My Father, Christo Wiese, On What Defines Happiness, What Doesn’t Matter & What Keeps Him Grounded


A few years ago (OK, if I were to give away my age and be brutally honest, I would confess it was about 14 years ago), I found myself working as a naive, annoyingly enthusiastic intern at Marie Claire magazine in South Africa (think Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada. Pre-makeover). This internship took place during my three-month summer break from my last year of studying journalism in London.

I was about 20 years old at the time and ended up getting my ‘big break’ in the world of glossy magazines, in a very similar way to how I ended up on a film set with Colin Farrell. I had nothing to lose, took a wild, impulsive chance and “fortune favoured the brave”. I simply picked up the phone one day, called Cosmopolitan magazine and told them I was a journalism student looking for an internship. The lady who answered the phone said they didn’t have any vacancies for me but she knew that Marie Claire happened to be looking for extra help. The rest, as they say, is history.

As time progressed during my stint at Marie Claire, then deputy editor Kate Wilson and editor Suzy Brokensha gave me increasing responsibility. I eventually suggested we interview my father for the “What I’ve Learned” section which, at the time, was published every month on the very last page of the magazine.  The team had mostly interviewed celebrities, artists and people in the creative world for this section, but I felt my dad would be the perfect interview subject for this particular page (even though his most “creative invention” to date has probably been the Panado box he keeps in his car for spare change to give to car guards. He simply cannot recommend this nifty little trick highly or frequently enough to any passengers who happen to catch a ride in his car).

ChristoClareWieseMy father had been interviewed countless times before, but with an always-similar line of questioning: what are the keys to success and serious wealth? Today, over a decade later, this question has become: “how did a barefoot boy from Upington (a small arid town in South Africa) manage to get onto Forbes magazine’s global rich list, in one generation?”

The Marie Claire interview (which was, as the name of the page suggested, about “what life had taught” him) turned out to be a huge hit – at least insofar as I was aware. He was inundated with calls from friends and relatives, who had found his comment about “the secret to a successful marriage” particularly entertaining. I will repeat it hereunder, as it’s just too good to leave out.

This past week, over the course of some deep conversations, my father’s illuminating philosophies on life, loss and everything in between, once again struck a cord with me. As much as the world sees my dad as one of the big bosses of South African business, I feel his greatest wealth lies in the sum of his experiences, the priceless life lessons he has taken from them and his discerning outlook on the world. Perhaps this is why I always turn to him first when life throws me lemons.


Remembering the Marie Claire interview we did so many years ago, I decided it was time for a refresher course; an updated “What I’ve Learned”. This piece is, at the heart of it, really just for me (a type of “dear diary”entry, if you will). However, I nevertheless wanted to publish it here on my blog, with the simple intention of sharing some of my dad’s personal life hacks, just in case some of them might strike a cord with you too.

So, here they are:

What gives life meaning is the love of family and friends, and one’s love for that which is yours, like your country and your people.

What keeps me down-to-earth is my family (I have three very strong-willed children) and my very cheeky dog, Kimbey, who treats me like her personal servant – I have to carry her wherever she goes and, 90 per cent of the time, she ignores me when I call her.

The most impressive people are those that are not overwhelmed by their perceived success and therefore do not become a legend in their own minds.

I combat stress by regularly having fun with my friends over lunch at my favourite Capetonian restaurant, Magica Roma, and playing matches to determine who has the privilege of paying the bill. I used to play under the name “Champ” and now play under the name “Prince”. Let’s just say, we all have our noms de guerre.

It’s frustrating when things go wrong that can so easily be put right and those in positions of power lack the courage or political will to do so.

Growing up in Upington is something I am very grateful for because of the life lessons I learned in a beautiful but harsh part of the world, one of them being that life is not always a bed of roses and sometimes you just have to get on with it.

How you treat people says a lot about who you are and will determine, in most instances, how they treat you.

It’s OK to make mistakes, to fail and to try again.

My mother taught me that one should not concern yourself with things you can do nothing about. Rather focus on those things you can do something about and then go ahead and do something.

My father taught me to treat people from all ranks, creeds and races, equally. He got on with everyone.

The three biggest lessons I wish to impart to my children are: be your own person, never allow others to determine your horizons and accept that “life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get” (as the movie character, Forrest Gump, so eloquently put it).

Happiness is achieved when you consider all your blessings.

