“It always seems impossible, until it’s done”
Nelson Mandela was an awfully intelligent man. Thankfully he was released from prison just before I finished high school, so that he could share his wisdom with me and the rest of the world. His release carved my future along with every other South African. His release was also ironically linked to my potential future coming to an abrupt halt…
I was recently inspired by a TV commercial by ProfMed, which tells the story of Prof. Leeuw who went from the dusty Kalahari townships to becoming one of the world’s leading astrophysicists. When I was a little girl, I dreamt about going to space.
I completed my high school career in 1996 (I’m giving away my age now!) and left the “metropolis” of Pietersburg, now Polokwane and my very sheltered life, for the bright lights, big city of Durban. I had been accepted to study Chiropractic at both Wits and Natal Technikon (it’s a technical doctorate) but chose Durban because it was by the sea of course! It was a silly decision though, as it was also miles away from home and I ended up being pathetically homesick. To make matters worse, not long into 1997, violence broke out on campus due to several political promises that were made, one of which was that education would be free and it wasn’t…
There were some very frightening riots, acts of violence against students and general carnage for many months on end. Things seemed to be calming down towards the end of the year, but one balmy humid morning, whilst taking a break between a double Histology lecture (the study of the microscopic structure of tissues), a girl was shot dead right before me. We tried in vain to save her life but unfortunately she passed away in the helicopter that airlifted her from campus. It was to be the one single event that changed my trajectory forever
I was so traumatized by the year’s events that I dropped out of Natal Tech and returned home with my tail between my legs. What on earth was I going to do next? What was I going to do with my life? I had always thought I would pursue some sort of medical career since my mum is a nurse and I am in awe of how the human body functions.
After some soul-searching and part-time jobs back in the “metropolis”, I discovered through one of those jobs that I quite liked (and was fairly good at) marketing, so in 1998, I started studying Marketing and Business Management through the Institute of Marketing Management. 4 years later I graduated but it was during that time that I was a Miss South Africa finalist and also pursued a lucrative modelling career. Education came first though and I was determined to finish studying before venturing into the great unknown of international modelling. When I graduated, I started traveling, chasing the summers between the Northern and Southern hemispheres, spending most of my time in front of the camera. It was the best time of my life and I got to see so much of the world. It was an incredibly special time in my life – I was young, free, and did not have a worry in the world. Well, other than my student loan!
Contrary to belief, modelling is hard work and I took my job very seriously but I knew there was a limited time-span to this career! At the age of 25 I finally returned to SA and took up a corporate position in Marketing at ABI (Amalgamated Beverage Industries) in Johannesburg. As much as I loved the job, I have to admit I felt a bit like a caged animal after so many years of total freedom.
I returned to Cape Town and studied drama at ACT, which I really embraced but my inner ‘drama-queen’ had always been there! I had appeared in my very first theatre production at the tender age of 4! A Nativity play in the tiny Mpumalanga village of Schagen – that’s where the seed was planted, thanks to my mum!
After a couple of years of part time work, 100’s of castings and auditions, TV commercial and presenting work, as well as still actively modelling, I landed my role in District 9! I’ll never forget the moment it happened. I had been to several auditions and call-backs for the part and eventually one morning, my agent called to give me the good news. I was going to have a supporting lead role in a Peter Jackson film! And as they say, the rest is history. In my case, not quite!
As clichéd as this sounds, my life did literally change over night! I spent the next few years in a total whirlwind and I’m not sure how I managed it all. I lost friends, I made friends. It’s hard to describe the total life change that you experience from being the “girl next door” to a fairly recognisable name, being asked to appear on the cover of Elle magazine. No one pulls you aside before it all starts and explains to you how to handle it all. You hit your head a lot and you make mistakes. That’s life.
It’s been just over 6 years since the Oscar nominated film was released. I’ve done quite a bit of work since but nothing quite as fulfilling or “grand” as District 9. Luckily my “one-hit-wonder” gave me a platform to do other exciting work but I long to do another! It’s not as easy as many people think. I spent time in Hollywood. It’s horrible. Ask Frank Rautenbach (sorry for the reference Frank but you know what it’s like more than most). I had huge pressure on me as I was also earmarked as the “Next Charlize Theron”! Seriously?!
The entertainment industry is a tough one, particularly in South Africa where the work is very limited. Most actors have to work very hard to bring in an income and more often than not, have a second job, like I did. I started my own marketing and events company with a dear friend in Johannesburg, which did fairly well, and it filled the gap between filming jobs and travels and I enjoyed the business side thoroughly.
Somewhere in between the last 6 years, I met my husband, Ryan Sandes – the ultimate athlete, or nutbag if you will! Thanks to his motivation and my being inspired by his success, I started taking my cycling very seriously. It became a huge part of my life and it also became my business. I ran ladies mountain bike camps and social rides; I had sponsors. It was such a fun time in my life!
Entertainment remains my one true passion but I’m not a true thespian willing to suffer for my craft, and at the beginning of this year, I decided to dig my teeth back into business, so much to my agent’s horror, I threw in the towel and let them know I was going back into business. It was a hard decision to make since I love being in front of the camera and will never fully close that door but I needed a change and I needed to earn an actual monthly salary again!
I’m now working for my husband and his partner’s (Ryno Griesel) sport marketing company, Peak Sport Management, managing various sporting brands and projects. I’m thoroughly enjoying the work and I’m studying again (Digital Marketing through Red & Yellow) which is a great challenge, but what in life isn’t? I still MC at events and do the odd TV/modelling job here and there (what girl doesn’t like dressing up and having her make-up done) but life is very different and far more focused now.
The trick has been the ability to adapt to change and also re-inventing myself – a couple of times! I’ve worked very hard at the careers I have taken on and given 200% of myself every step of the way. I’m a firm believer in that you’re never to old to learn, whether academically or personally. Experience and thinking out the box, never hurt anyone either! Look at Richard Branson – he wasn’t university educated. He did however say, “Universities can play an absolutely invaluable role in providing mentors for young entrepreneurs.”
Hard work always pays off and a company like Profmed rewards that effort. They reward hard workers in offering exclusive and affordable medical aid to professionals who have obtained a minimum of a four-year degree or its equivalent. My husband Ryan and I have been members for many years and I can honestly say I have never been happier with any other medical aid! Contact them!
Have a quick look at what they offer below. Your health is ALWAYS worth it!