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					                                 PRESS RELEASE
                The Biggest Loser South Africa Launches

TX: Monday 7 January at 8pm
On Monday 7 January at 8pm, free-to-air channel launches one of its most ambitious
local reality programmes yet, the weight-loss show, The Biggest Loser South Africa.

There are 15 one-hour episodes as well as an additional 10 episodes of The Biggest Loser
Extra airing on Sundays at 4 pm.

Details of The Biggest Loser Extra will be announced early in 2008.

Says Bronwyn Keene-Young, Chief Operating Officer of “We have invested some of the
best professional experience and skills into this programme and we are confident that it will
pay off and that this ambitious venture will be of top quality.”

Zanele Mthembu,’s head of local production says: “Internationally the programme has
done especially well with a cult following from the USA to the UK, Australia and India, to Israel
and Brazil.

“Finally, South Africa has been added to this impressive list of worldwide viewers literally from
all the corners of the globe.”

The premise of this weight-loss reality drama is as follows: two experienced fitness trainers
(Lisa Raleigh and Bruce Classen) help 14 overweight contestants transform their bodies,
health, and ultimately their lives. Jasmyn Asvat hosts the show.

Two competing teams (red and blue) follow comprehensive diet and exercise plans to
undergo radical physical makeovers.

Tough physical challenges, surprising alliances and irresistible temptations make this
unscripted competition even harder for the contestants, who ultimately have to decide which
player is eliminated.

Some of the difficulties to overcome include delicious food, strict weekly weigh-ins and hard-
core fitness training on a thick sandy beach.

To add salt to the metaphorical wounds, the contestants are accommodated in a gorgeous
seaside villa right outside Durban, where alas, the golden sand will mostly be used for
exercise and not for laid-back tanning sessions.

Life in the fast lane is tough. In the end, however, The Biggest Loser becomes The Biggest

For more information and photographs contact:

    •   Herman Lategan, Publicist, Tel: 021 481 4634,
    •   Vasili Vass, Head of Publicity, Tel: 021 481 4532, Cell: 084 233 8277,

The Host: Jasmyn Asvat

Jasmyn Asvat is no stranger to TV and as the host of The Biggest Loser, she exudes a
relaxed, fresh charm.

She has diverse tastes and is passionate about many things – from film and reading, to music
and art, to poetry. In addition, she has a special interest in social awareness campaigns
focused around HIV infected children.

Being a single mother of two children – Leyya 13 and Mikaeel 11 – most of her spare time is
spent at home with her kids, family and friends.

Jasmyn has a sparkling personality and is known for throwing parties with a zing. “I love to
dress up and sing karaoke, so whenever I can, I pull together a crazy theme and invite friends
over for a night of laughs.

“I am also a backgammon addict – I play backgammon almost every night as a way to relax
and I think I am good,” she says.

With 10 years’ experience in TV and commercials – as writer, producer and director, she went
where most TV crew do not go – in front of the lens. This she says comes from years of being
a ‘suppressed actress’.

“Whenever I had an opportunity to do a voice-over or demonstrate a scene to a cast member,
I jumped at the opportunity and this got my friends calling me a ‘suppressed actress’,” she

She was born and bred in Johannesburg and educated at Parktown Convent, where she put
all her effort into the arts and English. “I was never much interested in maths and science, so
when I had to choose my subjects, I remember my maths teacher begging me to please take

After school, she wanted to go into law as her first choice and never once thought that life
would take her down a whole other path. Instead, she was offered a job as an intern
copywriter at an agency and worked her way up.

Jasmyn recently moved to Durban. “My favourite place to relax is at The Beach Café on the
main beach in Durban, with a book, a backgammon board and cocktail.

“I am privileged to be chosen as the host for The Biggest Loser (South Africa). More so,
because it is important for people to have insight into the dedication it takes to change your
life. No matter what you need to change, it takes effort, and I am part of that process.”

Jasmyn has worked for many years with overweight people while producing and shooting a
weight loss commercial. She spent months talking to people about how their weight hindered
their growth, affected their lives and shot video diaries of what life was like being overweight.

