Liezel van der Westhuizen is a well-loved media personality in the South African radio and television media space, but she is currently changing the game like no one has ever done before. Liezel is a global motivational speaker and corporate coach, specialising in personal branding and speaker training.
But beyond fitness and radio, Liezel is fondly known to friends and fans alike as ‘The Giraffe’, a moniker she has also worked into the name of her personal vlog, Giraffe in the City. What many people may not know, is that the nickname was originally meant to be an insult.
More Than Food Magazine caught up with Liezel, who resides in Cape Town, and found out more about the blonde beauty and what inspires her on a daily basis.
Who is Liezel when she is away from the lights, cameras and action?
Just your typical girl-next-door. I have the same energy, character, and style, that I show the world on-screen.
What makes Cape Town “home”?
Is it cheesy to say “the people”?
I’m at home wherever my dog’s happiness, nature, and an infectious city vibe, meet.
Where do you like to spend most of your time?
Well before lockdown, I was a complete water nymph thanks to this city’s amazing outdoor offerings. I was savouring my cold water plunges, daily swims in the ocean, and even having stand-up paddle-boarding adventures. I seriously revel in a large body of (reasonably safe) water, to immerse myself in with fun activities, or for a moments peace. Beach days with my friends, is also something that I really love making time for at least every Friday after 2pm.
Where is your favourite Sunday lockdown meal?
I love a good roast…seriously!
A blessing for me, to come from lockdown, has been time to actually properly cook. Rather than sufficing with the more quicker meal plans (which are also great) because I’m always out and about working, it’s just been interesting and great for my tummy, to really savour the cooking process of more robust meals.
What kept you busy during the lockdown?
Blessedly, I have been busy with virtual personal branding training for my clients around the world. I have also been MC’ing a number of now virtual international conferences. The Giraffe Brand has been adaptable to the time; And my team and I have fine-tuned an at-home system which ensures that wherever my clients are, and whatever kind of event they need a keynote speaker or MC for, that I am there in high resolution and sound – ready to facilitate their event, workshop, or conference, to the highest standard, within the online world.
Tell us more about your Marketing Monday seminars and why they are so important?
Marketing Mondays at 12pm midday, on my Facebook and Instagram LIVE (@LiezelOnline), was an idea that came about, as a way to give back during lockdown – having seen just how many businesses and entrepreneurs were struggling and scrambling to adjust to the cultural shift, in basically how we understand the world, and how we operate within it. I figured that there was merit in giving out the kernels of wisdom I have, from: insights on social media tactics businesses need to capitalise on, to why personal branding should be foremost in many entrepreneurs’ minds.
My multiple degrees, years of industry experience, and the frankly sterling reputation that precedes me, need to do more than benefit me, both now and later. I’m very cognisant of the platform I have, and the privileged position I find myself in; And Marketing Mondays is one of the more constructive ways I have felt would yield substantial benefits to others.
People anywhere are able to ask relevant questions to the topic of the week I’ve chosen, and I answer their burning question with as much clarity and specificity as I am able to during the live call. There are resources I also outline to those watching, and which you’ll have to tune in every Monday at 12pm midday, to hear how to access.
You boast a diverse personal brand – why is it important to open oneself to multiple avenues and angles?
If lockdown has taught us anything, it is to be as diverse and adaptable as possible.
It is simply not a viable long-term business (and life) model, to not try for multiple streams of income, various ways to entrench yourself more firmly in your industry, and to not work at the angles available, that will have you working smart and sustainably. Ones personal brand, is an asset. People need to understand the enrichment that comes with having one, and eventually having it be so valuable it functions like a credit card because of its success as social currency.
The Giraffe Brand Academy is highly recognisable – where do you hope to take the brand going forward?
The Giraffe Brand Academy helps entrepreneurs with building personal brands, with their marketing, as well as equipping them with sales tips and necessary fundamentals in my business training. I coach a number of clients all over the world, and it is so rewarding to see the brand and the academy growing in renown, and successful business strategies. I can only hope that going forward, more people see the value of investing in their brand, and that I can be a part of their journey, coaching them towards towering over their competition.
What is one entrepreneurial quality you believe everyone should harbour and why?
‘Agency’, which is sometimes defined as being the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. I just believe in an entrepreneur not going with the crowd, when there’s the opportunity to be singular and creative with your business. I believe in having and cultivating your own drive, rather than waiting about for other things or people to motivate you. I believe in taking in what’s going on in the world and its markets, but having the leadership thinking to be decisive and unique in your entrepreneurship.
Who has played a big impact on your career and why?
I have a number of mentors and coaches in the business world, who have been instrumental in the defined brand I am today. I have learned so much from them! My career though, has been impacted most clearly, by those around me too – the many faces I’ve seen (famous or otherwise), the voices I’ve chatted with, and the body’s I’ve swum and walked alongside. It’s the interactions with me, and the things said and done when I’m not there, which have been my greatest challenges and my careers triumphs.
How would you define your style?
In its broadest sense, my style is Sporty.
