Steve Harvey on his love for Africa: 'America is our home, but Africa is our homeland'
Steve and Marjorie Harvey. (Getty Images)
Cape Town - In an exclusive chat with DRUM, Steve Harvey talks family, tracing his roots and his favourite local food.
Bound to have you on your knees with laughter and begging for more, veteran comedian Steve Harvey recently paid a visit to South Africa as part of a tour to promote one of his popular show’s Family Feud.
Joined by his wife, Marjorie Elaine Harvey, the couple sat down with Drum to discuss Steve having recently landed a major deal to bring his popular Family Feud game show to South Africa.
While for waiting her to join in on the interview, the entertainer wasted no time in giving a disclaimer as to who’s in charge "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. This was not their first time on South African soil. Over the years the couple have spent holidays in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
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 geared 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."
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