Felicia Mabuza-Suttle On Achieving Your Dreams

Felicia Mabuza-Suttle On Achieving Your Dreams


Vital Stats

Loved and hated in equal amounts, nineties television personality Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, is best known for The Felicia Show which aired from 1992 to 2004, and helped to get millions of South Africans talking through the transition from apartheid to democracy.

Today, however, the woman who was told to drop out of high school and rather become a beauty queen is also an international award-winning entrepreneur, speaker, author, and philanthropist.

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Entrepreneur caught up with her on a recent visit to South Africa to find out more about her new book, Live Your Dream, an inspirational read that aims to help propel people to success.

How did you develop a success mind-set?

It’s said that there are four kinds of people in this world: Those who make things happen, those who wait for things to happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. From an early age, I wanted to be someone who makes things happen. To do that means being goal-minded and driven from within.

The most successful people I know visualise where they want to be. When I was a child growing up on the streets of Soweto, my father took us on Sunday drives through Johannesburg.

I was fascinated by the huge mansions in Northcliff and I told my brother and sister I would live there one day. They laughed at me, reminding me that it was impossible for black people to own homes like that in South Africa. But I was determined, and as long as you are able to imagine, you are in the game.

Why is it important to get close to people you admire?

It’s about a kind of ‘knowledge through osmosis’. I developed confidence by getting close to other big dreamers who make things happen, talking to them, and learning what drives them.

The best education is through experience of and exposure to the thoughts and ideas of great people. Talk to them, read their books, listen to what they say.

The opposite applies to cynics, sceptics and critics. Stay away from them, because they will drag you down to their level. They are good at telling you how it can’t be done, and that your dreams are impossible to achieve.

Just do what you want, the way you want to do it. I encountered many ‘negaholics’ when I started my pioneering talk show, but I didn’t allow anything to deter me, and instead I paved the way for many other talk show hosts to continue the dialogue with South Africans.

What advice do you have on setting goals?


Be bold, but be realistic. My goals were to attain an education, study in the US, work for a major corporation and lecture at a respected university — I wanted to live the ‘American Dream’ as it was presented in books and films. I got to do it all because I started by making sure I was educated. My grandfather always reminded us that we could rebound from any adversity with a good education.

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After school, I started a youth cultural centre and worked as a reporter at the same time. A grant from Anglo American helped me go to the US to study youth programmes. That was where I met my future husband, who paid the fees for my first semester at Marquette University in Wisconsin.

Next I won a scholarship and completed a postgraduate degree. That opened the doors of the corporate world for me and I worked at many leading American and South African companies. I also became an adjunct lecturer at my alma mater. My goals were big, but I started small and worked my way down the list. Every milestone led to the next, bigger success.

What is the best advice you ever received?

Don’t blame your past. No matter where you come from, nothing should stop you from realising your dream. Success is about discovering your passion and pursuing it with determination.

More importantly, success is about turning passion into purpose, which inevitably touches the lives of others. Most of us are afraid to leave our comfort zone to explore our true potential.

We dream small, when in fact we were born to dream big, regardless of age.

Monique Verduyn
Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.