The secret to a successful marriage is, inter alia, learning what your spouse’s air conditioning preferences are, prior to tying the knot.

The hardest lesson I have had to learn is that there are circumstances in life which are simply beyond our power to change.

The measure of a successful life is when you leave the world a better place than you found it.

I try not to fall into the trap of focusing on the negatives.

Age makes you realise that patience is a great virtue.

I thank my lucky stars that I grew up in a loving and nurturing home, and that I in turn am the father of a happy family.

My children have taught me that there is something like limitless love.

Dogs are undoubtedly man’s best friend (it’s a cliché for a reason).

My wife has taught me that I am allowed to decide the big issues (like what the gold price should be and whether America should go to war in Iraq) but all other decisions will be made by her.

All of us should try to give more than we take. And all of us can do that.

What helps me most during turbulent times is my belief in a higher authority whose guiding hand determines our way through life.

I look up to so many people that it’s impossible to name them all. The qualities I admire most in others include compassion, humour and having a sense of direction.

It doesn’t matter if your dreams don’t all come true. What does matter is that you do have dreams.

Our little gang at my father’s festive yet informal 75th birthday party at our family’s wine estate, Lourensford. Clockwise from left: my sister Bella, myself, my father, my brother Jacob, my beautiful mother Caro, my sister-in-law Ty and my husband Marco (aka Planet).



PS thank you, Jani B, for the beautiful photographs of my dad’s 75th birthday “boerefees” used throughout this post.

This interview, translated into Afrikaans, was re-published with permission by


Jo-Ann Strauss on Finding Balance, Handling Self-doubt & Flirting with George Clooney

jo-annstraussglobalcriticJo-Ann Strauss is one of those girls it would be easy enough to hate. Not only is this former beauty queen and university graduate a self-made media mogul and one of South Africa’s most iconic faces, but she is also married to an almost uncomfortably attractive surgeon (her very own McDreamy) with two gorgeous toddlers filling their home in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town. Oh, and I forgot to mention, she’s had personal interactions with the likes of George Clooney and Nelson Mandela – yep, that should do it.

However, as someone who has known Jo for a few years now and seen her go from strength to strength without ever losing sight of what really matters, I can see why she is (on the contrary) adored by so many: both those that know her on a personal level and the South African public, at large.

She exudes that rare and delicate combination of aspirational glamour and down-to-earth authenticity that simply makes her, well, impossible to hate. Instead, she can’t help but inspire. It’s for that very reason that I asked Jo to share some of her personal stories with us, right here on The Global Critic. Of course, being the supportive friend that she is, she graciously obliged (whilst being out of town for work on a super tight schedule).

Despite her insanely busy life, Jo-Ann always makes time to pause and celebrate life’s special moments: this was taken at her birthday lunch in 2015 at the fabulous Grand Beach Cafe in Cape Town.

Jo-Ann, you stepped into the spotlight in 2000 when you were crowned Miss South Africa. Many beauty queens are one-hit-wonders and disappear from the scene after their reign, yet you have steadily maintained your position in the spotlight. Was this always the plan?

jo-ann-strauss-miss-south-afric-768x768I never planned on staying in the spotlight, so this was not quite a focus for me. Before I had entered Miss SA, my long-term goal was to work in the media industry, so I knew that the pageant would be a good move strategically and I leveraged my contacts and networks accordingly.

I had initially planned to become the MD of a huge media company. Now, when I look at how things have turned out, I enjoy the flexibility that being a media entrepreneur affords me, as I have time to travel and spend time with my family.

What was the first step you took towards fulfilling your dreams of working in the media?

After my reign as Miss South Africa, my immediate priority was finishing my Bachelor of Commerce degree at Stellenbosch University and so that’s what I did. My career in media actually started during this period. When I wasn’t in class, I was television presenting, while other students had jobs as waiters and waitresses.

What was your very first job in television and how did you land it?  

My first job in television was for the SABC lifestyle show, Pasella. I started working on 1 April 2001 and thought it was quite an apt date (being April Fool’s Day) as they had me in a ballgown and stilettos, prancing about in the Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn. But, like everyone else, I first had to audition.

Were you nervous as a newbie television presenter or did it come rather naturally?

I had been exposed to some television work through Miss SA, so I was ok, but not quite a natural.

From there, how did your career evolve to where it is today?

