Already a household name after an impressive stint on MNET Idols in 2008, Liezel van der Westhuizen is currently taking both the South African entertainment, and personal branding scenes, by storm – most conveniently as a Virtual Speaker too, whom you can book right now!
She is a:
- Skilful presenter with a lauded vocal dexterity, evident in her work as a voice-over artist. With over a decade of acting and meritorious presenting experience within film and television, the success of her body of work with top local and international production companies, is beyond reproach.
- Renowned international emcee and keynote speaker, who has been intrinsically tied to the success of hundreds of events around the world, through her aptitude in captivating any audience, and across industries.
The relaxed smile, smooth and professional working manner, and her impeccable style, has made her one of the most sought-after presenters and emcees in the country – the digital space included.
Liezel kicked off her public speaking and Emcee career over a decade ago and has, to date, hosted more than 500 events across South Africa and internationally. She has won bronze and silver awards as a member of the Toastmaster’s Society, and is often invited to give motivational talks, covering topics such as: “Beat the Bully”, “Empowering Women”, “Finding Your Inner Strength” and “Personal Brand Personified”.
Coupled with a drive for success, an enthusiastic willingness to pass on knowledge, and an incredible work ethic, it is no wonder the sky is not even the limit for this unique talent.
If the brand fits…
Liezel was once cattily nicknamed ‘The Giraffe’ by designer Craig Jacobs, within his Sunday Times society column in 2009. She, and her statuesque sister Monique, stole the spotlight in killer heels that had them towering over other attendees, at a Radisson Blu fashion event.
Although the moniker was not meant entirely flatteringly at the time, this entrepreneurs ingenuity went on to incorporate the label into everything she does, including the eponymously titled The Giraffe Brand Academy, which she launched soon after. This initiative, which keeps to Liezel’s unending personal drive to offer value to those around her, began as a means of assisting business folk all over the world, in building a powerful and authentic personal brand.
The truth of Liezel’s diligent and tech savvy work, is evident in:
- The successful rise of hundreds of businesses around the world,
- The development of more visible entrepreneurs and thought-leaders online, and
- A wealth of opportunities seized and fulfilled.
The dynamic perspective Liezel chose to take, as opposed to wallowing in the flighty words of others, is a powerful testament to her experience in the personal branding niche. This is someone who can clearly assist organisations and individuals, alike, to turn negative publicity into something wonderfully positive.
She wont even let something like Covid-19s socioeconomic effects stop you, and your plans for towering above the rest, since Liezel has now added Virtual Speaker to her repertoire.
As only the second woman in the world to present reality television singing competition Idols, Liezel became a familiar face on the popular competitive music show during Seasons Five and Six, as well as during her time as a presenter on SABC3’s daily breakfast show Expresso.
Liezel has presented TV shows for channels SABC3, SuperSport, SABC Sport, MNET, DSTV and SABC 2, and lists her career highlights as Idols, Expresso, The Lunchbox and Soundcheck.
She continues to impress with her daily fitness feature on KFM radio, and maintaining a beloved Fitness Fridays segment on CapeTalk (a radio station that is broadcast in Cape Town). For those seeking more streamlined fitness information daily, Liezel has become the trusted Virtual Gig Guide for the hottest daily workouts she seeks out (or tries by recommendation) and shortlists, on her social media platforms – this seasoned Speaker also cultivating a digital presence resonating to more than 100 000 people.
With so much going for her, it’s hard to believe it has been just a few years since Liezel was “discovered” by Jacaranda FM, after the programme manager heard her working as a Makro announcer, following her TUKSFM apprenticeship.
“I began my radio life at TuksFM and was well and truly hooked on the joys of being able to use media to connect with people,” Liezel explains. While working for this varsity radio station, she received a job offer from EMI Music South Africa to become their international Public Relations manager – a development that saw her being introduced to, and working with, an array of global music stars.
An 18-month stint as an SABC3 continuity presenter, and presenter of the lunchtime show Lunchbox, led to even greater prospects for the towering talent; with the television singing competition Idols confirming her rise to the top. In 2010, Liezel launched SoundCheck Live on MNET, before starting her work on Expresso, and also found time to make her spirited on-screen debut in the films ‘The Race-ist’ and ‘Hollywood in my Huis‘.
Beauty and brains
With her professional style and ease in conversation, it will come as no surprise that Liezel has a spree of degrees in Communication Management from the University of Pretoria and, since 2000, has been a member of Toastmaster’s International. She holds a BCom degree in Human Resources and Industrial Psychology, and both a BCom Honours and an MCom in Communication Management – making her one of the most qualified Virtual Speakers you can book right now.
Grabbing life with both hands
Liezel manages to find time to work as a voiceover artist, and has an impressive portfolio of television and radio voiceover work to showcase, that underpins her other exploits. It all comes back to a drive within her, that was ultimately inspired by her grandmother’s fight against Cancer.
“My gran being diagnosed with Cancer was a big life-changer. I even shaved off my long hair, and went bald for a year in support of her. I now keep my hair short in memory of her and as a reminder that life is short. Before my gran passed away, she told me to grab every opportunity in life and [to] enjoy every moment.”
Fitness feats for charity
Liezel’s commitment to bettering the lives of people, extends so far beyond her world, that she was even called on to tandem cycle with a visually-impaired triathlete, across the Himalayans. She raised funds for Operation Smile and OneSight, proceeded to break records, all while challenging her body and mind to the limits; And her sports and fitness endeavours, can always be linked to her enthusiasm for the world, and her giving nature.