“I loved the end result where I saw growth and potential blossom out of the few that lost the
weight. Having my kids young, I have battled from my early 20s with my own weight, and I still
“I love food, especially my mom’s dishes. She is a fantastic cook and loves preparing a range
of dishes for her kids and grandchildren for our weekly Sunday lunch.”

Jasmyn sees her next few years to be filled with new, exciting ventures and is ready to take
them on. “With the way life has changed just in the past couple of months, I am very happy to
see what lies ahead.”


Trainer: Lisa Raleigh

Lisa qualified as a personal trainer seven years ago and subsequently went to Wales for a
year to gain practical personal training experience.

“When I came back I was only 18, but really wanted to start my own business. I did not have
much start up capital so I bought a few pieces of home gym equipment and after a few
months I became really busy training clients within their own homes,” she says.

“Soon I had to get my own premises. The gym grew from 10 clients, with me as the only
trainer, to five trainers and 150 clients over five years. Last September we moved into even
larger premises and now have over 300 clients at the new venue and 15 trainers. The
business is continuously growing having recently opened a women’s gym.”

Lisa is qualified with various diplomas in personal training, exercise specialist (specialising in
obesity, the elderly, kids, pregnancy and clients with injuries and disabilities), spinning
instruction, nutrition, behavioural kinesiology (testing food intolerances), and bosu and

“At the moment my business, VO2 Max Private Gym, is busy with its very own programme
that I formulated last year. I have incorporated everything that I have learnt and that I feel
works from all the different programmes I have tried over the years,” she says. “This consists
of a six day a week exercise programme, with the client doing something different every day.”

Lisa also enjoys public speaking and has done many talks, for example at the prestigious
Shape magazine wellness workshops.

To sum up: “I am heavily involved in many different aspects of the health and fitness industry.
My passion is to help people and I am intuitive when it comes to clients’ emotions. “I know
how to motivate and although I am patient and kind, I am firm when I need to be. Most of all, I
am not afraid of hard work and I am always up for a challenge.”

Her plan of action for The Biggest Loser South Africa includes mainly cardio training, weight
training, stretching at the end of every session to prevent stiffness and to keep the muscles
flexible and elongated.

“I will focus on positive mental attitudes and the art of visualisation. I will keep them motivated
and reward their effort and achievement,” she says.

“I will encourage them to write a food and exercise journal daily and to write down their
feelings, thoughts and goals to try to recognise bad habits. More importantly, they must have
lots of fun and enjoy the journey every step of the way.”

On a personal note: Lisa was born in Durban and is exceptionally close to her family. She
enjoys the outdoors and loves to spend time at the movies. Specifically any movie with hottie
Jake Gyllenhaal or Angelina Jolie in it.
Lisa describes herself as sensitive, tenacious and nurturing. She has been in a relationship
for nearly a year, and the lucky guy’s name is Kevin. Catch her if you can, but she just might
outrun you.


Trainer: Bruce Classen

Bruce (named after the famous Bruce Lee) hails from Atlantis, between Cape Town and
Darling. After school, his passion for a healthy mind and body landed him a job at a well-
known gym, where he started out having a menial job that was going nowhere.

He knew that he was destined for more, so with some gentle prodding from friends and
family, he enrolled at the University of the Western Cape for a degree in Sport, Recreation
and Exercise Science.

He passed, as the cliché goes, with flying colours. That, however, is where the cliché ends.
He became the proud recipient of the Golden Key International Honours Society Award for
outstanding academic performance – awarded to only the crème de la crème of achievers
within the faculty.

After that, he looked forward to more challenges and decided to broaden his horizons by
moving to Durban with his teacher wife Wendy and their toddler daughter, Jordan.

Says Bruce: “I started practising sport and exercise science four years ago and one and a half
years ago as a franchise personal trainer at a well-known gym. It has been so rewarding to
see the difference my work has made in people’s lives – not only to their physical
appearance, but also to their self-esteem.

“It is always a pleasure to partner with anyone who chooses to embark on the exciting and
fulfilling journey of honouring their most precious possession – their body – by attaining
physical fitness and wellbeing,” he says.