After my time at Pasella, I started presenting for Top Billing and ZDF, Germany’s largest television channel. From there, my reach into the media world steadily expanded: I started my own television production company, became an ambassador for large international brands like Lux and Samsung and launched an online presenter search (, which quickly morphed into a huge social media competition and has been running for three years now.  Through this, I have helped many youngsters break into the media world, including Mishka Patel who has presented for Pasella. I am currently producing a new reality series, to be unveiled soon.

Everyone has dreams. What do you think differentiates those who have dreams from those who go out and make them reality?

I live by a mantra, “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.” I think some people wait on others to fulfil their dreams. That way, their dreams remain dreams.

It would be easy for the public to look at your life and assume you have it all: a gorgeous husband, two healthy kids and a dynamic career. What makes you human and what do you struggle with from time to time?

I am constantly struggling to juggle everything and am so grateful for my husband being a supportive man … and a damn good-looking one at that;) When I have moments of self-doubt, which I do, he pours me a big glass of red wine and tells me to put on my big-girl panties! Overall, however, I do feel super blessed and say thank you every day.

What are your moments about self-doubt about? 

I had a major impostor-complex as Miss SA, as I never felt I was the prettiest girl in the competition. I experienced some hurtful media scrutiny from radio DJ’s who said some nasty things about me, when I was still 19 and wearing the sash. But, I soon adopted the attitude that I simply couldn’t let others’ perceptions of me detract from my own truth and living my life. I am older and more confident now, but I definitely still have my moments.

Who have you most enjoyed meeting during your career as a media personality?

I was honored to have met Nelson Mandela a few times; his humility made a lasting impression.


Name some other celebrities you have had the opportunity of meeting. 

George Clooney, Bono, Kim Kardashian, Elton John, Heidi Klum … there have been quite a few, so it’s impossible to list them. An “occupational hazard,” I guess;)

Which celebrity surprised you the most and why?

George Clooney was hilarious and so kind. He threw in some unexpected answers to my questions, containing the odd sexual innuendo, which made me blush. But, luckily, I managed to hold it together and make him blush in return with a few witty retorts.

What is Kim Kardashian like in person?

jo-ann-kimkardashian-clarewiese-globalcriticI met Kim at a fashion gala in Monaco. She was initially quite aloof, but after she realised we were seated at the same table, she became curious and a bit more chatty.

She was actually quite sweet, but I understand why she is so stand-offish.

Thousands of people were staring at her every move and her huge engagement ring. This was just after she became engaged to Kris Humphries.

What is the craziest interview question you have ever been asked?

I was asked which celebrity I’d want to sleep with.

And…what was your answer? You can’t leave us hanging!

I said Angelina Jolie. I figured I might as well make the interviewer’s jaw drop too;)!

If you could interview one person (dead or alive) who would it be and what would you ask them?

I’d interview Reeva Steenkamp and ask her what happened that fateful night.

What has been your favourite fashion moment of all time?

My wedding dresses. I had asked my friend and one of my favourite local designers, Gideon, to design them and he created three incredible dresses that perfectly reflected my personality.


Who is your fashion icon and why?

Jessica Alba. She understands subtlety and effortless style.

What are your best spots in Cape Town?

Which beauty products can you not live without?

I love everything from La Mer. Their Renewal Oil is amazing. I also love The Mist and, of course, their iconic Crème De La Mer.

Finish these sentences:

  • I never leave home without my Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone. It takes the best pictures.
  • I would hate to be in a closed room with a praying mantis. I’m terrified of them!
  • My favourite book of all time is The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho.
  • My favourite movie of all time is Zoolander.

Is there a down-side to fame in South Africa?

I think maybe the fact that it’s not as financially rewarding as in the States, but on the flip-side, it’s also not as intrusive as elsewhere and you can still live a “normal” life.

You recently started a blog about the challenges of being a mother in modern times.

I started my blog, Modern Mommy, in 2014 and try to spend as much time as I can on it, but it’s hard to focus fully on it as I have a few other businesses and a family that require my attention. I would however like to use my blog as a tool to empower “mompreneurs” and share useful tips with other mothers. I have been encouraged by the response the blog has received thus far.

What is the biggest challenge facing modern mommies today and how do you handle being a mom, a businesswoman, a friend and a wife?

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-18-33-21The challenge is the guilt. You feel guilty when working too much and being away from home. When you’re at home with the family, you feel guilty for not working. Even now, as I am sitting, typing these answers (at 05h35), I am trying to make sure that the tapping of the computer keys doesn’t wake up my baby.

