Quick fire 5:
1. Coffee, black or with milk?
I actually don’t drink coffee. (We still love her 😉)
2. What is your most used emoji?
3. If you could invite any 3 people to dinner for the night, who would you invite?
Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Sandra Bullock
4. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
5. If there was a movie made about your life, which actress would you choose to play you?
Could you tell me a little bit about your life right now?
At the moment, I have a business called ‘Rise’. It was birthed out of a place of desperation among women to bring about community and stop comparison among each other (especially on social media), to encourage women to live more purposeful lives especially in their health and fitness journeys. Rise is the umbrella to ‘Rise Studios’, which is more on the fitness side of things for men and women. ‘Rise Mama’, another project that falls under the ‘Rise’ umbrella, is for pre- and post-natal women who want to stay healthy by getting back into exercise and following healthy eating plans.
Then there is the ‘Kolisi Foundation’, which we founded in March this year. After the 2019 World Cup win, we had a conversation around what Siya wanted his legacy to be. For him, it was never about what happened on the field. It’s about what he does in life and the impact that he leaves behind, which is basically what birthed the foundation. Right now, it’s really in its infancy stage. Where there’s a need, we will help if it’s in our capacity. My team love me because I will go anywhere and literally just message on the WhatsApp group and say, “Hey, I found a new project today!”. We’ve got a great CEO who puts a lot of structure in place, which is very good for me.
One of the big projects that is very close to my heart, is the ‘Grace for Grace’ project. Grace is an incredible woman who is doing the most amazing things to serve the needs of the people in her community. She first started off a couple of years ago by taking in some kids in her community, whose parents are mostly drug addicts – they would actually drop their kids off with her. She currently has 8 kids, 2 of which are her own. She takes in these kids along with women in desperate situations – wherever there is a need, she steps in. A few months ago, there was a woman who had been terribly abused and was fleeing with her newborn baby. There were no shelters taking in new women during COVID, so Grace took her in. From then until now, there have been 4-5 kids and women that I have helped her with. I am so in awe of her heart and service to humans and to South Africa with the value that she adds. I believe she deserves to have a castle, a beautiful home. I did some fundraising to help her out with the goal of raising R30,000, but we landed up fundraising over R270,000! I am quite set on building her a home now (like a safehouse), which is so exciting! She is just such an incredible woman and we need more people like her in this world.
I also have 4 kids and it’s been pretty full-on with the lockdown. I am starting to go a bit into motivational speaking too, so I’m busy, but blessed!
What gets you up in the morning?
The work I do is really ‘passion-work’. It’s incredible to wake up every morning and love what you do! We as human beings are given different gifts and different things that stir our hearts. For some people, its animals, for others its health, it’s different things that lead us to where we land up. That’s where our happiness lies – in the purpose of what our lives were made for in the first place. I believe my passion for women & children (the vulnerable), was just something that was laid on my heart. Until I kind of started tackling it, I wasn’t going to be satisfied in life. You almost don’t have the satisfaction until you’re doing what your purpose is. I am so grateful to do something that adds value, real value, that can really make an impact! It’s overwhelming at times because there’s a lot to do, but I am grateful for the opportunity to help.
Did you always know you wanted to do this type of work growing up?
When I think about growing up, I don’t remember seeing a lot of poor people. You would only have your domestic worker at home and I never really had a relationship with my domestic worker when I was a child. I think I only became confronted with it during my teenage years. It’s not that it wasn’t available for me to see when I was a child, my eyes just weren’t open to what the situation was. It’s interesting to reflect on it now, but probably during my teenage years is when I first knew I wanted to do this type of work.
What dreams did you have when you were younger?
I think there are so many younger versions of myself that I could refer to. There was the ‘7-10-year-old me’ who was convinced I was going to be a farmer and have a million horses and a little family – that was the dream. Then there was the ‘10-13-year-old me’ who didn’t really have a vision for what my life was going to look like, because I was so caught up in nonsense. In my teenage years, I didn’t spend too much time thinking about the end goal, but I wanted kids, a husband, a home. I didn’t really imagine what work I was going to be doing. At one point I wanted to be a vet, at another point I wanted to be a photographer, but I never really envisioned what my life was going to look like as a whole.
How has the way your life has panned out so far differed or been similar to those dreams?
I can’t say that I ever really dreamed of what life was going to be like. It changes when you marry a sportsman. Whatever you thought your life was going to be like, it’s not. I guess the time between working after school and then having to resign from my job, made me realize it wasn’t going to be what I expected, but it is so much better than what I could ever have imagined!
Who was your role model growing up and why?
I had a lot of people who had a lot of influence in my life, but I can’t pinpoint one person specifically. In different seasons of my life I had different people who stepped in and helped with a lot of different things. There isn’t anyone that was fully consistent though. There hasn’t really been anyone who I’ve been in awe of from when I was little until now. With that said, there have definitely been different people along the path who have inspired me in different seasons.