I’m the athleisure crowd for sure, but since I dabble across a spectrum of looks depending on my gigs, I’d say “Leisure chic” because it’s my athletic, corporate, accessible casual, and sporadically fun moments, all together with a glossy finish.
Best item of clothing you own?
Hahahaha, probably anything from Core Merino, because their proudly South African wool products are odor-resistant, temperature-regulating, and moisture-managing – perfect for my lifestyle!
Most cherished item of clothing or accessory you’ve ever received?
Well right now, it has to be my engagement ring, right?!
I do love it so much, and it goes with every outfit.
Who is your style icon and why?
I don’t necessarily have a style icon.
I do have people’s wardrobes I’d kill to grab a few items from. I want Chrissy Teigen’s entire fashion repertoire, some of Cara Delevingne’s runway and events looks, the fresh athleisure from Gigi Hadid’s wardrobe, and maybe Victoria Beckham’s handbag collection.
Favourite clothing item you’ve recently bought?
I’m obsessed with the red silk dress I bought, with a giraffe print. It’s so me!
What is one personal characteristic that you have that you wish more people knew about?
Oh No! You started with the bragging question first hahahaha.
Okay, if I have to go there: I have a strong sense of responsibility.
The interpretation of what that means in action, is obviously subjective for the most part, but for me it means that regardless of whether something affects me directly or not, I pay attention, and my ethics & morality guide me as to what to do or not do. Even when there isn’t a camera on, I strive to always do what is right and just.
What is one thing people don’t know about you?
I do actually like lazing about.
Despite the energy I seem to always possess while out and about, I listen to my body and if it is feeling weary, I carve out time to do absolutely nothing. I wont even post about it, because I’m that quietly relaxed in my laziness.
What do you want to be remembered for?
Even if history never remembers my name, I hope every heart I’ve touched, every ear I’ve had listening in, and every action for the world that I’ve striven to always make purposeful, means that there is an imprint of good vibes just floating about from one soul to another.
I’d rather leave impressions through feelings – making someone smile, and that rippling across to a world of positive action and feeling. There is something incredibly powerful about that intangible thing called ‘feelings’, that has dictated human history since we began. So, I guess: Remember the moments?
In your presenting career, you get to meet a wide variety of people. Who was your most memorable?
One of the most memorable, has to Gordon Ramsey. That was epic, and I wish I had like, a day to learn 20 dishes directly from the culinary master.
How do you maintain a balanced lifestyle – between business coaching, presenting, friends, family etc?
Paying attention, pacing myself, and time-management.
I listen to my body, listen to the people around me, and I check in on the people I care for. Listening means asking the right questions, which will result in a successful coaching session. Listening means I am tuned in to the vital insights that come from disseminated industry information, and listening means I’m in-tune with when I need to rest, and when to power through.
What is the daily fitness guide?
Every day my Fitness Gig Guide (video posted to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @LiezelOnline) gives you a round-up of the hottest virtual workout picks, currently on offer.
Every week I test out different fitness online classes, so I know if it’s worth your time and effort. And it’s only then, that I bring you my favourite 5 for the day.
What interesting virtual workouts have you tried recently?
I did the best virtual workout, called “Body Revenge” hosted by Aubrey Preston. It was a full-body workout, with weights, while spinning on a stationary bike. It was upper body, and bicep curls, and so much sweat! It was an absolutely thrilling fitness choice.
Why does fitness play such an important part of your life?
Fitness is a way to keep healthy – both physically and mentally. Whether I’m stretching out on a yoga mat, hiking, or cycling, it’s just me, gravity, and the ground in those moments – and there is bliss to that. Fitness is also what I grew up with, what shaped my body and my later ambitions. It’s in the fabric of my entire life, so it’s quite important to me.
You also have a Fitness Friday Podcast – Tell us more
The Fitness Friday segment on CapeTalk, is where Abongile Nzelenzele constructively engages me, on my fitness discoveries. It started off as a dynamic chat over some life-affirming coffee, and has now evolved into a really popular fitness podcast that is broadcast live each Friday, to SA’s fiterati. This weekly feature looks at anything and everything fitness related, from mental fitness, to advice for keeping fit while training with a mask on.
In your opinion, what does it take to be a presenter?
You have got to love to do more than talking at people.
Presenting is 45% talking, and 55% hours of research, preparation, practice, negotiation, teamwork, bureaucracy, and instant technical skills development.
Which local personality do you look up to the most and why?
Unequivocally, Basetsana Kumalo.
She has this…this presence. When she enters a room, you know before you turn around. Her gravitas is matched only by her smile, beauty, talent, skills as a businesswoman, and her philanthropy. You can learn so much about how to gain longevity in the industry and a place in people’s hearts, from watching that women engage crowds.
What has been the most challenging decision in your career thus far? What made it so challenging?
Whether to continue in my career goal to be a presenter, was something I really had to contemplate, after facing bullying in the workplaces I was in. It was a really tough time to find the strength to go forward with my dreams, when it would have been easier to just fade into obscurity.
A fellow colleague who always offers the best advice is?
When I’m working from home, it’s one of my rescue pups Leia, who always seems to know when I need a break.