His plan of action for The Biggest Loser South Africa echoes much of his fellow trainer, Lisa
Raleigh. He will focus on a variety of exercises, such as weights, cycling, running, rowing, and
many more. Suffice to say there will not be much time for long leisurely lunches under shady
trees with a bottle of chilled chardonnay to match the mood.

In his spare time, Bruce likes to go fishing, play soccer and he even plays the guitar. ”I also
love to chill out with my family watching DVDs. In fact, when I am off work, I can sometimes
spend a whole day watching different movies,” he says.

Moreover, for a South African man he is certainly in touch with his artistic side, as he enjoys
sketching and creative writing. One can describe Bruce as practical and methodical, but with
a hint of mischief and spontaneity. Just what one looks for in a personal trainer.


Quotes to Chew On:

“We believe that Biggest Loser South Africa will capture the imagination of all South Africans
who are interested in living a healthier life and who identify with those who aspire to lose

“The show is different to other reality shows in that all contestants leave the house having
learnt a healthier lifestyle, which they can implement into their daily lives.” Bronwyn Keene-
Young, Chief Operating Officer.
“As a channel we are constantly looking for opportunities to produce programmes outside of
Gauteng and the Western Cape, where the bulk of our programming is produced.

“Kwazulu-Natal became the ideal location for Biggest Loser because it offered us a
picturesque backdrop and a variety of locations and sites for our production needs.

“Through the Biggest Loser we are also now able to showcase KZN’s expansive golden
beaches, the picturesque mountain ranges, nature reserves, historic sites and the rich Zulus
history to the nation, the continent and eventually the rest of the world.” Zanele Mthembu,
Head: Local Productions.

“This has been a huge and exciting project for Red Pepper. The company and the crew have
worked tirelessly to make this show one that will touch, inspire, and entertain the South
African audience. And we know it will.” Gail MacLellan, Producer, The Biggest Loser SA,
Red Pepper Pictures.


                                       The Contestants

Adil Ibrahim (24)
Weight: 152.3kg
Red Team

This Durbanite says that he has been an academic most of his life. He was an ardent
student, the geek who grew up behind his textbooks and computer screen. He later became a
man with a colossal build.

Currently he is completing his MA in Criminal Law, specialising in offender profiling.

“My parents, my family and my friends are all so proud of my numerous academic
achievements,” he says. “Yet there exists this painful void, this unfurnished and saddened
personality that hides from the world.

“My weight is threatening to prematurely take me out. I want to live and I am ready after 23
years of excuses to declare war on my fat. I just need guidance.”

The worst diet he ever followed was one where he had to drink copious amounts of lemon
juice and hot water with no bread or rice at all. “I nearly went off my head,” he says. He has
also tried various and many weight loss programmes, gym and swimming. “I try to do it for a
week, but feel embarrassed because of my size, so I retreat to my study.”

He describes himself as a person who loves wholeheartedly, someone who is protective,
sharp-witted and with a larger-than-life sense of humour.

When he speaks, it is with a healthy sense of self-irony. He comes across as urbane, open-
minded and inquisitive.

“I have a bad habit of procrastinating, not being patient enough. I know that I should be
exercising, but I love lying in front of the TV watching cricket or movies,” he says. “Although
watching people play cricket and not being able to participate is hurtful.”

One day he was turned away at an amusement park for a carnival ride – he was too fat. “I
would love to walk through a crowd of people without being stared or giggled at. Slender and
muscular people, ironically, make me feel so little.”
He gets a far-off look in his brown eyes when he says that one day…one day he will be able
to buy clothes on impulse, or something he wants to look smart in, as opposed to buying
bland clothes simply because it is the only thing that fits.

When it comes to food, his least favourite are carrots. He loves a sumptuous medium-rare
sirloin, onion rings, mushroom sauce, cheddar melt, fries…and an ice-cold coke to round it

“Coming to think of it, I also love braaivleis and mashed potatoes,” he says. “I tend to eat too
much junk, or comfort food, like chocolates and ice-cream.

