Helen Zille: Dolled up and ready to hit the campaign trail

2014-04-27 15:00

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Helen Zille has been caught with her hand in the ­cookie – or rather rusk – jar.

The DA leader on Friday agreed to be interviewed while she had breakfast and got dressed at the provincial legislature on Wale Street, central Cape Town, ahead of a gruelling day on the election campaign trail around Western Cape.

City Press arrived at 8.30am as Zille emerged from her office bathroom, her hair wrapped in a DA-blue towel.

She leaned over her personal assistant Donnae Strydom’s desk to grab a rusk from a container.

By this time, the Western Cape premier had already done a radio interview.

Zille took the guest’s seat in front of her desk, directing City Press to her own leather swivel chair behind it.

“I prefer sitting here,” she says. “It is easier for Janine to work on this side too.”

Janine Schouw, who joined the DA three years ago, happens to have a background in hair and make-up, and has assumed the role of stylist and wardrobe consultant to the premier.

The two negotiate Zille’s wardrobe choices, but for the most part, it’s Schouw with the veto power when it comes to fashion.

They share dress and shoe sizes, which helps.

“Often, we simply swop clothes. The premier is too busy with work to care about fashion so I take charge. This is mine, for example,” says Schouw, draping a cobalt blue necklace over the premier’s chest.

Time is ticking and Strydom rushes over. “Premier, a rusk isn’t breakfast. What will you have, eggs?” Zille agrees to have an egg. It is served scrambled and with four buttered Provita crackers.

She douses the egg in tomato sauce while Schouw starts on her make-up: base applied with a brush, Mac eyeshadow and bright-red lipstick.

Zille has openly admitted to using Botox treatments since 2005 to smooth her face.

She hasn’t had a treatment for a while, and can just about furrow her brow.

The 63-year-old is wearing a blue shoestring top paired with a white tailored jacket.

Her black leather handbag with gold detail is by luxury Italian label Salvatore Ferragamo.

Zille received it as a gift two months ago, and is quick to produce communication showing she declared it to the president – protocol when receiving any gift worth more than R1?000.

A staff member rustles up a letter, signed by President Jacob Zuma, granting her the privilege.

Zille calls the bag her “black hole” as it tends to swallow items, including the bright lipstick she likes to wear.

The bling bag aside, cheap and low-key appears to be key to her political armour.

Her high wedge shoes – Schouw loves wedges – are mostly purchased on sale at Woolworths. Other garments hail from her favourite shop, a factory store in Elsies River.

Bulky wooden beads worn to a march against gangsterism and drugs in Manenberg last weekend were bought at a flea market during a recent outing to Oudtshoorn.

Zealous shuffling and swaying has become a cornerstone of Zille’s political image.

Her dancing skills have elicited mixed reviews.

“My dancing is simply dreadful. Everyone knows I’m a terrible dancer. I really try to keep the rhythm, though, and I won’t stop,” she says.

Zille is fluent in Afrikaans, English, German and isiXhosa, learnt from her domestic worker Grace Voyiya, whom she calls her two sons’ second mother.

Pictures taken at her eldest son Paul’s wedding to Gretl Visser – at the premier’s official residence, Leeuwenhof, on March 22 – show Voyiya laughing, brushing confetti off the betrothed pair with a grass sweep.

Zille is poring over the wedding pictures on her little notebook computer, sharing memories of the day, when Strydom enters the office to rush her along.

By now, her hair and make-up is done and a blonde bob arches over her forehead.

Schouw applies some more firm hold hairspray and stands back to admire her handiwork.

The armour is in place and Zille is ready to set off for two more interviews before hitting the campaign trail, which leads all the way to the Kouebokkeveld mountain village of Prince Alfred later in the day.

Not a fashionista

The DA’s candidate for Gauteng premier, Mmusi Maimane, says clothes are mostly a source of stress rather than expression for him.

His biggest personal style rule is to “be presentable, because you are presenting”.

He’s also keen to dispel the stereotype of male politicians in suits and ties, so when he’s out at rallies, he’s perfectly happy in jeans and a DA T-shirt.

His biggest image indulgence?

His skin. But his washing, cleansing and toning routine is more about making sure the make-up he has to wear for countless TV interviews doesn’t irritate his skin.

“When I was in high school, I had bad skin.”

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