Liezel van der Westhuizen

After two superb years on SABC3’s flagship breakfast show, ‘Expresso’, Liezel van der Westhuizen has decided to take a sabbatical from the small screen. Debashine Thangevelo found out about her study plans and voyage into a genre that offered a different challenge to M-Net’s ‘Idols’…

THE nation came to love (or hate) this leggy blonde beauty on Idols, when she took over the reins from Colin Moss in 2009. But she was first introduced on television as a continuity presenter on SABC3 back in 2007.

Very avant-garde with her wardrobe – and overall style – Liezel van der Westhuizen caused a stir when she decided to up and leave for the Mother City mid-Idols. With ProVerb holding the fort, Van der Westhuizen settled into her new role as a presenter on SABC3’s flagship breakfast show, ‘Expresso’.

Two years on, she has decided to take a sabbatical to complete her PhD in communication management.

A consummate professional, she explains: “I decided about two weeks ago while on holiday in Zanzibar. I’m such a workaholic, it was the first in a long time.

“I decided: now that I’m settled in Cape Town, I need to finish my studies.”

The 94.5 Kfm presenter continues: “It has been an amazing journey. I used to train in the morning for the Ironman triathlon, so I’m used to getting up early. The show slotted in very well with my hours. The team has been amazing.

“It was always fun and laughter. The girls, admittedly, can get pretty loud.”

She says that having the ocean on one side and the mountain on the other is a bonus.

Although she is leaving Expresso, Van der Westhuizen has made herself available as a freelancer to the show.

In the meantime, she has plenty of other gigs filling her coffers.

She offers: “I’m inundated with MC work. About two gigs a week. I also do voice-overs and work for the airport radio ads.”

Tickled by the public’s responses when she would “end up doing something crazy with her hair”, or did something funny on the show, she says the feedback has been heartening.

She also laughs at her live blooper moments.

“One of the most embarrassing was having Ryk Neethling in studio. I was doing a link to announce him and, in my excitement, toppled over a boiling pot of potatoes. He is a good friend of mine and he saw it all. I don’t think I have recovered from that,” she chuckles.

On her highlights, though, she recollects: “I got to interview William Shatner (Star Trek), the president’s wife, Desmond Tutu and Hugh Masekela. Just getting to chat to great South Africans making a difference was rewarding.”

Naturally, Van der Westhuizen will miss her colleagues Katlego Maboe, Ewan Strydom, Leigh-Ann Williams and Graeme Richards.

“I’m going to miss Kats and his serenading. I’m going to miss Mr Fitness Ewan, Graeme and my morning gossip sessions with Leigh-Ann.”

Of her break, she says: “I always promised myself I would get my PhD. It will probably take me six months to hand in everything and see where I can take it from there. In the meantime, I’m training for the Two Oceans Marathon and the Duzi Canoe Marathon. So it is going to be a sport and study sabbatical. Besides, when I come back I will be refreshed.”

And return is what she plans to do – make no mistake about that!