Meet Glamour's women of 2011
Nine South African women are honoured for their passion, vision, talent, enthusiasm and style, writes Andrea Nagel
'It takes courage to stand up and stand out," said Irene Pieters on Monday night at the Grace Hotel in Rosebank, Johannesburg, as she accepted accolades along with her partner Dee Boehner from emcee Alan Ford at the Glamour Women of the Year awards.
If that's true, then the nine South African women being honoured for their passion, vision, talent, enthusiasm and style are paragons of courage - there's no doubt that each of them stands out. When you put eight exceptional women in a room together (one was in Los Angeles, US), the glamour stakes just go up and up.
IRENE PIETERS AND DEE BOEHNER
Winners of the Gift Givers category, Pieters and Boehner run a charity, Kidz2Kidz, that encourages children to give away toys they no longer play with. The success of this initiative has led to the establishment of Santa's ShoeBox, now one of South Africa's most successful charities. The first year's target for Santa's ShoeBox was 600 boxes - they received 2000, and last year the number of boxes received reached 62000.
''Imagine a tower of 62 000 shoe boxes piled on top of each other," says Pieters.
''It would be six-and-a-half times higher than Table Mountain."
This year's target for Christmas is 100000 boxes full of gifts for children who usually don't receive anything.
The boxes are filled with, among other things, necessities like toothbrushes and toothpaste.
It all started six years ago when Boehner decided to give her daughter's excess toys to less privileged children. Now anyone who wants to do the same can log onto a website, nominate a child or children they want to benefit, fill a box, wrap it and drop it off at a designated location. The ease of the procedure is one of the most encouraging things about the project.
''I also think it is the personal aspect that resonates with people," says Pieters.
''They know the age and name of the child to whom they're giving, so they can imagine what's needed and how the child will feel when they open it."
Boehner believes fate somehow ensures that the needy children get the right boxes.
''A sporty boy will get a ball, while a girly girl will get a doll. It's surprisingly easy to make a difference," says Pieters.
Barely past childhood herself, Kgomotso Manyaka, 13, is the winner of The Next Big Thing nomination, which isn't surprising since she was picked out of 150 girls for the role of Chanda, a child who treks across South Africa in search of her mother, who is dying of HIV/Aids, in Oliver Schmitz's film Life Above All.
The film was nominated for an Academy Award and won acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival.
Hailing from a small town in Mpumalanga, Manyaka could never have imagined that she would be walking the red carpet in Los Angeles and dining in restaurants along the French Riviera. She had never acted before winning the coveted role, but everyone who has seen the film agrees she's a natural.
Manyaka was persuaded to audition for the role by her fellow choir members. She is now enrolled at the Johannesburg National Performing Arts School.
''I'd love to be a famous film star," she says, not realising she already is.
''Thank you, thank you and thank you," she said as she received her award. She's clearly in training for her Oscar speech.
On the other side of the camera, filmmaker Jann Turner is honoured for her role as The Storyteller.
Turner was already well-known for her novels Heartland, Southern Cross and Home is Where You Find It before she started writing her compelling narratives for the screen.
Daughter of political activist Rick Turner, and stepdaughter of world acclaimed author Ken Follet, Turner has had a life of incredible stories to tell and has been guided by one of the best in the business in telling them.
Turner has lived through South Africa's political upheaval. She witnessed the assassination of her father in 1978 before leaving to live in the UK. South Africa, however, always beckoned her to return.
''I feel lucky to be a South African, lucky to come from a country of stories and storytellers and lucky to live in and bear witness to astonishing times," she said in a message from Los Angeles.
"I've been fortunate to work with some of the bravest and most imaginative tellers of our stories."
Although Turner claims she is not in the business of "messaging", but rather in the business of "entertaining", she has strong opinions on the freedom of the press.
''Stories are how we make meaning. It is through stories that we open windows into other worlds," she says.
''Quite often, newspaper stories tell us things we didn't know, but really should know."
