In conversation with Steve Harvey - 3 things I learned about the US comedian
Steve Harvey (Photo: Supplied)
Johannesburg – If there's anything I've learned from my time as an entertainment journalist, it's to expect the unexpected.
Here's why I say that – I'm a planner in life. I draw up my questions for big interviews in advance, and then I start playing out how I think the meeting will go in my head.
I usually already have an idea of the angle I'd like to run with, but of course, interviews rarely ever go to plan, and sometimes that's a good thing.
For instance, when I met with Steve Harvey, I expected to chat about him bringing his game show, Family Feud, to the African continent. I thought we'd joke about some of the funny moments he's experienced on the show, and maybe touch on why he decided to forgo his famous moustache for a while, and instead replace it with a full-on beard. Yes, I actually wanted to ask that question. But I didn't, because I quickly realised that there was more to this conversation than just building hype around a television programme.
I have come across a number of interviews that Steve Harvey has taken part in while in South Africa. Journalists and celebs alike have talked about the US comedian with high praise, focusing on things he has said to them, or advice he has given which they found valuable.
And while we did touch on Family Feud coming to SA, Steve also opened up to us about struggles he's faced during his career, lessons he has learned, and his desire to give back to the African continent.
Here are three things I learned about Steve Harvey from that interview:
He wants to make a difference
I heard whispers around the waiting area at the Saxon Hotel. It was after I had just completed my interview. Journalists from other publications had started to stream in, and someone told me they had been asked to question Mr Harvey on his "vision for Africa".
It was something that was important to him, and many reporters had failed to ask him what it was that he was actually doing here, besides just promoting his show. We didn't make that mistake during our session, and even if we had, I have a feeling the comedian would have told us anyway.
There was passion behind his words as he spoke about his desire to build the talent on the African continent. "Instead of coming here, getting my cheque and going home, my real ambition for being here, is to create opportunity – jobs."
Steve says it was important to him to use the "star power" attached to his name to create content "for Africa, with Africans and make it a hit."
"Everything don't have to come from Hollywood, that's crazy. Why can't this be a mecca of entertainment? You have the talent here. You have the people, the voices. You should produce content and get paid on the scale that they do in Hollywood."
The US star is aware of the high unemployment rate in the country, and while he wants to make a difference, is realistic about his goals.
"I'm not going to change 29% unemployment, but what I can change is your mindset. I can affect your mind quicker than I can give you a job," he says, referring to his work as a motivational speaker. We get a taste of it just sitting in the room alongside him – Steve cannot help but pass down advice, weaving in words of encouragement as he answers the questions set before him.
He's a family man
When we stepped into the boardroom that morning to have a chat with Steve Harvey, the last thing I expected was for it to be a family affair. The comedian was surrounded by his sons, and upon leaving, I bumped into his wife, Marjorie, as well.
He speaks about the one lesson he has passed down to his boys – "Do what you say you are going to do".
"It's the number one rule of manhood. If you live your life doing that everybody will respect you," he explains.
Steve also opens up about the precious advice he received from his mother.
"My momma was a Sunday school teacher when I was little. And she taught Sunday school for 40 years before she died. She said a lot of things to me that inspired me, but one thing she told me was you can't build a big house up on the hill and don't show nobody else how to get on the hill."
He knows how to turn failure into fortune
During the interview, Steve speaks candidly about some of the struggles he has faced throughout his career – from living in his car to that Miss Universe mishap.
In case you have no idea what I'm referring to, while hosting the Miss Universe pageant in 2017, Steve announced Miss Colombia as the winner, when in fact, it was Miss Philippines who had taken the crown. He later corrected the error and apologised.
"It was a horrible mistake. It was horrible for my family," Steve tells us, saying that they had received "a lot of death threats".
"I now have 24-hour security at my house. I have armed guards in the front and the back ever since that because the death threats were very real."
While the comedian maintains he was not to blame for the mistake, he still took ownership of it on the night. And as scary as the experience was, he credits that moment for turning him into a "global brand".
"48 hours after I made the mistake, my name had been Googled 4 billion times. I was the most famous person on planet earth for a week."