An eternal icon: Liezel van der Westhuizen

A decade on radio and television but an eternal icon of the South African entertainment industry.

TV personality, actor, voice-over artist, personal branding coach, and marketing mogul… these are but a handful of the designations Liezel van der Westhuizen has earned over her 10-year career in South African media. She’s even gone by the nickname “giraffe”, a pithy attempt to pigeonhole her for her above-average height, which she took in good humour and transformed into a branding business: The Giraffe Brand Academy. Take that, Craig Jacobs.

But none of these quite convey the warm intelligence and sheer likability this media icon brings (and continues to bring) to the minds, eyes, and ears of her audiences. Let’s meet Liezel van der Westhuizen, whose face and voice is a stalwart of the South African entertainment industry.

A journey that began with a love for people

“I began my radio life at Tuks FM and was well and truly hooked on the joys of being able to use media to connect with people.”

As all the very best success stories go, Liezel’s talent was serendipitously discovered… albeit in a Makro store, where she worked as an announcer. Like waves gilded by the setting sun, her voice emanated from the speakers—Bosch handheld drills on sale today—to be hungrily lapped up by the ears of Jacaranda FM’s programme manager. Upon hearing the saccharine siren’s song of Liezel’s voice, he wasted little time in tracking her down.

Liezel may have been “discovered” that day, but it wasn’t in the floor-to-ceiling trenches of bulk produce that she mastered the artistry of presenting. She had just completed her Tuks FM apprenticeship at the University of Pretoria, where she was studying for her Master Degree in Communications. She had also already kicked off her public speaking and emcee career and had been a member of the Toastmaster’s Society since 2000. So she was familiar and comfortable in front of an audience.

Liezel van der Westhuizen

A world (second) first

The ensuing years witnessed the steady ascension of Liezel van der Westhuizen; presenting TV shows on a constellation of notable South African channels, including SABC2, SABC3, SABC Sport, SuperSport, MNET, and DSTV. This would have been enough to make any professional TV presenter smirk with pride, but then Liezel made history in December 2008, becoming the second EVER woman to host Idols, replacing Colin Moss. That’s right. Before there was Demi Lovato and Katie Perry, there was Liezel van der Westhuizen.

“Being a record-breaking presenter, as only the second female in the world to have presented the reality television singing competition Idols is one of my biggest career highlights.”

This impressive and immortal achievement would become just one of many that, like craters to the moon, are ubiquitous to Liezel’s career trajectory.

Career highlights

We’ve already mentioned the many TV channels you were likely to catch Liezel on. However, when asked what her proudest career achievements are, Liezel is likely to say presenting on seasons 5 and 6 of Idols, as well as her time on SABC’s Lunchbox, Soundcheck, and the daily breakfast show, Expresso. (Who doesn’t remember waking up to that on weekdays?)

Additionally, to date, Liezel has hosted more than 1 500 events across South Africa and internationally and is often invited to give motivational talks, covering topics such as “Beat the Bully”, “Empowering Women”, and “Personal Brand Personified”. She also continues to remain front-of-mind with South African audiences with her daily fitness feature on KFM94.5 and “Fitness Fridays” segment on Radio 702 and CapeTalk.

Media personality turned marketing mogul

Recent years have seen Liezel van der Westhuizen expand her repertoire of career accomplishments to include award-winning global branding specialist and marketing mogul. Her latest initiative, The Giraffe Brand Academy, was established to help business folks all over the world to build powerful and authentic personal brands, just as she has done for herself over the past decade.

Liezel van der Westhuizen

When asked how she manages to parse herself out over so many commitments, Liezel says: “Honestly, my balance is something I’m constantly working on, and is helped along by the interesting clients I get from around the world, the thrill of challenging projects, and a really amazing support structure that includes family, friends, and other connections.”

Beyond the lights, cameras, and action, Liezel is a true homebody and relishes the companionship of her fiancé Mike, and their dogs, Leia and Luke. Ah, I love a good Star Wars reference.

An eternal icon of South African media

Since the days of the SABC, Liezel van der Westhuizen has been an icon of South African radio and television…her voice a soundtrack to the youths of the Y Generation (Millennials). Today, she is a vastly successful businesswoman with more facets than a marquise-cut diamond and who truly understands what it means to remain relevant and engaging to audiences, even in an industry with a reputation for rapid evolution.

Liezel van der Westhuizen

“I lend my success to investing time, money, and genuine love into my personal brand. It has sustained me, and helped me grow and thrive too!”

It is this genuine love of what she does that catapulted Liezel van der Westhuizen to stardom and secured her as an eternal icon in the eyes of South Africa’s entertainment industry.

Find her on Facebook and Instagram @liezelonline