Margaret Gardiner talks coronavirus from Los Angeles and reminds us that it's totally okay if you're not perfect right now

Margaret Gardiner (Photo: Supplied)
Margaret Gardiner (Photo: Supplied)

Channel24 speaks to former Miss Universe Margaret Gardiner from her home in Los Angeles, about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the global entertainment landscape and changed the way she creates content for the Golden Globes. There was also talks of a secret Miss South Africa Whatsapp group, but we'll get to that later. 

Like many of us who have been working from home during the global coronavirus pandemic, Margaret laughs when she says: "I've developed a muffin top!" 

Although I find it hard to visualise the former model (who stands at 1.85m) anything other than camera-ready, Margaret reminds me that it's perfectly fine to not have it all together during a pandemic

The coronavirus completely disrupted our lives, and it's totally understandable to experience an array of emotions and change in our behaviour and normal routine - this is not a normal situation. 

For those at the back, I repeat: "This is not a normal situation." 

Margaret stresses how important it is to acknowledge how tough this 'unknown' is on us emotionally. "I'm not always okay, and neither is everyone else. Of course, we are all strong, but that doesn't mean we have to hide our feelings or pretend like we've got it all together, all the time," she says. 

"I've been unable to go to the gym, and my body is changing. I could start strenuous exercises to counter the fascinating changes I witness should I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror (which I've managed rather skillfully to avoid!). Still, I forgive myself because I'm okay with who I am," she says, getting real about her personal experiences.

Margaret says she runs her household like a "general," when it comes to hygiene and safety practices. Something that I suspect has become the new normal for families worldwide.

"We have a landing pad for food arrivals. Everything is decontaminated before it's brought into the house. I wash and disinfect everything. The boys (husband and son) are not allowed to unpack anything without gloves and immediate decontamination afterwards," she explains the process in which they handle food and grocery delivery. 

She laughs when she says that it's the former beauty queen who educated the financial guy and doctor on the safety protocol - and she is proud of her system and the practices that she's put in place to keep her family safe. 

About how life under lockdown when she leaves the comforts of her home, Margaret tells Channel24: "It's like nothing anyone has ever experienced. There are essential items that haven't been available in stores since March, including hand sanitiser, toilet paper and paper towels." 

"Everyone knows someone who has it, perhaps not someone who has died from it, but there is a constant fear. And when you step outside, some people are so brazen about not adhering to social distancing or don't even wear masks. While others observe it rigorously," she says, when talking about the lockdown experience in Los Angeles. 

She expresses grave concern about the situation when she says: "Since some carriers show no symptoms, it seems it would be smart to take precautions, but apparently if one person feels safe they make the decision to take no precautions for everyone."  

But similar to the situation in her home country, South Africa, she says it is almost impossible to predict what the even next three weeks will look like. 

Margaret, who is a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and regularly interviews high profile Hollywood celebrities, says that she spoke to Colin Farrell earlier in the week, who shared her sentiment when he said he misses to the ability to give a hug, or touch a shoulder.  

She says that as restrictions are lifted, people are likely to become less stringent when adhering to social distancing, but it will be up to each person to make these life or death decisions for themselves.

But the way things stand now, Margaret says that the pandemic has brought her professional life to a complete standstill. 

The journalist, who travels the world to attend the most glamours parties, movie premieres and interview Hollywood royalty says all upcoming work commitments had all been cancelled, due to travel restrictions, as well as constraints placed on public gatherings. 

"I was due to go to New York for Steven Spielberg's adaptation of West Side Story and this week I would have been leaving for Cannes," she says when talking about upcoming projects, which have been halted. 

There was also an upcoming trip to South Africa that had to be placed on the back burner. 

In addition to upcoming projects, Covid-19 has also impacted her on-going projects: "My long-time client, Rooi Rose, folded and many of my former clients are under duress. I lost my job, so to speak, and like many, I am out of work. My life has been completely altered."  

Margaret faces the same reality as many South Africans, and so many across the world who have lost their income due to the pandemic, but she says that she finds joy in spending time with her family.  

"There is happiness in playing cards and scrabble with my family, cooking in the kitchen and gathering around the fountain on the back patio for a braai. It is the best of times. It is the worst of times," she says.

Margaret, who votes on the Golden Globes, says that the coronavirus has forever impacted the entertainment industry on a global level as people have lost their jobs, restrictions set back TV and film release schedules, and the financial implications on cinemas.  

"Will people feel safe to return to theatres?" she asks, adding: "There are so many unknowns."

But as many content creators, actors and musicians, instead of cowering, Margaret has found creative solutions to overcome these new barriers.

"I've been so lucky that I can operate from home. I've been doing interviews from home, for about three to four hours daily."


But for someone who is private, and who doesn't allow cameras inside her home, Margaret says that she had to let go of those insecurities. 

"When I was preparing for my interview with Jim Parsons (Henry Willson in Hollywood), I realised that the location I chose had a bad internet connection, and while walking to my office, I noticed the beautiful bright light in the dining room and that's where I plopped myself down - in my 'studio' for the day." 

She adds: "This week I'll be talking to Elle Fanning and Dakota Johnson from their home, and bring the interview into your home!" 

Other celebrities to look forward to seeing on Margaret's YouTube channel include Gal Gadot, Charlize Theron, and Nicolas Hoult.

When she is not on a call with Hollywood A-listers, Maragaret has been reminiscing about her 1978 Miss Universe reign, and sharing photos and highlights from that time in her life on social media. 

"I've always had a really tough time showcasing my year as Miss Universe, I think it may have something to do with my cancer diagnoses a few decades ago. But when I attended the Miss South Africa 2018 and met all the new titleholders, we formed such a lovely bond. We have a WhatsApp group, where we laugh and talk with so much ease, they have all inspired me, the way they so effortlessly share themselves with the public." 

Margaret has already shared photos from her Miss Universe reign, and photos from when she was a teenage model living in Paris on YouTube. "Normally, I would keep these things private, but I hope the 'Margaret Gardiner Files' can bring a smile or an escape to someone during these difficult times," she laughs.  

If you would like to get in on what's on Margaret's quarantine-stream, press play on The Crown on Netflix. "The new season has a lot of humour, and Emma Corrin captured the spirit of Diana so well," she says.

Margaret also did a set visit earlier this year, and you can hear all the (royal) tea here

Another show Margaret suggests you give a try is Ramy. Ramy breaks every stereotype in the book. And spreads the message that no one is perfect. "It's bitterly funny, with a hint of irony," she says.  

Now that's a message we can all get on board with, take it from Margaret - give yourself a little slack, there is no perfect way to handle our current reality. 

And if we fumble, and give the kids 15 minutes more screen time, or the banana bread burns, laughing at yourself only makes you more resilient.


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