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My Valentine #WCW

Joining ICE Genetics last year was a highlight for me, this week I chat with their Operations Director, Donné. She shares with Sneak Peek what it takes to be a successful model these days (no, aesthetic beauty is not enough!) and how she finds the time to go to the gym, be an amazing mom and head up one of the most respected agencies in South Africa. This #girlboss is giving Beyoncé a run for her money…


What does a typical day look like for you?

Firstly, the last time I think I may have been anyone’s Woman Crush was around 1998, BI (Before Instagram); so post swoon and goofy grin I was thrilled to answer a few questions for you Michelle. Just in time for Valentines Day!

My alarm typically goes off at 5:00am, but in an effort to not wake sleeping children, snoozing husband and drooling dogs, the alert tone is set to barely audible; so in anticipation my body clock usually wakes me a few minutes prior. On average, 3 days a week I manage to get up, dress for gym in the misty light of dawn (I have more than once donned an inside out t-shirt as a result) and make my way to gym for a quick but much-needed gym session. Other days I press the snooze button 5 times and by 6am I am in the shower and getting ready. At 6:30am I make the boys lunches/snack packs, sip a cup of hot water and lemon, followed by a strong coffee and run through my checklist for the day. If you have ever had to wake children for school, you will understand that it could be likened trying to convince a cat to practice it’s backstroke in a Piranha infested pond.

We are out the door by 7:15am and by 7:45 I’ve smooched, hugged, duly embarrassed and waved goodbye to my beautiful offspring and make my way through the abomination that is Cape Town traffic.

Once I am at the office, I may as well don those weirdly padded cycle shorts and a sweatband because we literally spin through the next 9-10 hours. If only we burnt as many calories as in a spinning class!

I usually leave the office anywhere between 6:30 and 7pm and, race home and after reading bedtime stories to my boys, I work on my laptop most nights until 10pm or later. It’s a long day and stressful weeks, so weekends are always spent 100% with my family and more often than not on the beach or outdoors.

How long have you been Director at ICE Genetics? What are your favourite/least favourite parts of your job?

My husband and I started a model agency in 2008 called Muse Management.  I was 24 years old and the only experience I had was having worked as a booker for 6 months at a small character agency. We were young, ambitious and quite frankly completely clueless. But somehow with our limited industry knowledge, we began to build a little business from nothing but gumption and passion.

Those early days will always bring a smile to my heart. They were tough, scary and incredibly challenging, but they were also filled with so much fun and a true zest for following our dreams. A combination of blind faith, a formidable work ethic and an innate gift of the gab allowed me to learn and grow in tandem. At 25 I became a mom and with that, the gravity of my responsibility to provide a good life for my children propelled me into working harder than ever to make our business successful.

In 2011 my friend Penny Musgrave (who is the Head Booker at ICE Models and Kult Models) was pivotal in setting up a meeting with ourselves and the Directors of ICE Models (Steffi Rinaldi and James Kelly), who had heard from her about our reputation and budding little agency. Three weeks later, the shareholders’ agreement was signed and I commenced my incredible journey as the Operations Director of ICE Genetics.

I’ve never looked back. In 7 years ICE Genetics has become one of the most respected agencies in South Africa and thrives under the umbrella of the ICE Group. In the interim I took over Operations of ICE Kids and along with my partners opened Ice Artistes; a boutique agency for Professional Actors. I am blessed with a Dream Team of phenomenal bookers and colleagues who make our place of work an absolute joy.

The most favourite part of my job as a booker/agent/manager is not limited to one thing.

Every day is different, each with new challenges and successes. Even though I have been doing this for 11 years, I continue to learn and better my service offering. The exhilaration of a booking never tires and watching models thrive under our development and care is hugely rewarding.

I would say that the most challenging part of my job is establishing boundaries when it comes to my personal time. My job is anything but 9-5, so it is a delicate balance ensuring that my career doesn’t infringe too much on my family time.

What advice would you give to aspiring models?

Having aesthetic beauty is not enough. Charisma, a sense of humour and confidence are what give models that X factor we so often hear of. Having to be skinny is a myth. Have a strong body, a body that can serve you, not a malnourished body or one that is thin but without tone or shape. Look after your skin and your hair, not just with products, but from the inside out. Good nutrition, vitamins and exercise are essential. Educate yourself on the industry, invest in developing techniques that set you apart – dance classes, yoga, sports, physical abilities, languages, acting workshops are all valuable skill sets that will give you the cutting edge.

We know you are not allowed to have favourites, but what qualities in certain models stand out to you and make them a pleasure to work with?

Models who treat their profession like a business are a dream to work with. Great organisational and administrative skills are a definitive benefit. Models who are respectful of our (limited) personal time are appreciated. At the end of the day, I have always built my business around the ethos that if I spend most of my lifetime at work, then I want to spend it with people that feed my soul. I endeavour to work with colleagues and models that are mindful, professional, have a great sense of humour, respect their craft and work towards making our industry dynamic and forever in flux.

Current International model crush?

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Jourdan Dunn and Ashley Graham.

Current local model crush?

This is a tricky one, because I would have to name half my board! Marciel Hopkins and Junette Syster are making waves in the Curve industry and I have so much admiration for the body positive movement, so it is really heart-warming to see that two of my beauties are pioneering the local industry.

What’s currently in your handbag?

The kitchen sink? Hand sanitiser, about 5 lipsticks, hand cream, iPhone 8, pepper spray, tissues, wet wipes, earphones, clips, business cards, chewing gum and a mini Listerine, sunnies and reading glasses.

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