With her past and present so profoundly rooted in South Africa, she is passionate about the direction she hopes the country will take.
''It is of the utmost and most urgent importance to me that storytellers should be free to work unimpeded by government interference. The current threat to press freedom in South Africa is ominous in the extreme.
''When we censor and slant our stories for the sake of some principle or power other than truth, we are poisoning the very air that we breathe. It is my fervent and passionate hope that South Africa will not hobble her young self with restrictions on press freedom."
Another teller of stories, writer Kopano Matlwa, has written two successful novels, studied medicine at UCT, is currently an intern in Johannesburg, runs her own charity, Waiting Room Education, which educates people while they wait to see a doctor, has just won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, and looks like she has just stepped off the pages of a glossy magazine.
Phew! And she's disarmingly graceful and nice.
Just 26 years old (though she looks like she's 16), Matlwa has already achieved more than most people achieve in a lifetime, and she is doing it with style and glamour.
''Glamour is about grace, authenticity and being comfortable with yourself," she says. ''It's an exciting time to be a South African. Now more than ever as women we can do what we want to do - this country is open to anything."
Matlwa, winner of The Natural category, has lived all over the country, and is now heading off to Oxford, but she still finds her home city, Johannesburg, the most glamorous city she's been to.
''There's so much energy in Joburg and the buzz is motivating. Joburg is the place where people come to create themselves and to be the best that they can be."
KYLA ROSE SMITH AND ZOLANI MAHOLA
The Icons, two pint-size stars who need no introduction. Kyla Rose Smith and Zolani Mahola won international fame last year performing Waka Waka with Latin sensation Shakira for the 2010 World Cup.
''We're blessed with the gift and the ability to have created something that people love," says Smith, standing on stage in her blood red shirt and wide black pants, her hair mussed and messy.
''We also receive a gift from the audience every time we perform - a spark, a moment of appreciation. It's wonderful to travel the world giving and receiving the gift of inspiration.
"South Africa is a great place to be a female performer," says Mahola.
"Overseas there's huge emphasis on looks and conventional sexiness but, thanks to our strong history of female artists, people here care more about our music than our miniskirts."
Miniskirts are not the trademark of Glamour Magazine's Style Star Suzaan Heyns. Her look is far from flippantly fashionable. It is, in her own words, ''classic with a dramatic twist".
''To me glamorous is being barefoot on the beach in Brazil with the bossa nova playing in the background, red lipstick on, of course."
Heyns was a stylist before she started her own label in 2006, and from there her upward trajectory has been smooth and steady.
''My 'big break' was a slow upward movement with lots of hard work, punctuated by a few highlights," she says.
''I spent time with my granny at the Oriental Plaza in Johannesburg and watched her make clothes, then I made 1950s-style dresses for my Barbies. After that I started sculpting with fabric and finally I made clothes for real people."
She won a bursary to study fashion design at the London International School of Fashion and then worked for Joburg Fashion Week.
''Now I'm into the serious adult mission of having invested in my own business. It's not just playing around any more."
The defining feature of her clothes is an intriguing mixture of hard and soft - ''just like my own personality", she says.
From the largely female world of fashion to the male-dominated world of sport, The Rule Breaker Kass Naidoo - a cricket presenter and businesswoman - excels at both.
''I've broken every rule in the game to get to where I am," she says. ''When I first went on TV I realised I had to do more than just hold a mike in my hand. I had to think about how I dressed, my make-up, the way I look. I brought femininity into a man's world."
Gsport . for Girls! is an online initiative launched by Naidoo and her husband that aims to raise the profile of women in sport.
''We need to encourage young girls to make careers out of their sporting talent, just as men do. If more women supported each other, this could really be an incredible country," she says.
''These incredible women are nominated by previous Glamour Women of the Year winners," says Glamour Magazine editor Pnina Venster. ''We also look out for amazing women throughout the year and our staff discusses and debates nominees. Then we decide on the winners." Next year, Glamour Magazine readers will be invited to nominate and vote.