How the HollywoodBets Durban July remains SA's premier event — A fun dive into fashion, fame, and festivities

Published Jul 7, 2024


After over 10 years of being around one has to wonder if the HollywoodBets Durban July is still relevant.

Having changed sponsorship from Vodacom to HollywoodBets who have heavily invested in the annual horse racing event, the relevance of such a major event is always questioned, what is the need and does it bring any value?

Leading up to the 2024 edition of the Durban July, HollywoodBets ensured ultimate visibility for the event, at every major airport; Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban advertising could be seen. Talk about making sure travellers know about your event, which is known to draw 50,000 attendees.

The HollywoodBets Durban July is a horse racing event but it has grown into so much more than jockeys riding horses, it’s become a part of the South African urban culture. It is a lifestyle event that offers attendees a bit of everything; lavish settings in each different marquee which have become playgrounds for the who’s who of South Africa.

This year there were a few new entries when it came to the marquees, such as A2B Winery Marquee hosted by ‘The Real Housewives of Durban’ star Nonku Williams and ‘Saso’s Brunch Marquee hosted by musician Saso.

Williams was over the moon over the success of her first marquee, which even had foot massages, and considering all the walking done at the race track, they were needed. She even had performances from Brian Temba and DJ HappyGirl.

Her guests included her ‘The Real Housewives' friends Jojo Robinson, Maria Valaskatzis, Liz Prins and Beverly Steyn.

“I’m in awe, I honestly can’t believe this has happened, the day has come and it’s everything that I expected and more. The reviews; people are just happy, everyone has come through for me.”

Williams’ fellow ‘The Real Housewives of Durban’ co-star Slee Ndlovu was spotted at Saso’s Brunch Marque, which also had popular fashion designer Laduma whose brand Maxhosa partnered with the marquee.

Ndlovu was dressed by her bestie Sorisha Naidoo’s go-to designer The XVIII Victorian, but for some reason, her look wasn’t among the best. She could have been let down by her sunglasses and wig style that just looked misplaced.

For their first rodeo at the HollywoodBets Durban July, Saso’s Brunch Marquee was sure to curate a line-up that celebrated all that is great South African music, ensuring those in attendance were on their feet dancing.

Saso admitted that the day was not without its fair share of hiccups, but was happy with the way things turned out.

The HollywoodBets Durban July is an occasion for fashion designers, photographers, caterers, stylists, celebrities, and make-up artists - all to showcase their creativity with a fun play on themes. Of course, one has to slay when they are at the horses.

Growing up, I remember hearing about how individuals attending the Durban July would plan their outfits months in advance, securing the best designers and marquee reservation.

But the outfits at the 2024 edition had me wondering whether attendees found out the week before that they would be attending the annual soiree.

Fashion is subjective as we all interpret it differently but this year’s theme “Ride the Wave” had celebrities, influencers and personalities dressed in hues of blue and white.

We get that waves automatically have one thinking of the beach/ocean, which is most likely why attendees flocked to the beach for their photoshoots with many taking their creativity to very interesting levels.

It is a pity that the outfits looked better in the photoshoots attendees did before the event than in reality, with very few looking great in person. Sadly there’s no editing in real life.

Actress Jessica Nkosi once again entrusted Namibian designer Ruberto Scholtz, who has become her go-to designer for the HollywoodBets Durban July.

For her “ride the wave”, Nkosi looked as though she had been splashed by the waves, and for a change, Nkosi decided not to wear a long dress but opted for a shorter dress, showing off her legs.

“He is naturally a very creative mind, he is insanely creative and talented. I just gave him all the information HollywoodBets gave me and he said ‘he wants to take the theme literally and make me a splash of the ocean.”

Businesswoman and former ‘The Real Housewives of Durban’ cast member Kgomotso Ndungane entrusted up-and-coming designer Omphe Venter to help her bring the theme to life.

An avid lover of the HollywoodBets Durban July, Ndungane was elated to be attending the prestigious event. Ndungane explained that HollywoodBets keeps bringing her back to the event, describing them as family.

“My husband (Odwa) is an ambassador for them, they are a family, and we have a horse with them. So I do come for the horses and the fashion, I think someone out there thinks it’s just about the fashion, but it’s also about the horses,” said Ndungane.