“In my Indian culture, food features in a major way,” he says. With reference to the voting
process, he says that he will not curry favours with anybody and will have no qualms voting
people off who are disruptive or who mess with the team’s emotions.

If he is voted off? “I will feel the dent, but I am here to rehabilitate myself and learn from the
whole experience and take home the knowledge that I gain here.”


Jacques Pienaar (24)
Weight: 149.5kg
Red Team

Jacques is fresh-faced and youthful and looks like he still has some puppy fat around the

However, do not be fooled by these seemingly innocent traits. He is a truck salesman and by
the looks of it, this young man from Kempton Park is no pushover.

“I enjoy my work, because I like people and each client is different. What I do is a challenge
every day, which is why I enjoy truck sales.”

One of the bravest things he has ever done was to save someone from a smoke engulfed and
burning house.

Apart from being a daring and gallant rescuer, he is also an exceptional cook. “I can cook
anything under the sun,” he says.

Pasta, pizzas and burgers are his passion, and asparagus his least favourite. Besides
cooking, he enjoys watching sport, running, cycling, swimming and helping others where

“My dream? I want to climb out of a swimming pool looking great, with good-looking girls
checking me out nearby.

“I will flex my muscles and they will come running.” He laughs, with a twinkle in his eyes.

He finds it depressing if people laugh behind his back about his weight and irritating when so-
called well-meaning people start telling him about what diet he should follow.

“I feel intimidated and self-conscious in the company of well-built people,” he says.

“I can trace my overeating back to the days when my parents got divorced. I took that badly
and I found solace in food. Lots of it.
“When it comes to voting people off the set, it will depend. People who do not work hard must
go. In addition, if I have to be taken off I will continue on this journey. I will truck on, no matter


Gerna Jordaan (35)
Weight: 142.2kg
Interior Designer
Red Team

Gerna lives in East London with her husband and three children. Her career choice is an
unusual one. She and her husband run a tombstone manufacturing and installation firm.

“My husband is a qualified electrical engineer and I am an interior decorator by trade and
most people find it hilarious that we are now making, designing and installing tombstones,”
she says.

“Some people joking say that they are dying to do business with us. Ha ha ha! Yes, it might
sound very Addams Family, but I am proud to say that we have created jobs for over 40
people, who were all previously unemployed.”

There are a few character traits in people that rub Gerna up the wrong way. People who are
condescending, snobbish, and dim-witted and those who judge a book by its cover.

Her favourite meals include California rolls (sushi), followed by succulent fillet (stuffed with
seafood), and topped with wonderful sauce. Always followed by Kahlua Dom Pedro, of

“I would have loved to say that fruit and vegetables are my favourite snacks, but they are not.
Alas, bread, cheese and sweet pastries take first prize.

“The best thing about being thinner would be to take up dancing again, horse riding and not to
feel embarrassed wearing a swimming costume. Overweight people are always perceived as
lazy, stupid and generally boring.

“I want to shout out to the world and say: “I am not! I am not!” Nevertheless, I guess that it
would be easier to change myself than to try to change the world.

“Even though I am not easily daunted by other people, I feel intimidated in a room full of
young men, because they certainly do judge a banana by its peel.”


Sharon Harhoff (28)
Weight: 135.1kg
Red Team

Sharon lives in East London and has a diverse range of impressive and very special skills.
They range from emergency medicine practice, to advanced driving skills, to basic fire

In addition, she has studied management assistance, advertising and public relations. She
pursued a job in emergency medicine, as she wanted a job where there was a high level of
“I felt a deep desire to help people who are suffering with pain,” she says. “At the end of each
day I know that what I did counted and made a difference in someone’s life.

“There is incredible personal and career fulfilment in reaching out and assisting people when
they experience a dark moment in their lives.”

She finds loud and brash people highly irritating, especially those who think that they have
done everything bigger and better than everybody else has. “I also don’t tolerate bullies who
go out of their way to be mean and nasty.”

Her favourite meal consists of roast lamb, roast potatoes, rice and vegetables. “Don’t forget
the gravy!” Oh, and she also likes chips and onion rings.