There are simply not enough hours in the day, so I work when I can, often sacrifice my beauty sleep and rely heavily on concealer and eye drops!

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from your mother?

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

If you could teach your kids one indispensable lesson about life, what would it be?

Be kind.

What are your rules for living a well-rounded, happy life?

There are no rules, but I try to make a conscious decision every day to focus on that which makes me and those important to me, happy. You can’t please everyone, so it’s pointless trying.

Like The Global Critic on Facebook or follow me on Instagram @clarewiesewentzel to stay up to date with my latest posts.

Makeup Maestro Reneé De Wit Reveals Her Best-Kept Beauty Secrets

reneedesambento1Meet Reneé De Wit, makeup artist extraordinaire. I first came into contact with this insanely talented creature when she painted my face for my 21st birthday party. Since then, I have come to rely on Reneé for many more of those momentous occasions when faces had to be painted, perfectly.

It’s no wonder then that she holds a very special place in my Little Black Book but also in my heart. Believe me, I wouldn’t have let just anyone do my makeup on my wedding day. This self-proclaimed Bridezilla certainly held no prisoners (I still don’t know how she put up with me, one makeup trial after the next, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some mild tranquillisers were involved).

As gorgeous as she is talented (a double threat for sure), Renee’s portfolio is both vast and impressive.  Her work has been featured in several leading international magazines (including Vogue and Marie Claire UK) and she has beautified the cover girls of over 30 print publications (including Cosmopolitan and Sports Illustrated). Last but not least, her magic hands have transformed the faces of serious celebrities like Petra Nemcova, Steffi Graff, Julie Walters and Bonang Matheba, to name a few.

Here, Reneé divulges (super generously, I might add), some of the beauty industry’s best-kept secrets, her personal must-have makeup products and some really nifty tricks of the trade.

What led you to becoming a professional makeup artist?

As a child i was the youngest of four daughters and and I grew up doing my sisters’ makeup for parties and matric dances. My natural love of makeup artistry eventually developed into a career and, by the age of 21, I was spending half of my time in London and the other half in Cape Town, working on fashion editorials and catalogues.

Makeup by Renee De Wit

Tell us about your big break?

I was 19 years old and working as a fashion assistant to the late Sue Ferrier, then fashion director of Elle magazine in South Africa. Sue encouraged me to follow my dreams and gave me the opportunity to do makeup on an Elle fashion editorial.

Who has been your makeup mentor?

I was mentored by Algria Ferreira, widely regarded as the doyenne of the South African makeup world. I first met Algria when, at age 16, I was booked as a model on a knitwear shoot. That day, Algria’s makeup made me feel more beautiful than I had ever felt! I realised then the effect that makeup can have on a woman’s confidence and my love affair with makeup grew even stronger. I am so grateful for my years in the modelling world, where I got to learn the tricks of the trade first-hand, from the best in the business.

What is your signature skill as a makeup artist?

I do a killer smokey eye. My favourite eyeshadow palette right now is Bobbi Brown’s Bobbi’s Cools Eye Shadow Palette (limited edition).

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Makeup by Renee De Wit (note the smokey eye perfection)

What is your favourite mascara?

Sensai 38 Degrees and MAC Extended Play Lash.

What is the best trick for keeping makeup on all day?

Before applying makeup, I always prime my skin with a good moisturiser (by Bioderma or Skinceuticals) containing sunblock. This prevents makeup being absorbed by dehydrated skin.

I finish with a light dusting of pressed or loose powder on my t-zone and a fixing spray like Bobbi Brown’s Face Mist.

What is the most universally flattering eye pencil for green/blue eyes?

Teddy Eye Kohl liner by MAC.

What is the most universally flattering eye pencil for brown eyes?

Either a dark grey colour like Industry Powerpoint Eye Pencil by MAC or a deep navy like Blooz Eye Kohl liner, also by MAC.

What are your favourite makeup brands of all time?

Bobbi Brown, Charlotte Tilbury, NARS and Giorgio Armani Beauty.

A selection of best-selling products by Charlotte Tilbury. The stuff that makeup dreams are made of.

What is the quickest way to make a tired face look fresh?

Invest in a good under-eye colour corrector and concealer (try Bobbi Brown or Sensai).

What are the best lip colours for fair, medium and olive skin tones?