Actress, radio and TV presenter Thando Thabethe, came as a shell with a white dress by Willet that had a frill with the hues of blue and plenty of drama at the back.

Digital creator and businesswoman Pamela Mtanga was also among the best dressed with her Orapeleng Modutle which had her looking like a goddess of the sea engulfed by the waves.

“I imagined the goddess of the sea coming out of the water with so many of the beautiful elements from under the sea.”

Sports anchor Robert Marawa decided to go against the grain and wore an avocado jacket by Thabani Mabika suits.

“When you ride the wave I think it has different meanings, you can go for the literal sense or you can try to tweak it a little bit.

“Thabani, who designed this suit and I designed, let's go slightly off the blue that everyone is going to be going for and also look for a dominant colour that is fresh and refreshing, but also stands out and has a clean look.”

— Oluthando Keteyi (@ThisLove_K) July 6, 2024

Radio, TV presenter and reality star Lethabo Lejoy Mathatho's outfit placed her on the worst-dressed list and at the roast of the fashion police.

Mathatho went for a mermaid-inspired look by Cherries Bridal, which had silver waves at the end of the dress that looked more like tin foil. She also had on what looked like a corset snatching up her waistline.

— Oluthando Keteyi (@ThisLove_K) July 6, 2024

Former soccer star Teko Modise was dressed by Dapper M and he certainly looked dapper in his look. White pants, blue shirt and a darker blue shade jacket with flowers and a crown brooch that added that finishing touch.

As a person who likes the sea and water, Modise went for something that is surrounding the water and yet still resembles it.

— Oluthando Keteyi (@ThisLove_K) July 6, 2024

Modise, who has become quite the stylish figure, shared that grooming for men has become important as it’s important to look good and “first impression lasts”.

“I can see that every man in this room put in effort and that’s what you need to put in effort and be expressive in what you are wearing.”

Actor Kwenzo Ngcobo, radio presenter Felix Hlophe and former ‘Uzalo’ actor turned businessman Ntokozo Dlamini were spotted having a casual drink together.

While Ngcobo and Hlophe enlisted local designers Zamaswazi and Thabani Mabika Suits for their looks, Dlamini did not even try and went with an all-black Louis Vuitton outfit.

The HollywoodBets Durban July is about giving fashion designers a platform - and all the better when they are local. Dlamini completely missed that point with his LV look that isn’t even from Pharrell Williams’ newest collection.

Award-winning content creator Nadia Jaftha, for the first time, enlisted a stylist for the big event. Kgosi Lesego who is one of the country’s top stylists dressed Jaftha in a blue short number by Scalo that looked just right on the creator - playful, simple and within the theme.

DJ, radio and TV presenter Lerato Kganyago entrusted her go-to designer Gert Johan Coetzee to create an outfit that allowed her to freely move around the different marquee that she was booked at.

DJ, music producer and record label owner DBN Gogo wore a blue two-piece number, and of course, had the blue hair to match. Dressed by Willet Design Couture, DBN Gogo channelled a wet look like water. “It’s royal, deep, it’s wet,” she said.

As a Durbanite, DBN Gogo shared that this year's HollywoodBets Durban July felt like a revival and refresh in the city.

“Getting the city talking again, there’s a new energy coming to Durban. I think that’s what we’ve needed for a while.”

Greyville Racecourse is one big area, comfort is essential to be able to make your way around, trying to find the famous faces among the normal attendees, who this year had better creative juices than some famous faces.

By the end of the night, the heels had gotten the better of many and so they walked barefoot, ahh the germs!

The answer to whether the HollywoodBets Durban July is still relevant in 2024 is subjective, but one thing that is relevant about the horsing event is its relevance to creating opportunities of employment and in a country with a high unemployment rate, we need all the revenue streams possible.

Greyville was filled with photographers who were on hand to do quick photoshoots with attendees at every point R50 gets you several pictures of your outfit.

Photographers were not the only ones able to cash in one of the big event - service providers for toilets, catering, cleaning, security, make-up, ticket sales, hair, designers, DJs, artists and drivers all benefited from the event.

IOL Lifestyle