The Human Sculptor

I know a man who reminds me of an angel.  Only this angel has a HUGE set of muscles instead of wings.

His name is Joe Black.  And no, he does not look like Brad Pitt from Meet Joe Black the movie. But he is black and he is my first real “black” friend. Not that colour makes any difference at all, but in my case it is relevant.

What you have to understand is that I come from a very Afrikaans right wing family.  My mother used to keep a cup, plate, knife, fork and spoon under the kitchen sink for our domestic worker.  I always used to cringe with embarrassment that she did not want our crockery and cutlery to be mixed up with our lovely lady’s.  And many a time she used to throw away (with contempt and disgust) hair brushes because she found a single curly hair on them.

So Joe Black (this is his stage name as he is a body builder and personal trainer) started training me a couple of years ago so that I could lose all the weight I had gained from IVF treatments and from my pregnancy.

And I was privileged to get to know a gentle, softly spoken, intelligent side of him that you would never guess existed under all those tons of muscles.

He explained to me his passion for “sculpting the human body”.  And suddenly he opened my eyes to a world of training and competitive body building that I had no idea even existed.  Where I thought this sport was rife with steroids and growth hormones and creatine – he showed me a healthy, more softer side to it.

A side that includes eating correctly, drinking lots of water and vitamins and supplements and training – all in moderation and combining everything together to create a sexy, toned, attractive body.  Gone was my perception of “if you lift heavy weights you will start to build muscle”.

I learned that here in Cape Town, especially the Western Cape, a huge percentage of body builders are black or coloured and that this form of sport is a blessing in disguise for gang infested areas of the townships and informal settlements.  These young men get involved with training from a young age and become top athletes that represent South Africa internationally.

So two years on, I still encounter aggressive, moody body builders (that puff out like one of those swollen frogs) in the gym.  But I ignore them because they are just a minority of the amazing body building athletes that do South Africa proud.

Please click on the link below.  It is a tribute to Joe Koffman, my trainer, who continues to inspire and make a difference in so many lives every day. Written and Directed by Morgan, my 21 year-old son.

I hope it will change your perception of body building forever.

Joe Koffman


Gold or Gums

I was thinking the other day about the gold/platinum encrusted teeth guards that celebrities are showing off lately.  How does 55 year-old Madonna get away with proudly flashing her “grilz” at the world?  I thought these types of ridiculous accessories were only for hard-core rappers or hip-hop artists?  Apparently they are hugely expensive and can cost up to US100 000-00!


I remember when I was a little girl and I used to watch my mother soak her false teeth in that special steri-tab solution.  (This I tell you shyly with my hands over my eyes). And then she used to polish (with good old Brasso) the gold initials AA (for her name and surname) and tell me that if I got good marks at school she might consider letting me have some gold in my teeth.  (No wonder I ran away from home at 18!).

But those were the days before crowns and veneers – when it was fashionable and more cost effective to have a set of false teeth made up.  And for those who were a little mad and eccentric – you could even gold initial them!

Which brings me to the other extreme called the “Passion Gap”.

This is a tradition going back 60 years here in the Cape Flats of the Mother City Cape Town.  It’s when the coloured folk remove four of their front teeth (dental mutilation).  Some say it’s because of peer pressure.  Others say it makes them kiss better and perform better during oral sex.  One local fisherman says it makes him whistle louder.


According to research, the Cape Coloureds were actually ahead of the latest trend of “Celebrity Grilz” at least a decade ago, when it was considered to elevate your status if you had gold removal caps or plates put in to cover the gap in the front.  “Peers would respect you more” said one youngster.  “But if you were in a gang they would remove your gold teeth so as to take away a bit of your wealth”.

Well there you have it.  From my perspective, whether it is part of a culture or heritage or whether it’s Beyonce or Miley Cyrus flashing their sets of vampire fangs, I am most happy with my plain ordinary teeth and I have no desire to flash a golden smile at anyone.

Toxic Mould

Yesterday I stumbled upon some shocking news.

Actress Brittany Murphy, who died in December 2009 at the age of 29  (supposedly from a drug related or eating disorder) actually passed away from pneumonia – brought on by toxic mould found in her LA mansion. Britney’s husband Simon Monjack passed away five months later reportedly also from the same thing. Apparently they had a persistent water leak in their home, which lead to the formation of toxic mould.

So yesterday, I was turning my bedroom upside-down because we too, have a serious mould problem in our apartment.  This is what persistent rain and leaks can do to homes in Cape Town. South Africans are not well educated on the health hazards of mould – yet many live with it for years without doing anything about it. These mould spores can be released into the air that we inhale.  Young children and people with immune deficiencies become seriously ill.  Over time, a perfectly healthy person will develop upper respiratory conditions such as sinusitis and bronchitis.  Other symptoms include sneezing, itchy eyes and coughing.

When these mould spores attach themselves to our lungs, the result can be fatal. The best thing to do is to make sure waterproofing is carried out on the outside of the building where the leak is, and then to wait for the wall to dry out – and then tackle waterproofing the inside of the house.  When you see black mould, wear a mask and gloves – and scrub with Sterri-Nappy or Bleach diluted in water.  And most importantly, use an Ozone machine to neutralize the spores if you are ripping up mouldy carpets or wallpaper, as the spores are released into the air the minute you start moving things around.

Actress Brittany Murphy