A serpent in paradise - that’s what they thought of GIGI. A stripper who wouldn’t look out of place leaping from a cake at a bachelor party.
Even when the Survivor teams were first chosen the contestants in the reality series set on an island off Mozambique showed they didn’t really like the woman who has no qualms about taking her clothes off.
And of course the exotic dancer was fully expecting this hostility. “Unfortunately there’s still a stigma attached to the profession. It goes without saying I expected people to be prejudiced.”
That’s why she endured the hunger pangs and itchy sand-flea bites day after day without complaint. “My only goal was to change people’s perceptions about exotic dancers,” she says while relaxing in an easy chair at the Randburg strip club she co-owns.
“I went to the island with a clear message and that was to prove girls like me are tough and not the airheads everyone takes us for. I did it for all the showgirls. Each one is a survivor in her own right.”
Hopefully she succeeded in doing what she set out to do because she says she’ll never take part in Survivor again as long as she lives. “I was so, so, so hungry. That’s all I thought about. And I really missed chocolate.”
Hunger was the biggest challenge on the uninhabited island but the most pleasant aspect was the absolute silence. “It was great not to have cellphones and people phoning you all the time.”
She doesn’t, as many might suspect, have a troubled past. She was born Perle van Schalkwyk in Paarl, where she matriculated, and GiGi is a stage name she adopted years ago.
“My father was a music lecturer and I grew up in a home where classical music was heard often and everyone loved art and dance. I did everything from ballet to modern and creative dance training at school.”
She did her first nude scene in her third year as a drama student at the University Stellenbosch.
Her career as an exotic dancer began after she’d seen an advert for a cabaret dancer and over the next 15 years she danced in hotels, theatres and clubs and at celebrity house parties.
Five years ago she hung up her dancing shoes and opened a club in Randburg with a business partner. And when she’s not on stage she gives talks to women in large corporations.
Read the full article in the YOU of 18 February.