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Making (air)waves

She’s known as the only rose among the thorns on the breakfast show of the popular community radio station, Pretoria FM. Esmarie Yssel is as authentic as can be and always up for a good laugh, whether on or off-air. We caught up with her in between tight deadlines.

With more than a decade’s experience in the media industry, you might remember Esmarie’s friendly face from the SABC TV Afrikaans news bulletin when she embarked on her television news career.

Six years later, and with ample heart-warming and interesting stories to tell, she called it quits at SABC News, joined the Pretoria FM team and quickly moved up the ranks, from output journalist and the current affairs production head to newsreader and presenter. She is now livening up our mornings as co-presenter of the Klankkoerant Oggend show.

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Esmarie’s day starts round about 4am for her to be on air at 6am. What you might not know is that she is not a morning person at all! Well, you wouldn’t say …

‘The team – James Kemp, Anton Meijer, technical producer Tertius Pretorius and I – is all about chatting, joking, interacting with our audience while informing them with news bulletins and in-depth current affairs interviews. The last thing anyone wants to hear on the radio is a dull, boring personality.

‘You have to be prepared to give a piece of yourself every time you go on air, listeners need to relate to you. Sometimes tongues twist or my brain, eyes and mouth malfunction when I read a story – but instead of burying my head in the sand, I embrace my oops moments and laugh just as loudly. Hearing that the listeners had just as good a chuckle about my ‘mistake’ makes my day.’

Although Esmarie has conducted interviews with numerous high-profile people, including ministers and former Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela, human interest stories make her journo heart beat a little faster.

‘Well, I won’t say no to an interview with Oprah Winfrey (although I would be seriously intimidated!). I’m always keen on whoever has a story to tell. I’m inspired by the ordinary people of our country and love sharing their stories. I believe it is the car guard, the man with only one arm and leg who I see in the gym every day, the teacher who steps in to ensure a 100 per cent matric pass rate for her learners and school in a needy community, who need to be seen and heard.’

As if tight deadlines don’t keep her busy enough, Esmarie is also a professional make-up artist, writer and poet. The latter resulted in her being approached by VivA Afrikaans, a platform where anyone can ask and learn anything about the Afrikaans language from the cream of the crop. Esmarie is part of their latest initiative, which is their online reading and listening library. Young and older children can read along with a professional voice artist, who teaches them to pronounce words correctly.

‘Children’s reading skills have taken a tumble, which means that even first-year students struggle to keep up at university because their reading isn’t up to standard. I’ve recorded 13 short stories for VivA Afrikaans, with half a dozen different voices for animal characters.’

For Esmarie, putting pen to paper comes just as easy as breathing. Two of her articles – one on her bearded Collie’s osteosarcoma and one on how Afrikaans influenced her career – were published in different media. Finesse magazine approached her to write a motivational piece for their book Elkedagse Geluk and she has since contributed to a second book to be published towards the end of the year. And there’s no stopping Esmarie just yet.

She’s just written a piece on tips one should keep in mind when travelling to New Zealand.

‘While we drove through the breathtakingly beautiful North and South Island of New Zealand, I made notes of things I didn’t want to forget. As the list grew, I reworked it into a piece which I posted on Facebook … a keepsake that my husband and I can dust off when we want to relive the experiences we had there. To my surprise, this was scooped up by AfriForum’s online platform for people living abroad, Worldwide, which published the full article in English and Afrikaans.

‘I did the same when we travelled to Thailand earlier this year, and will surely do it again whenever we travel abroad.’

Esmarie is an all-round lover of life, and it goes without saying that her husband, the filmmaker Elrich Yssel, tops the list … however, she’s gets a twinkle in her eye with the mere mention of the two gentle giants, Bentley and Belle, in their lives.

‘I’ll admit it, I always speak about my bearded collies, even without being asked. There are not enough words to describe how much I love them. Bentley is a cuddle bunny and Belle a busy bee … they’ve bounced into our lives, stolen our bedroom and our hearts. I will walk through fire   for them.’

After spending an afternoon in Esmarie’s company it is quite evident that she’s got that same buoyant personality as her dogs – fun to be around, lively and cheerful. And we think that is the reason why she is so loved among the radio listeners.

Esmarie in a nutshell:

  • A radio presenter she looks up to is Elana Afrika-Bredenkamp • She is a huge Lord of the Rings fan • You can make her day by telling a joke, clean her house or offering her baked cheesecake • She adds a lot of salt to her orange juice • She always falls asleep in the car when her husband is driving • If she can have any superpower she would like to be Wonder Woman. Listen to Esmarie every morning from 6am on 104.2FM or DStv channel 887.

* Text: Rialien Furstenberg. Photographer: Jaco Bothma, Empire Photography. Make-up & hair: Elaine Boshoff, EA Academy.

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