Fit, fab and 40 – Vanessa Marawa does it her way

Photo by RavenFire Photography (

Life after 40 can be maze of emotional peaks and valleys, but some women refuse to be defined or deterred by it. Take Vanessa Marawa for example, an incredible business woman who recognizes that her fierce factor is far from over. She’s embracing her wow power, her natural appeal and an unstoppable drive to do more.

Some might remember Vanessa as the winner of the first season of Survivor South Africa: Panama – the former estate agent and model (who didn’t take herself too seriously back then) who survived 29 days and scooped a cool R1 million for her efforts. Fast-forward 13 years, and she’s become the epitome of style and class… an influential entrepreneur, model, brand ambassador and MC extraordinaire, probably better known for her popular, mid-morning slot on Vuma 103fm. Her biggest passion in life is getting people to talk because she believes this to be a doorway to self-respect and learning to understand and appreciate one another.

“I’m a proud 40-year-old woman, passionate about mental health and physical fitness, and a true believer in prioritizing YOU!”

“Kind of like those oxygen masks on a plane. They tell you to first put the mask on yourself before assisting anyone, and it’s so true. You cannot do good or be of any good to anyone else if you have nothing left to give. So… restore, heal and thrive, that’s my motto for this year!”

Photo by RavenFire Photography (

Having turned 40 earlier this year, Vanessa is embracing this milestone with joy and the attitude that now is the time for everything. “Accepting that I’ve hit my 40s was a little daunting at first, but now I can honestly say for the first time in my life, that age is nothing but a number. Turning 40 is just a little kick in the behind and a reminder that now is the time to go after all the things I’ve ever wanted for myself. And that’s just what I’m doing. I’m happy to report… so far, so good.”

Reflecting back on her Survivor days, Vanessa says that winning the reality show, in the greater scheme of things, led her to her passion for radio. Had it not come along when it did, she says she may have focused her energies away from the entertainment industry.

“It also taught me that I am capable. So when I’m faced with a challenging time in my life, I think back to the worst days on the island and remember how I triumphed then and that that same spirit is still strong within me, I just need to dig deep.”

Like most of us, Vanessa doesn’t shy away from the fact that she’s had her fair share of ups and downs. Immediately after the competition, many great opportunities came her way, and she grabbed as many as she could. Along the way she’s laughed and cried and learnt a great deal. She also explored various careers before finding her forte behind the mic.

“I’ve worked in the wine industry, been a TV presenter, co-producer, I have a Media and Events company – Ugqozi – which is in its infancy still, and I have my current joy – a fantastic lifestyle show that delves into health, culture, legal matters, inspiration and daily highs and lows that we all deal with. We also have a great deal of fun.”

“I am very passionate about getting people to talk, whether it’s in the home, in schools, churches, communities or even broader. I feel we don’t engage in enough dialogue and lack of communication is perhaps where we begin to misunderstand each other.”

“Mental health is also something close to my heart. We are seeing a rise in mental health issues, and people who are facing these challenges are not sure where or how to express their pain, nor how it will be received.”

From her relatively quiet suburban home in Morningside, Vanessa’s love for our city is pretty obvious, and like the saying goes that you can judge a man’s true character by the way he treats his fellow animals, Vanessa’s heart oozes purity as she gushes about being honorary mom to Marmite and Xena, her two pavement specials.

Photo by RavenFire Photography (

“They have been with me for 10 years and through it all they’ve been constant companions keeping me on my toes. It’s great practice for the real thing.”

Someday I may still do the marriage thing and have or adopt a child. It’s all still within the realm of possibility, but for now, I’m enjoying life my way.

“I live within walking distance of pretty much everything the area has to offer. There’s a vibrant atmosphere here, but if I need to retreat, that’s possible too. That’s true for the entire city though, you’d be hard-pressed to not go and do whatever your heart desires. Durbs is continually growing, and to me seems to be the birth place of a lot of creativity and creatives. Since I work in the creative space, I’m always fascinated by how the people and the city keep re-inventing themselves. I just love this city!”

Thrust into the limelight after Survivor, Vanessa can often be spotted at upmarket events hosted nationally and across the city. Previously the Face of Clere and currently an ambassador for SuperHair and Latural Hair, she can spark a good beauty debate.

“Clean skin equals good skin. I have a basic daily skin care regimen – cleanse, tone and moisturise. I never sleep with make up on, but I also rarely wear make-up. As for my body, I can’t take full credit for the shape I’m in, because there’s definitely some genetics involved, but I do try to eat well and I’m just getting back into the gym scene after intermittent breaks.”

Working out really does wonders for body, mind and soul.

Raring to go on her own new fitness journey, Vanessa is in the throes of launching the Vanessa Marawa Challenge with her trainer. It’s a challenge she wants to encourage all men and women of her age group to join as a means of reclaiming some time for themselves.

“To release stress, to network and get fitter. It’s really about re-directing your energy into positive things, trying new things and looking after yourself more than it is about lifting huge weights. It’s a 10-week challenge beginning 27 August 2019. The details are on my Instagram page. We’ll be running them often, so if you miss this one, keep your eyes peeled for one early next year.”

When it comes to staying grounded, keeping cool, juggling life and work stress, Vanessa says it’s all about staying in the moment. She’s continuously training herself to adopt this approach to things because its allows her to keep things in perspective while executing what needs to be done.

“Of course you plan ahead where necessary, but as much as possible I try to stay in the now. Think positive, exercise, work hard, stay strong, worry less, dance more, love well and be happy-that’s how you do it.”

The only things I fear in life are missing or ignoring the cues that are put in our paths for us to follow.

“There have been many life-changing experiences that have at different times propelled me forward, and at the moment I’m driven by some major self-reflection and a hunger to do more. I’m in a happy place, it is definitely a state of mind and a place you need to choose for yourself on a daily basis, but I have a great history behind me and I’m incredibly excited to see what the future holds.”



Photos by: RavenFire Photography South Africa, Leslie and Michelle Venter – 071 365 4754 [email protected],

Make-up by: Jackie Jetnarayan, Jacky Jet Makeup Artist,, @jackyjetmua

Hair by: Latural Hair Studio, 079 820 5213,[email protected], @laturalhair