In 2012 and 2013, Liezel partnered with Canoeing SA’s high-performance coach, Greg van Heerden, to finish the toughest canoe marathon in the world – the Unlimited Dusi Canoe Marathon. She keeps a healthy fitness regime, training six times a week on the road (running and cycling) and in the pool, and was selected to take part in Nestle’s Triathlon team that went on to complete the gruelling Full Ironman Triathlon in 2010 (this involves a 3.8km swim, a 180km cycle and a 42.2km run).
The ocean – and its preservation – hold a special place in Liezel’s heart. She loves to swim, stand-up paddle board and surfski and is, impressively, a certified Nitrox Enriched Air scuba diver. Liezel recently gained her skipper’s license, after practising during a sailing fitcation in the Seychelles archipelago, which saw her entering and winning – on her return – the Mercedes Benz Ladies Race at the Royal Cape Yacht Club.
She was a Top 8 finalist in the 2007 Shape/Sanex Cover girl competition, was voted number 56 in the FHM Hot 100 Sexiest Women in the World competition – and again in 2009 – and received a nomination in the Heat Hot 100 competition in both years.
The sport-schooling solution
Stylish and professional, Liezel made number four on designer Simon Rademon’s Best-Dressed Women’s list in SA in 2008, and was also nominated for an Olay SA Iconic Woman award that year too. She is passionate about the environment, is an ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Glass Recycling South Africa, and gives back in a big way.
“I am involved with a charity in Cape Town called Velokaya – it’s a not-for-profit organisation based in Khayelithsha that employs a range of holistic, education-based cycling programmes. I believe sport and schooling go hand in hand. I am passionate about South Africa and educating our learners.”
Emphasising her creativity and skill with the digital world, Liezel is the first person in the country to have ridden a bicycle powered entirely by social media (a custom-fitted techno wonder bike) for the dedicated purpose of raising funds for Khayelitsha’s Velokhaya Life cycling academy. With the help of public “likes” and Pick n Pay, she was able to donate 20 bicycles to the academy – an organisation which, just like Liezel, believes sport is able to give our youth the skills they need for a happy and successful future.
This humble, energetic and deep-thinking personality will undoubtedly continue to grab each opportunity that life presents, while changing lives and bringing joy on her daily journey.
Over and above her multiple groundbreaking achievements, it is Liezel’s radiant personality and uncompromising determination to impact lives, which truly draws in audiences. A talented public speaker, Liezel remains passionate about helping people to reach their full potential. Her calling, therefore, involves travelling around South Africa – and safely flying internationally– so as to deliver motivational talks and keynote addresses on topics that her audiences describe as valuable and up to the minute.
A few of her most popular talks are listed, and elaborated on, below:
Employers – don’t be scared of your employees’ personal brand;
In this keynote address, Liezel says astute managers will encourage staff as they set about developing their own personal brands, knowing these can serve to create a win-win for both the company they’re running and their most valued employees.
- employees with strong personal brands will create interest and draw customers
- there is a way in which an employees personal brand, and the permanent job they are doing, can co-exist; that the two can be highly beneficial to each other
- trust is essential, so embracing those tough conversations is vital.
Future-proof yourself with your personal brand;
The pace of change we are party to right now, is unparalleled and mind-boggling. Artificial Intelligence is already being used to evaluate the suitability of candidates before and after they are interviewed, and is able to trawl the internet with a fine toothcomb, which helps the recruitment “bots” to narrow down to a shortlist, the most viable applicants for any given job or contract.
- create a CV that is comprehensive, clear and professional
- capitalise on the reach of your Facebook Business Page
- add reviews and network as much as you can on LinkedIn
- update bios and photos across all your profiles
- post articles and blogs that position you as a leader in your niche; or invest in the services of a skilled copywriter to help you
- self-promotion is key when it comes to your personal brand in cyberspace
Every pedal stroke counts;
“This ride [was] about more than ourselves,” says Liezel. “Cindy and I wanted to find a way to make a real difference, so it was a natural decision to support these two incredible charities that essentially give people their smiles and help others to see them,” she enthuses.
- how these two athletes faced innumerable challenges – including strong winds, rain, sleet, sub-zero temperatures and every imaginable technical problem – but never gave in
- how such tenacity and endurance in sport, is testament to incredible character-building and wisdom, which Liezel now puts into use in her personal brand coaching.
Beat the bully;
Taking a stance on bullying in the workplace, Liezel shares tips in this keynote address on how to spot the office tyrant from a mile away; and how to avoid becoming the target of their meanness. In essence, she helps victims find their voice again, to get the recognition they deserve.
- recognise the school or office bully
- unleash your confidence and beat the bully
- get the recognition you deserve
- create an anti-bullying corporate culture.
Empower the nation, empower our women; and Find your inner strength.
“The glass ceiling imposed by the traditional workplace is not the only thing that holds women back. Often we hold ourselves back. An inferiority complex, family commitments and a fear of failure can be at the root of this self-inflicted stagnation.”
- globally and locally, women are still in the minority in leadership positions
- while many challenges still face women in the workplace and society today, we still set out to change the world
- we need to speak out about gender-based violence and educational discrepancies
- we can work our way out of external and internal prejudices
- companies with more female senior managers have better financial performance
- Employers – don’t be scared of your employees’ personal brand;
- Future-proof yourself with your personal brand;
- Every pedal stroke counts;
- Beat the bully;
- Empower the nation, empower our women; and Find your inner strength.