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Survival of a different nature

Current Mrs Cape Town, Lee-Anne van Renen (33) broke the mould of beauty queens when she traded her sash and crown for dirt and grit as a cast member in the upcoming Survivor SA Island of Secrets.

“It was a next level experience and something I would do over and over again. It is a lot worse than what viewers see. But I do hope people will see that there is a lot more to me than what meets the eye,” says the fairhaired, blue-eyed beauty about the popular reality show that starts airing on M-Net (DStv channel 101) tomorrow evening (16 May).

Behind the glam of the pageant world, Lee-Anne, also a life coach by profession, has had to deal with many ordeals and human pain that tested her spirit – fighting off obesity, two miscarriages and depression.

“I was diagnosed with depression 12 years ago, something that is often misunderstood by many. But I live in the mindset of getting up every day making the decision to overcome each obstacle in my way. Its a way of life.” she says.

“Fighting off obesity by losing 40 kilogrammes the healthy way wasn’t easy and neither was the miscarriages, but the important thing to remember is to never give up. Keep on fighting, that’s what I want to teach people. I want to inspire others to never stop talking about what tortures them. It’s okay to talk about your depression and it’s okay to talk about your miscarriage.”

Originally from Amanzimtoti, the sporty counsellor, her husband Loedi and two daughters Storm and Hunter moved to Cape Town’s northern suburb of Sonstraal, four years ago.

Inspired by her desire to help others overcome depression, she completed an honours degree in psychology and worked as a facilitator at an addiction hospital in Hout Bay, before entering Survivor.

“You could say I do people for a living. Whether it’s motivating them, training them, helping them or inspiring them”, she says about her chosen profession.

Lee-Anne dreamed of doing Survivor to test her own resolve.

“To see if I am as strong physically as mentally, to look back over the hardcore things I have been through in my life to get where I am, to try and leave a mark as a positive role model, and most importantly to be in the shoes of people who live without food or homes for days on end. I wanted to empathise more deeply,” she says.

Survivor brings out the good the bad and the ugly in you, she muses. Not even the hard training to pack an extra 7kg of muscle could prepare her for this adventure. “No matter how well you think you are prepared, nothing can shelter you from the psychology of being hungry, tired, cold and exposed to so many different personalities. It shakes you out of your comfort zone and brings out everything in you. You think you know yourself but are constantly tested with new surprises and twists. In those circumstances it is incredibly hard to be yourself,” she says.

As an avid athlete, she competes in many races and dreams of completing the full ironman in 2020.

“I race to escape some of the pain and hurt I am surrounded with constantly. I am put to the test in levels unexplainable such as the recent Ultimate Challenge which consisted of three consecutive days of cycling and trail running. I have also done the Two Oceans, 94.7 Cycle Challenge and Extra off-road Triathlon.”

As Mrs Cape Town, Lee-Anne is naturally very involved with charity work, especially the work done by the women at the Brackenfell-based Daniel and Friends Fund, who supports parents with special needs children.

“It feeds my soul and I can’t even imagine a life without giving back. Those women taught me how to be selfless.”

“My voice and my tenacity are what makes me, me. I don’t know how to give up despite life having dealt me a fair share of bad cards. I always rise. I always smile even though I might be breaking on the inside. I let it be known that there’s always hope. Living purposefully drives me and my vision is simple: If a human has done it, it’s humanly possible.”

M-Net head of publicity Lani Lombard says they handpicked fascinating, multi-faceted personalities from a variety of professions and age groups who are not at all what they seem to be on the surface.

“It’s going to be a social experiment of note to observe how they manoeuvre through the conflicts that are bound to arise.”

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