Cape Town - On Sunday night Liesl Laurie became the 7th celebrity contestant to be voted out of Dancing with the Stars SA on M-Net (DStv 101), saying the show was a reminder of her resilience.
Channel24 spoke with Liesl, who was paired with professional dancer Ryan Hammond during the show. She shares how her body took a knock (that cracked rib!) but also improved, the trust she had in Ryan and eating pasta every day.
Is there anything you think you could have done differently?
No, I don't think there's anything I would have done differently throughout the whole competition.
You know, I think Ryan and myself worked very, very hard, we gave it our all every single day - we worked up to 7, 8 hours per day. So no, there's nothing, absolutely nothing I would change, not any glitter on any dress, not any step in any routine. I believe that these kinds of competitions are set up in a certain kind of way and if something is meant for you, it will be for you. It definitely wasn't meant for me this time, but we'll see who actually ends up being the Dancing with the Stars SA champion this year.
What has the experience on the show been like?
It's definitely an experience that's one of those that's not very easy to explain because I think it will take me maybe a whole day just to get through the different kinds of emotions you go through, the different kinds of people you get exposed to and I think the easiest way to narrow it down, is just a learning and growing experience.
You learn more about other people, different cultures, you learn more about yourself as well. You're just thrown into this world and you learn so much about dance as well - you learn to respect it, you learn to understand it. And you also learn about all these people who love and respect dance so much.
So it's a journey. It's a big journey. We did 80 days - which is a very long time if you think about it. It's definitely just a learning and growing experience and I wouldn't change it for anything.
Can you talk a bit about the bond and trust factor between you and Ryan? It's evident that as dance partners you really trusted each other.
What was very important when you start the competition, you are very worried about which partner you'll get - you're hoping it's somebody that'll understand your quirks, and won't get irritated, someone that's very patient. And you know I was very, very blessed with Ryan.
He's probably the most polite and kind person on the whole cast. I've never seen him say anything bad about anyone else, I've never seen him be ugly to anyone and that kind of rubbed off on me as well. I think I took on his light and it became our light - especially in our dancing, especially in what we were doing. He was easy to trust. He's a guy of his word.
I helped him as well when he was trying to get engaged to Angelique, to speak to production, to keep it quiet, and that also showed to me the kind of guy that he is. He was ready to make that step and he wanted to do it on a platform like that because that's something that she always wanted. He's not necessarily that guy and I think all of those things just showed me that he's willing to make somebody else look better, somebody else feel better, more than what he thinks about himself first. That for me made me trust him very early on in the competition.
How do you feel about being voted out?
I think it's always disappointment, you know. I'm very, very sad. But like I've said, if it's meant for you it will be for you. If this wasn't meant for me, even if I made it to the final, it was going to be someone else's prize to win.
I'm just looking now to see who is actually the person that is supposed to be winning this competition because I do believe in lives being written out already, I believe in God, and I believe that everything happens for a reason and that there's a plan for certain things.
I also do believe that I was a part of this competition because I had to learn some stuff, I had to be taught some stuff and I had to experience some things as well. Obviously, ideally as a human, you want to be a part of a competition and win it, but I do take away the experiences, and I do take away what was necessary for me, and I do understand that as well.
What do you think of the judges?
I think the judges were particularly hard on me. And I've voiced this before as well. I don't understand why and maybe after the competition we'll sit down and have a cup of coffee and they can explain it to me. But the judge that I really, really started to love and respect at least by 4, 5 weeks ago was Tebogo.
I feel like she was always very fair towards me, she was always very constructive, but with the other judges I do feel that sometimes their comments were a little bit harsh.
Then again, it's a competition, it's their opinion and South Africans didn't always listen to their opinion and that's what made everything interesting and entertaining.
What was the hardest for you?
The hardest part is definitely your body taking a knock. You think you're this fit person, you're tall, you've always had a great physique - and then you have bruised toes, you have knee guards on, you have a cracked rib.
You know I have so many bruises - I was counting them last night and that's just from the past week. You've got a sore back and ankles - it's stuff you never would have expected because you believe that you have this strong body. That also has an emotional side to it because every time your body gets hurt you wonder: "Am I going to make it further? Is this the thing that's going to get me out of the competition?"
That was definitely for me the hardest part because I had an injury almost every single week and I said to Ryan we're not going to speak about it every single time something happened, because I also don't want to be known as "that girl," you know.
Very early on in the competition I cracked a rib, and I said to Ryan that everything else that happens after that, we keep it between the two of us, between production so that they're in the loop as to what's happening, but we're not going to base our Dancing with the Stars SA experience on a sore knee, and a sore back. I wanted it to be an experience about the dance, the fun and people getting to know me again and also getting to know Ryan.
How did your body change for the better?
Every person in my family, a couple of friends who got to see me throughout the journey, said to me, "oh my gosh, I'm going to dance because check how cool you look! Look at your body!"
It definitely goes from what would have been a zero to a hundred in a couple of days - you see the changes immediately.
I think it's because it's such a repetitive thing. I lost 4.5 kg that I did not want to lose at all because I'm a very small girl already, but it just happened you know, and yes, very, very toned, way more stamina. I'm very much stronger as well - I can feel my neck's very much stronger, my thighs, my arms as well. Your body does change tremendously.
There are a couple of contestants who have gone up to lose 12kg in the whole journey. I was grateful that I was able to eat pasta every single day and have hot cross buns and pasties and everything because the second you walk into the studio you work it off within the first three hours.
What did you not expect about this journey?
I did not expect to become friends with so many different people, who, if our paths didn't cross in this, I don't think we would have ever been friends.
There are people like Eden Classens who will definitely be a friend of mine, Zola Nombona as well; Jeanné who is Frank Opperman's dance partner - very, very smart, very entertaining and very tongue-in-cheek, she's definitely one of my favourite people on set.
Eden's partner Ashley as well - and almost every single person will be a part of my life for a different reason. I think when you go into something like this you think "I'm going to dance, I'm going to win, I'm going to look cute on television, I'm going to do all of those things" -- you don't think of the family you might gain out of something like this.
Even the crew - there are some people in the crew that I will always message on their birthday, I will invite them to, if I'm having a party or something, because they've not just been part of the cast and crew - we became like a family. They are also the only people that understood what we were going through, throughout this whole journey.
What did you learn about yourself?
You know, I like to believe that I'm someone who knows myself very well, but what I think I've learnt most is resilience, and also just reminding myself to perservere.
I speak about my childhood a lot and how I had to persevere and how I had to push through.
Then Miss South Africa happened for me and it was a slightly easier journey. And then Dancing with the Stars SA happened and I had to go back to being the Liesl who was 15 years old and always had to push and remind herself why she's doing things.
So it was more just a reminder of all the things I knew of myself but sometimes have forgotten and put to the side because I was focused on other things. Definitely the perseverance, the resilience and also that I'm a "people's person".
And it sounds like a cliche because everyone says that, but we grew up in a country of ubuntu. I was raised with the knowledge of ubuntu.
What you also learn on Dancing with the Stars SA is that you're not an island. You have to have other people around you that have to surround you, and carry you and help you. That's also something that I've learnt from my family and my friends that I can never be an island because I'll never ever survive - on the dance floor as well. You can't be an island; have to work with Ryan, when we're in a group dance we all have to work together.
I think one of the greatest lessons that I would even speak to people about is just knowing that you always need other people around you to help you and to lift you up.
Catch Dancing with the Stars SA on Sunday at 17:00 on M-Net (DStv 101).
(Photos: Supplied by Cathy Pinnock/M-Net)