She does not really know if she was accidentally named after her home town, but Perlé van Schalkwyk knew from childhood that she wanted diamonds and pearls in her future.
Now much better known as GiGi, she is surely the most successful stripper to date in South Africa, building a lucrative business empire.
She has just published her autobiography, aptly titled GiGi: Nipple Caps & G-Strings. And the first chapter tells of growing up in Paarl.
Van Schalkwyk was born at Paarl Hospital in 1967, one of three daughters to devout Jehovah’s Witness parents, a strange belief in the then very Afrikaans and Dutch Reformed Church town of Paarl in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Her father, Pieter Willem, was a music lecturer at the then Paarl Teachers College.
In Nipple Caps & G-Strings, Van Schalkwyk remembers her carefree childhood in Paarl Valley – swimming in the Berg River, picking mushrooms, picnicking on Paarlberg and slyly stealing grapes in the town vineyards.
But, she says, she never really fitted into the community because of her family’s faith.
Van Schalkwyk attended school at WA Joubert Primary School, after which she went to High School Gimnasium. She remembers being in Grade 10 (Std 8) when Balie Swart, Kobus Wiese and Kobus Burger were in matric, and how shy she was of these “substantial” young men when she had to walk past them in the school corridor.
As a young girl she once sneaked a peak of the diamond-clad Glenda Kemp (then a well-known stripper who was always accompanied by her python) on the back page of the Rapport, and this fascinated her. Little did she know that one day she would become one of South Africa’s most successful strippers and the owner of The Lollipop Lounge, probably the country’s most celebrated erotic club.
After school she went to study drama at Stellenbosch University, but quickly realised acting would not buy her that house on the hill. But if she seductively took off her clothes it could earn her a very good living.
And so GiGi was born. For years, she danced the Hillbrow strip club scene and crossed paths with characters from the underworld, such as Lolly Jackson.
Nipple Caps & G-Strings is riddled with stories of drugs, perversion, murder and porn, telling a very fascinating story of a Paarl village girl to that of a woman who tackled an often “dangerous” male-dominated world, which she conquered with courage and strategy.
One Paarl Post reader can win a copy of Gigi: Nipple Caps & G-Strings. Whatsapp the answer to the following question, along with your name to 066 484 3728: Where was GiGi born?