The Fine Line Between Self-Acceptance & Self-Improvement

Last week, the call for entry was launched for my new television series, MOOIMAAK, set to air on kykNET from 5 October 2017.

Since then, I am happy to report, we have been snowed under by entries and social media responses, some of which have included the following wonderfully candid comments: 

  • “I need something positive like this in my life’;
  • “It’s as if my prayers have been answered, I need a smile makeover. I am unable to afford a dentist and, as a result, I no longer smile with confidence”;
  • “Being chosen as a participant in this show, would be the most amazing gift I have ever received in my life.”

Whilst my talented production team and I are (needless to say) extremely excited about the public’s overwhelming response, it did make me sit back and wonder: to what extent can or should improving our looks be a determining factor in changing our lives?

The title of our show (“MOOIMAAK”) refers, loosely translated, to the act of “beautifying something or someone”. The term also has a more colloquial meaning in Afrikaans, denoting the idea of “playing nicely” or “being gentle”.  As the title thus suggests, our goal is without question to “beautify” or dramatically improve the appearance of our participants and, in so doing, improve their lives: perhaps we can give their self-confidence the boost it needs for them to finally apply for that job or go on that date.

The dramatic effects of the latest skin-resurfacing laser treatments are indisputable

In addition, our aim is to achieve this outcome by “playing nicely” i.e. without knives (pun intended). We are excited about the sheer variety of non-surgical cosmetic and dental procedures on offer today in South Africa, at the hands of world-class professionals. This includes commonly known treatments such as chemical peels, botox and fillers to lesser known, cutting-edge procedures such as thread lifting and carboxytherapy, as well as the very latest cosmetic dentistry techniques.  We know that there are many women out there who might wish to improve their appearance by means of these treatments, but who lack the finances or the know-how to do so. This is where I hope to come in, by sharing my little black book of experts (from the country’s foremost non-surgical aesthetic practitioners and cosmetic dentists to my favourite makeup artists, hair stylists and designers) with our participants and, of course, our at-home audience.

At the same time, although we firmly believe that this series will change people’s lives, we are by no means advocating that “fixing your looks will fix your entire life”. How could anyone make such a claim when some of the world’s most annoyingly and gobsmackingly gorgeous people (e.g. Angelina Jolie) have publicly admitted to self-destructive behaviour that would, by all accounts, indicate a life somewhat broken on the inside?

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So, if we, at MOOIMAAK, are hoping to changes peoples’ lives by changing their appearance, but at the same time saying “good looks alone won’t make you happy”, we are back to my original question, and I repeat: “to what extent can or should improving our looks be a determining factor in improving our lives?”

Having given it some thought over the last few days, I feel the answer might lie somewhere in the balance: the balance between self-acceptance and self-empowerment.

Whilst there are some things about our appearance we certainly cannot change and thus need to accept, there are plenty of wonderful things we can do to improve the way we look and, hopefully, the way we feel (ranging from expensive and time-consuming treatments to simply getting a more flattering hair cut or learning some clever new makeup tricks). I, for one, have certainly experienced the impact that having a cosmetic problem (like problem skin or skew teeth) can have on one’s confidence. On the flip side, however, I have endured (like everyone else) some challenging times in my life, including painful breakups and the death of loved ones, where (finally) having a clear complexion or a semi-Colgate smile did nothing to lighten the load.

So, before deciding to improve our appearance (whether it be on a glamorous makeover show or not), perhaps we should be guided by the famous (paraphrased) words of Reinhold Niebuhr: “accept the things you cannot change, have the courage to change the things you can and have the wisdom to know the difference.”

In the current context, we might thus do well to ask ourselves the following questions (I’ll write them out in bullet points, in case your attention span is anything like mine, i.e. that of a goldfish with amnesia):

  • Which of our appearance-related problems do we need to accept and which can or do we want to do something about?
  • Which of the obstacles we face (like struggling to make that call to The Potential One or submit an application for The Perfect Job) might well be overcome by making some of the cosmetic changes on our wish list?
  • And, last but not least: which of the other ‘ugly’ issues in our lives (like an unhappy marriage or long-term family feuds) require a different kind of renewal?

Lastly, please know that, of course, I realise this is one of those highly controversial topics that everyone will have a different (yet equally valid) opinion on. I simply wanted to share my thoughts here and, hopefully, highlight a topic worthy of attention.




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.

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Great Fashion Suits Rachel Zane

From the first time I watched an episode of US legal series, Suits, I was hooked: it must have been a combination of the clever script, the quirky characters (especially the feisty Donna and dork-deluxe Louis), the ongoing dramatic love affair between Rachel & Mike and – of course – dear old Harvey (I have yet to meet a man, fictitious or real, who wears a suit better than him).

Every now and again, a TV show brings us not only a good storyline, but a particularly stylish character who makes us all drool with wardrobe-envy. Suits is one of those shows. Since today is Friday and nobody really feels like reading (or writing:) long blog posts, I decided to select a few fabulous images of the utterly gorgeous, impossibly well-groomed and super stylish Rachel Zane (played by actress Meghan Markle) just for fun.

She kind of makes me miss my corporate lawyer days…and being able to don well-tailored Joseph suits with killer Jimmy Choos on a Monday. (Click on any of the images below to view a slide show of these pics.)

PS If you love the layered gold necklace Rachel often wears to work and would like to get a very similar one, check out the Rachel Zane Diamond Necklace at my online jewellery store Sloane & Madison. You’ll be happy to know we ship worldwide.