What will motivate her to lose weight? “I am in the prime of my life and missing out on so
many opportunities because I am overweight.

“Men do not give me a second glance. I cannot visit the Cango Caves, because I am too
large. I cannot even go skydiving, something I really want to do.

“Most of all, I just want to look normal. I no longer want to stand out in a crowd just because I
am so unfit and overweight. I am always out of breath because I am so big; not a good thing
in my line of work.

“The competition would also really motivate me, because with so many people watching, I
could not possibly take such an opportunity and let it go to waste.

“I want to prove to myself and others that I can take control of my eating. I also do not want to
be last. I am too competitive for that. I want to be a thin winner.”

She says the best thing about being smaller is too look feminine again. “The last time I could
wear a dress and look good in it was about 10 years ago. I want to so badly to look sexy in a
summer dress.

I would love to change my eating habits. I know it is a cliché, but I need to learn how to like
broccoli, Brussels sprouts and green beans. I am so focussed on eating refined foods that I
have lost my taste for wholesome vegetables.”


Asanda Siloti (25)
Weight: 127.8kg
Red Team

Asanda’s hometown is Port Elizabeth, where he worked as a receiving manager. So keen
was he to lose weight on The Biggest Loser, that he resigned his job to be on the programme.

One of the bravest things he has ever done was when he performed first aid on his mother,
as she lay seriously injured on the road after a car accident.

This changed his whole life, way back in 1995, as she was paralysed and he had to take over
the duties in the household.

He was 13 at the time and his brother was living in Umtata. Asanda did the cleaning, the
washing and the cooking. It was then that he started gaining weight.

“Food became my life and I was working with it every day. I loved to see people eat and I
loved cooking for them, specifically for my mother.
“But it has spun out of control over the years and it is as if I am powerless over food,” he says.

“I am in a relationship right now I am afraid that if this downwards spiral continues I will lose
my girlfriend. Or even worse, I can lose my life, as this cannot be healthy.”

He clearly remembers one of the most embarrassing moments in his life. “I was at a party, sat
down on a chair and fell to the ground as it broke under me. Everybody laughed and I was so
ashamed I left,” he says.

“How nice it would be if I could walk into a shop and effortlessly buy clothes that would fit me.
Or go to the beach without feeling like a whale.”

When it comes to food, he despises cabbage, because it was part of the most hideous diet
plan that he once had to follow. Pap, bread and braaivleis make his world go round. He
would die for spareribs, mushrooms and Fanta Pineapple.

“I will vote people off the show because they are doing badly in the competition, not because I
do not like them.

“Moreover, if I am voted off, I will continue working on myself. One day I will be able to wear a
muscle top, flattering jeans and a cap that fits nicely.”


Sarah Kekana (28)
Weight: 127.8kg
HR Manager
Red Team

This human resource manager hails from Middelburg in Mpumalanga. “I started my first diet
at the age of 15. The first thing I did was cut out pap, and then I tried apple cider in all my

After that, she tried diet pills and numerous healthy eating plans.

“Initially I started losing weight, but I quickly gained weight again once I finished varsity and
started working.

“The cycle continued as I went back onto diet pills, eating plans and so-called magic potions
that would make the fat evaporate.

“Alas, nothing worked,” she says. “Then I decided to just do it on my own, without pills or
specifically designed eating plans.

“I decided to just eat what I enjoy in moderation and make healthy eating choices. I bought a
scale, and voila, I was on my way to becoming slim and svelte.

“Not for long though, because I moved provinces and quickly gained everything I lost. I just
could not believe that I was letting myself go like that, so finally I joined a gym.

“I was there at least three times a week the first month and after that, it petered out, but
completely. That is my dieting history, in a nutshell.”

Quite a mouth-full, is it not? Sarah says that she enjoys her job as HR manager because she
loves what she is doing and gets along with all sorts of people.

“I think it is because I believe, that despite all the evil out there, there are still good people.”
Her favourite meal includes chicken wings, pasta and loads of red meat. “I would be
motivated to lose weight if I saw others doing it.

