Stripper turned business woman Barbie Brazil on being judged and her overwhelming success

(Photo: Onkgopotse Koloti)
(Photo: Onkgopotse Koloti)

It’s a brutish beast with an ultrawide carriage and menacing oversized front grill. 

The military-style vehicle usually embodies aggression, but the Hummer parked outside the posh Fourways home is unlike those seen on dirt tracks or the blinged-up versions featured in hip-hop videos.

The SUV has been spray painted a shocking shade of bright pink – a fitting colour for owner Ennie Thembi Cleary, who also goes by the name Barbie Brazil.

Ennie, 34, is dressed in a pink shirt dress with matching stilettos, yet it’s her home that’s the real showstopper. Stepping inside feels like walking into a marshmallow or a little girl’s fantasy dollhouse.

Plush pink throws adorn the pink couches in the living room. Fluffy pink curtains hang against pink walls, and in one corner there’s a pink Christmas tree decorated with pink baubles and ornamental stilettos.

The dining room features a table and chairs, all in the rosy marshmallow tint, and in the kitchen a pink Smeg blender and cake mixer are on proud display. Her home could easily be mistaken for a Barbie convention for one, but Ennie is unapologetic about her palette choice.

“I love pink, I’ve always loved pink,” she tells DRUM.

Even her six dogs, who respond to the names Dolce, Gabbana, Legend, Bougie, Barbie and Ken, aren’t spared. Ennie regularly dyes them using a mixture of beetroot juice and dog shampoo.

She’s unremorseful about colouring her precious pooches, or how she’s turned her home into a shrine. “Can I just be happy? Can I do me?” says Ennie, who’s become the talk of the town thanks to her passion for pink.

“I’m living for me,” she continues. “I learnt society owes you nothing and you owe them nothing, especially the nobodies who know nothing about you.

”She started redecorating her home in her fave hue early last year. 

“I know I’ve gone overboard, but I’m still not happy.

”She points a long manicured pink fingernail at the parts she wants pink. “All the wood panelling and the lining of the window sills – I don’t like the brown.”

The lady of the house also wants the TV in the living room to be painted bright pink to match the large screen she has upstairs in her bedroom.

Her husband Seamus, 66, and son Cognac, 10, fully support the house’s unusual décor, which also sports a pink cross and Bible in the living room.

“If wearing pink and living in a pink house makes her happy then I’m fine with that,” Seamus says. “I’m supposed to make sure she’s happy. I’ve told her she can have her pink pap and her pink mashed potatoes but to leave mine alone.”

Her striking pink palace is miles away from the poverty and abuse Ennie grew up in.

She spent the first few years of her life on a farm in Daleside, Meyerton – south of Joburg – where her mother, Poppy Tshabalala, worked as a domestic worker.

Her father, from whom she’s estranged and prefers not to name, was employed as a gardener at the farm. But as violent political conflict in the area began to rise in the late ’90s, Ennie – then nine – and her younger brother were sent to live with her father’s side of the family in the Free State. There she’d sometimes go for days without eating.

“It was hard. We were abused physically and emotionally,” Ennie says.

“I had to wash clothes for my aunts and their children but sometimes I was denied food.”

She wanted a better life and when she turned 18 she shocked her parents by telling them she wanted to be a stripper. Now, in the middle of the lounge, stands a stripper pole – a throwback to Ennie’s former profession.

Ennie began working at adult entertainment clubs where she earned the name Barbie Brazil thanks to her tiny waist and long blonde wig. It was during those days she met Seamus. The businessman was married at the time and started an affair with the then-23-year-old, but their relationship hit a rocky patch when Ennie told him she was pregnant.

“He left me for two months when I was pregnant and called me a gold-digger,” she recalls, tears streaming down.

Ennie forgave Seamus when he returned – divorced and ready to commit.

“I gave him a second chance, not for myself but for our son, who is the love of my life.”

She also took Seamus back “for my sanity”.

“I wasn’t ready to let another stranger into my life because a lot of men already knew me as a stripper and I didn’t know their intentions,” she says.

Ten years later the couple, who wed in 2010, can’t be happier. Seamus’ busy schedule as an international consultant often sees him travelling abroad, but Ennie says they keep their love alive by talking on the phone every day.

The couple will spend some quality time together in the next few weeks when they head to America, where Ennie plans on having her third breast-enlargement surgery.

“When I was 19 I had my first surgery and had 400cc (cubic centimetre) implants. A few years later I went to 800cc and now I’m going to 2000cc,” she explains.

Her new size, Ennie says, “will be as big as my head, if not bigger”.

South African plastic surgeons have refused to do her surgery, which is why she’s heading to the USA.

“They’re so boring,” she says of the local surgeons.

“They’ve said 2000cc is too big and they have to wait for other countries first before they can allow it. That could take five or 10 years.

”She can’t wait that long because she doesn’t want to look “like an old lady”.

And Ennie is unfazed by the dangers of having such large saline implants.“You could easily be hit by a bus or by umageza (taxi driver) and you’re still going to die. It’s best to enjoy your life before you die,” she says.

Ennie has also had a nose job, tummy tuck, butt injections and skin-lightening treatments.

It’s frustrating when people think her husband foots the bill for her lifestyle, she says.

“I’m a businesswoman and hustler,” she says, pointing to the mannequins in her home that are adorned with lingerie and bikinis from her business.

She’s picked up on Seamus’ business skills, she says, and is an accomplished business owner herself. Ennie owns Bourgeoisie Boutique, an online retail shop that sells clothing, make-up and skincare products.

She also has stakes in several online stores, designs clothing for private clients and hosts exclusive and private high teas as an alternate stream of income.

Ennie loves the finer things in life and she makes no excuse for it.

“I like to do things that make me happy, not what society accepts because who are they? What do they do for me?”

And she’s quick to silence her haters.

“Stop judging me because I’m in a lane you can never be in.”

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24