What personal challenge(s) did you face as a young person and how have they shaped you?
When I was 15 years old, I tried to commit suicide. After that, I spent 2 weeks at an orphanage in Cape Town that my aunt had set up for me. It opened my eyes to a lot! It was the first time I was like “Okay, there are people in South Africa who really have problems!”. I was in my little bubble, thinking my life was so terrible when, in reality, it was so much more intense for other people in the country.
I met a girl there who was the same age as me, who had been gang-raped and had watched her mother being burned alive – just the most horrendous story! It really put things into perspective for me and changed my mindset. From that moment, I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Tough times really build character. It is up to us as to which road we’re going to take. It’s never easy to go through something difficult, but I truly believe I am able to inspire a lot of women because I have been through a lot of bad stuff and women feel like they can relate to me. I try to be as open as I can be without being too personal. I try to let them know that I am not perfect, that my life is not perfect, that I also go through challenges. I want to be able to journey with people and show them that they can get out of tough situations. That they can live their best lives, even though they’ve been through it all.
Has education played a positive role in your life?
I wasn’t an academic at school and we weren’t an extremely wealthy family, so I never really had the opportunity to study because my academics weren’t going to get me a bursary or any kid of financial support and my parents couldn’t afford it. I remember meeting rich people through friends and remember that their stories would never be about what they studied. The real successful ones were all hustlers. I remember the one guy told us how he used to work in a fish shop and cleaned the floors and wrapped the fish in newspaper. I used to think “wow, that’s crazy!”. I remember thinking “well, if they can do it, I can do it.” I was just like “I’m going to hustle”. So, after school I worked really hard, using what I have by tackling things head-on and working with my hands.
How do you use your current platform to bring a positive influence in South Africa’s young women?
I never wanted a woman to compare herself to me. To look at my page and think “Oh my gosh, look at her amazing body and look at her nice things and perfect family and look how great everything is for her!”. I never wanted that because I feel like that is so damaging and there is so much of that out of there already. Women sit and compare themselves to stuff that isn’t real all the time! I never wanted a woman to leave my page and think that they are so much less of a woman and not good enough. I always try to post the raw stuff. Like when you’re having a bad day and look terrible – post that stuff! It helps people to know that they are not alone in the struggle. Motherhood is difficult sometimes, my house isn’t perfect, everything isn’t just dandy and unicorns and rainbows. I try to be as open as possible without bringing in too much of my personal life. It’s great because honestly, when a woman sees me in person, they come up to me and hug me (not now obviously, but normally) and they say, “It’s so nice to meet you!”. It’s not a case of “Can I get a picture with you?”. I love this because I would rather have people relate to me than compare themselves to me.
In terms of social projects, anyone can do something good for someone else. It’s just amplified when you have lots of followers on social media. There is always a project you can put together and do some good for someone else. A lot of people are busy with makeup and all of that. If they just did one project a year, that could make a massive change. I know this because I have run so many projects from my social media. It almost becomes a networking thing, where people want to help with a project but don’t always know how. Connecting the dots on social media is so good and such a satisfying feeling. That’s how I do things and I would love to see more people choosing to help others.
What are you still hoping to accomplish in the next couple of years?
That’s a great question because I don’t spend enough time thinking about that. It stems from being married to someone whose career is so ‘day-by-day’ and it’s hard to set a 5-year plan for yourself if your husband says something like “I am going to retire from international rugby and go play in France.” Sometimes it’s difficult in that regard, but is definitely something I need to prioritize a little more. Accomplishing something doesn’t always have to be business or career related. I guess for me, I would love to spend a bit more time just working on characteristics of myself that I lack in some of the time. Things like patience and a sometimes a lack of grace for people. It’s very easy to come down hard on someone when they are not in front of you. Just to remember you never know what someone is going through and it’s important to be aware of that and remember that hurt people like to hurt people. I’d like to gain a little more wisdom, I guess. A little more character-building for myself and hone in on that. I’d like to get more into podcasts on these types of things and spend some more time learning.
What piece of advice would you give to the young women of South Africa?
Don’t be ashamed of your story and where you come from. I am not saying that if you’ve gone through something very traumatic that you need to share it with the world the week after, but once you’ve healed, be brave enough to share it with other people! We are living in crazy times. Social media is a huge problem because it means we don’t have enough real conversations. We don’t have enough real community. We’re just all-over social media all the time. We’ve almost forgotten how to make friends in the corridor or the elevator. We need to stop and listen to other people’s stories, other people’s pain, listen to other people’s hearts.
I also want to encourage boldness and fearlessness and remind women that we have a voice! Many women feel like they are overlooked and not good enough and that they’re kind of placed in a box and that’s where they belong – and that’s a lie! I think women are the most powerful beings and I believe that there is so much that we can achieve in whichever environment we find ourselves in. It doesn’t take thousands of followers on social media to have a platform. We all have a voice and we can use it!
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