SOCIALS | In the VIP marquees with celebs at the Durban July 2019
All eyes may have been on the Greyville race course Saturday afternoon for the running of the Durban July, but before the main race things were up in the air.
The champagne cork-shaped Moët & Chandon hot-air balloon was meant to make its first flight on the eve of the big race, but Durban's weather was a party pooper. Guests, led by Boity Thulo, were deflated when the trip was cancelled on Friday afternoon. Also called off was Volvo's yacht party hosted by actress Jessica Nkosi.
Somizi Mhlongo did not take chances with the traffic, or by a threatened workers' disruption of the race. He descended onto the track in a helicopter, wearing an Orapeleng Modutle suit with a 6m train carried by four men in tuxedos.
"I'm a star and this is Africa," said Mhlongo in his nod to this year's theme, Stars in Africa.
Going bold in a striking gold-and-sheer Gert-Johan Coetzee ensemble was Lerato Kganyago, with fans flocking around her.
Perhaps the most incredibly dressed were two overseas visitors who flew in from the Philippines, Pepper Teehankee and Tessa Valdes. Tessa is famous in Manila for her exotic parties and recently threw a lavish Africa-themed bash, which is rumoured to have cost more than the budget for many marquees at the July.
Racing through the crowd to make it for her live broadcast on the channel that recently shunted Robert Marawa was Minnie Dlamini, who stopped for a picture.
There were some hunks, Top Billing's dapper Felipe Mkhize and Quinton Masina, who is known as the Naked DJ and wore a forest-green African-inspired ensemble.
Are you a betting girl?, I asked Bonang Matheba, who was one of the later arrivals. "No I'm not," said the ravishing star in a cascading, beaded Gert-Johan Coetzee outfit. "I prefer to bet on fashion."
Despite the economic downturn, organisers were projecting a R300m economic injection for the province thanks to the race day.
However, with the number of marquees having shrunk to about 13 from close to 30 in recent years, this just might be a lot of hot air.
However, betting operator Gold Circle pointed out that the remaining tents had all expanded in size and offerings in a bid to outdo each other.
One of the classiest of the lot was Chaise Lounge, owned by connected businesswoman Mizana Qata, who drew many political bigwigs along with the day's most glamorous celebrities.
Voted best marquee in 2018, this year the lavish enclosure featured an entrance with a Stars of Africa walk of fame, makeup artists to touch up the faces of female guests, and massages. All the while the French bubbly and Hendrick's gin cocktails flowed.
It was there that I spotted Khanyi Mbau, wearing a vision in white by couturier Ryan Keys.
Also at Chaise Lounge was Boity in a purple gown with her shoes embellished with stars.
Gourmands were right at home at the Glenlivet Jazztown, which offered an expansive menu by award-winning chef Steven Ferreira.
Applewood-smoked chicken fillets with apple cider and bay leaf glaze, a buttermilk chicken enchilada bake and barbecued spare ribs along with a harvest table of salads were served for lunch. At dinner time, guests tucked in to dishes that included vegetarian paella, braised lamb korma served with green beans and atchar, and osso buco.
Musically, Princess of Africa, the inimitable Yvonne Chaka Chaka, along with Mafikizolo and The Soil, entertained.
It was there that I found Somizi's Idols co-judge Unathi Nkayi dripping in jewels and with a handbag from The House of Mandela. She was chatting to singer Jimmy Nevis, who decided to "free the nipple" in his ensemble with a sheer shirt by Theophilia Collection that was styled by Leeroy Kopman.
Not far away, the more raucous Boomtown continued its tradition as the July's party central. This year, acts included Lady Zamar, Black Motion, Sjava and Busiswa.