Around the clock with Leigh-Anne Williams

2014-01-30 13:25

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Leigh-Anne Williams, Radio DJ and presenter on Sabc3 breakfast Show Expresso, has a jam-packed day. We find out what makes this livewire tick.

 3.30 am I have three alarms to ensure I wake up on time – two cellphones next to my bed and one old-school radio alarm which I can only turn off if I cross the room. It’s always pitch dark when I leave for work and I’m painfully aware that everyone else is still asleep. To reconcile myself to this reality,

I practise gratitude and positivity. I live in an ocean-facing apartment in Sea Point, Cape Town, so every morning I open the window, breathe in the sea air and remind myself how privileged I am to live in such a beautiful city.

4.30 am The first thing I do when I arrive at the Expresso studio in Sea Point is make myself a cup of strong filter coffee with full-cream milk and two sugars. I’m a bit of a coffee snob and it’s the one vice I allow myself to enjoy guilt-free. Then I sit in the make-up chair and wait for the transformation from normal Leigh-Anne to TV Leigh-Anne.

Inevitably the conversation with our two alternating make-up artists includes whatever new eating plan I’m trying, my non-existent love life, a discussion of the people who are trying to have a love life with me and whatever antics happened on the show the day before.

 5.30 am We have our first meeting with the producer, camera crew and floor manager to clarify issues for the upcoming show. Briefs are mailed to us the night before, detailing which guests are appearing on the show, so this is our chance to clear up any confusion about the interviews.

6 am We’re on air. I’m always a bit nervous beforehand, which I think is a good thing. The minute I feel too complacent, it’s time to move on. A bit of nervous energy makes me push harder and keeps the show pacy and fun.

8.30 am We have our post-show meeting and discuss ideas for the next day. Then it’s off to do out-of-studio shoots for the show and voice-overs.

 2 pm I try to pop home to touch base and eat something. I live like a real bachelorette – at the moment I have three eggs, a bottle of juice and a ton of spices for the day when I eventually have time to cook. I’m always trying new weight-loss ideas and I’ve found that a high-protein, low-carb eating plan is working for me.

2.30 pm I arrive at the Good Hope FM studio at the SABC building in Sea Point.

I produce and present Twitter news segments and The Style Law, which showcases what’s trending in the world of fashion.

I have to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the world, so I can’t live without my BlackBerry, my Samsung Galaxy S4, my iPad and my Acer notebook. I tried a social media and technology detox over the holidays and found myself getting too anxious about not knowing what was going on.

6 pm The radio show ends and if I don’t have to go back to Expresso to finish my voice-overs, it means my working day is finally over. I seldom go out during the week so this is my time to sit in silence at home, organising personal admin or researching interview questions for the next day’s show. These days, instead of FOMO (fear of missing out), I enjoy a sense of JOMO (joy of missing out).

I might watch a DVD – I’m a bit of a romcom kinda girl – and I make a point of trying to read one book a month. I usually get through three-quarters of a book before getting bored. I’m trying to support local authors and recently read Melanie Verwoerd’s and Casey B Dolan’s autobiographies.

11pm I eventually go to sleep. For me, five hours’ sleep is a lot, so one of my New Year resolutions is to get more zzzs. I’m very conscious of keeping my bedroom dark and quiet and I enjoy wonderful positive dreams when I get a good night’s rest.

I remember having very anxious dreams about getting caught up in webs and falling, waking up startled, when I worked as a recruitment consultant for the University of Stellenbosch. That was before I joined the entertainment world, which has given me a sense of contentment and meaning.

15 Minutes with Leigh-Anne

What’s always in your handbag?

Foundation, roll-on deo and eyelash glue. Long lashes create structure and add instant glam.

Who’s your greatest inspiration?

I know this is clichéd, but I have to say my mom Denise, who is a logistics co-ordinator at Stellenbosch University and part-time DJ at Radio Tygerberg. She raised my brother Dale and me single-handedly and I’ve watched her make selfless but intelligent choices her whole life.

Also Nelson Mandela, who showed the world that we can choose to forgive. And I credit Oprah with giving me the insight to make my career move from recruitment to entertainment. She urges people to follow their passion and ‘try to make money from doing what you love’.

Which celebrities do you admire?

I have to thank my fellow Expresso presenter Ewan Strydom for helping me when I first guest-presented on the show. He literally spoon-fed me every link – I would’ve crashed and burned otherwise.

Locally, I think Jo-Ann Strauss and Jeannie D are very gracious and driven. I’m also in awe of Bonang – I’ve seen her MC five shows in one weekend! Internationally I would say Tyler Perry, who makes poignant, challenging films – and Idris Elba, whom I’ve been fortunate to meet in person and who remains so humble.

If you weren’t in entertainment, what would you do?

I’d own a coffee shop where people could stay all day while enjoying the most perfect cup of joe. I truly believe my life’s work is to be of service to others. In fact, I’m in the entertainment industry not because I want to be famous, but because I’d like to use the platform to be able to help others.

Your life’s mantra?

Everything is a choice. You can choose to be happy or unhappy. I have a vision board at home full of quotes and motivational wisdom that reminds me of that.

What’s the key to making it in the entertainment industry?

You have to believe in yourself. Not everyone is going to like you but you can’t let it affect you. I don’t want to live for what people say about me.

How do you spoil yourself?

I seldom have time to shop and I rarely pamper myself with spa treatments and such, but I’ve just bought a ticket to see Beyoncé in London this year. I’ve decided I can’t wait for her to come to South Africa.

Plans for the future?

I’m hoping to go on a fact-finding and scouting mission to Los Angeles fairly soon.

The boys weigh in

We asked the male Expresso presenters for their take on their female co-host.

Ewan Strydom Every morning is great with Leigh-Anne. She’s always brimming with positivity and just makes everyone feel good. Her favourite saying at the moment is, ‘I want to 3D-print Idris Elba!’

Graeme Richards She’s just so friggin’ funny – not something all beautiful girls can pull off.

Katlego Maboe At her 30th birthday party recently, Leigh-Anne totally rocked as Beyoncé.

Bob (the black French bulldog and studio mascot) If it weren’t for Bella (the blonde female bulldog), Leigh-Anne would so be my girlfriend.

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