For fair skin tones | The iconic Charlotte Tilbury’s Lip Cheat Pillow Talk lip pencil and Penelope Pink lipstick are two of my favourites;

For medium skin tones | Viva Vlam 5 by MAC; and

For olive skin tones | Raisin Berry by Bobbi Brown.

With which red lipstick can a woman conquer the world?

Chanel Rouge Hydrabase Crème Lipstick 60 New York Red is the ultimate red!

What is the most common beauty faux pas women make?

Wearing too much makeup. It looks unnatural and ageing. I also detest the “Instagram brow” that is currently so popular.

Which are the three makeup products no girl should ever be without?

Sensai’s under-eye concealer brush, Armani’s Maestro foundation and Bobbi Brown’s Shimmerbrick bronzing compact series.

Armani’s Maestro Foundation 

Who is your makeup icon?

Pat McGrath, she is a visionary and pushes creative boundaries like it’s nobody’s business. I just adore her newly launched makeup range.

Which famous face would you most love to paint?


Who is your beauty icon?

Monica Bellucci. She is a timeless beauty with perfectly proportioned features.

What is the best makeup advice you can give to women over 30?

Always curl your eyelashes and apply at least two coats of black mascara. It has an immediate lifting effect.

What is the secret beauty weapon in your makeup kit?

Lansinoh Breasfeeding Salve nipple cream – it’s amazing for chapped lips.

When you’re not waving your magic makeup brushes, which other creative outlets do you enjoy?

Baking (especially with my girls) and interior decoration.

A few years ago, you launched a mobile makeup agency called Gorgeous2Go, which has become a huge hit with the Cape Town crowd (myself included). What prompted you to start this business?

Renee, in her element

There was a demand in the Capetonian market for a high-end makeup, hair and beauty concierge service. We thus offer clients an array of services, including makeup applications (for social events), hair styling, personalised makeup lessons, spray tans and manicures, all of which can be performed in the comfort of your own home.

The artists we represent have been hand-selected and all of their portfolios are available on our website. Our aim is to be a one-stop mobile shop for all things beauty-related. You can visit our website for more information.


Ida Elsje on Designing Fine Jewellery & Her Favourite Cape Town Hangouts

Ida Elsje is arguably at the forefront of South African contemporary jewellery. Not only is her work regularly featured in South Africa’s top glossy magazines, but high-profile international publications such as Brazil Vogue and New York’s Superior Magazine have also filled their editorial pages with some of her handmade masterpieces. At the same time, her oversized earrings and elaborate head pieces have graced the catwalks of New York and London Fashion Weeks. Every piece of Ida Elsje Jewellery is created in her small studio on Cape Town’s bustling and centrally located Church Street (where her beloved dog Elvis keeps her company on a daily basis).

I spent five minutes talking to this jewellery genius about what inspires her, where she likes to hang out and her tips for aspiring jewelers:

What are your biggest vices? Records, Norwegian and Art Deco furniture and Fire King crockery.

Where does your design inspiration come from? Mostly natural shapes I see on my walks with my dogs, the shapes of flowers and tree tops, the curves of the mountains and pods. I love old and modern buildings and often find inspiration in the structure and detail thereof, such as tiling and railings.

What are your favourite eating/drinking/coffee spots in Cape Town? 

There are so many…

Advice for young aspirational jewelers? Grow your business organically, let the demand for your work determine the growth of your business. Listen to your customers’ dreams and create your own style.

Favourite way to spend a weekend? A weekend away with friends, long walks in nature, cooking together and sitting around long dinner tables and fires talking till the sun comes up.

Favourite city to travel to and why? Srinigar, Kashmir: where heaven meets earth. It is very peaceful and beautiful there, especially when you go into the mountains. I love the jewellery shops there – they are all covered in gold mirrors from wall to ceiling and have counters with chairs. You have to sit down and drink tea with kashmiri biscuits, before they start bringing out the trays of 22ct gold jewellery. I aslo love Berlin and Tel Aviv.

Ida’s work:

Ida is the head designer for my luxury jewelry brand Paka Paka.

Ida’s own jewellery collation (Ida Elsje Jewellery) is stocked at Olive Green Cat, Church Street, Cape Town, South Africa.


Fashion Photography Stephan Glathe, Styling Michael Cooper, Model Bailey, Hair and Makeup Alba Frei.  Product Photography Tim Atkins.