long for Outstanding Actress in TV Movie/Limited Series.
A delighted Pheto was nominated at the upcoming 4th annual IARA Awards in the categories of Best Actress 2017, Best International Actress 2017 for her role in A United Kingdom, and Best Actress (TV or Drama 2017) for her role in the BET Nelson Mandela series.
Other nominees in the category include Hollywood actresses Sanaa Lathan, Loretta Devine and Nia Long for Outstanding Actress in TV Movie/Limited Series.
We asked Pheto about her life as an actress in the fast lane:
How does it feel to be nominated alongside a global powerhouse like Oprah Winfrey?
“It’s an absolute honour! I’m always looking for inspiring roles to play. It’s always an honour to be recognised with role models.”
How do you handle the expectations that come with being Terry Pheto?
“It depends on the expectation. I only have personal expectations. I don’t know what the world expects of me.
“I always try to be the best I can be. Growth is my only expectation. You are your own competition. It’s easy to lose yourself living up to the world’s expectations. I don’t really think about what the world thinks. Doing so will shift your focus.”
Describe your achievements in the past few years in one sentence?
“It’s been a beautiful roller coaster.”
Who is the most inspirational person you’ve ever met and why?
“Nelson Mandela. I met him in 2006 after Tsotsi won an Oscar. It was an incredible day to see this man who has been through so much. He was telling stories and sharing memories about his youth. His life has been a beautiful message to the world.”
If you could invite three powerful women to lunch, who would they be?
“Oprah Winfrey, my mom and Dr Judy Dlamini.”
You’ve played a number of great roles in your acting career. Which has been your favourite?
“Hard to pick. I’d say the role that has been the most incredible was Winnie Mandela. It was the most challenging and also scary. I learnt so much about her and myself. I always pick roles to learn from.”
How do you go about choosing the roles you play?
“I always look for strong women with strong characters that aren’t afraid to be vulnerable - the kind of characters that inspire people and inspire me, even if I don’t agree with them. I like playing characters that scare me a bit.”
You grew up in the Vaal. How often do you visit your hometown?
“I go home as often as I can. I’m fortunate that it is not a long drive. I miss my family, nephews and people that love me unconditionally. I miss my childhood and growing up with my cousins. One thing I look forward to when going home is seeing my family.”
What’s been your lowest, and highest, points in your career?
“All my highs and lows have been bittersweet. It’s not easy to lose a loved one in the middle of your highest achievement (A United Kingdom).
“It’s not easy to show up for work then go home and fall apart, but we all have highs and lows
But we’re still standing”