“I would so much like to lose weight. Since I was 15-years-old I wanted to be thin. I would love
to go into a store and find something that does not just fit me, but looks good on me as


Noori Lockhat (25)
Weight: 102.7kg
Sales Executive
Red Team

This sales executive from Durban has one thing on her mind: she is going to lose weight and
lose weight drastically.

She speaks with confidence and as someone who thinks carefully before she talks, as if every
word has a special meaning and as if she is holding her cards close to her chest.

Her pet peeves include those who show off, ungrateful people, unkind and mean people.
When it comes to food, she hates peas but has a penchant for mutton curry and rice, Alfredo
pasta, fast food and ice-cold Coca Cola.

“I have been overweight since childhood,’” she says. “It never really affected me much, until I
reached puberty, when I started feeling uncomfortable in company and very, very conscious
about myself.

“I even had my jaw wired and I tried over 50 different diets, but to no avail. I will admit though
that I do not like exercise.

“However, this year I decided enough is enough. I joined the gym and tried to eat healthily.
But alas, I do have a sweet tooth.

“Chocolates and potato chips are my weakness. My biggest problem is that I have no
willpower when it comes to food and sometimes from all the pressures at work, I tend to veer
towards food as an emotional outlet and comfort.”

Her aim is to feel better about herself, wear smaller clothing and live a healthy fat-free life.
“Losing weight would change me drastically,” she says.

“I will have more career opportunities (overweight people are often discriminated at in the
work-place) and it would be a big boost to my confidence and self-esteem.”

When it comes to the voting process, she will target those who are lazy. “You are as a strong
as your weakest link,” she says.

“If I am voted off the programme, I will feel sad, but it is a game and it has to be played. I will
succeed after this programme and being angry with myself will not help. I refuse to be bitter.”


Louis Hand (44)
Weight: 165.3kg
Sales Director
Blue Team

Louis is often mistaken for an Afrikaans farmer because of his big rugged outdoors look.
Stereotypes aside, it sometimes is a problem.
“People often start talking Afrikaans to me and then I have to stop them,” he says.

“I do not understand a word. Then it is as if they do not believe me. I grew up in Manchester,
England, so go figure.” His first name is Jan. That did not help either. Now he uses his second
name, Louis.

However, he has been living in South Africa for many years; in Fourways, Johannesburg to
be precise.

He is married and has three children, one from a previous marriage. His favourite meal is
curry and he dislikes tomatoes. “It would be better to say that tomatoes dislike me.”

If he loses weight, and he is going to, he hopes to have more energy and more specifically,
he hopes to be able to play with his children.

“I am a healthy fat man, but let me be honest; I do not run for the bus anymore. I want to have
a better life and also a longer life,” he says.

“One of the many problems my weight has brought on, is that I can never find a strong chair
to hold my weight. It does get embarrassing.”

Although curry is his passion, he also has a soft spot for chicken, bread and late night ice-
cream. An idiosyncratic habit is that he does not eat during the day. Only at night after 5pm,
as he does not like to eat in front of other people, except his family.

One of his most awkward moments was when he did not wear a belt to a wedding and after a
few glasses of bubbly, his pants fell off.

Louis is confident about his chances on the show and is looking forward to his time in The
Biggest Loser team, as he is used to mixing with sizeable groups of people.

He used to be a tour guide and take large tours through the rough and desolate parts of the
rest of Africa.

“After I got Malaria the third time and nearly died, I was told by doctors to stop.” He is certain
that he will not be voted off. “I have come to win,” he says.

His game plan for the show is to level the playing fields. “The men are outnumbered, if you
know what I mean. Sorry about that, but some of the women just might have to go first.”


Khanyi Magubane (28)
Weight: 137.5kg
Blue Team

Khanyi hails from Johannesburg and is a writer, poet, journalist and radio presenter. She has
presence and a voice that is sensual and soothing.

“I love singing, performance poetry and telling stories,” she says.

“In my spare time I hang out with writers, poets, groupies and a posse of culture vultures. I
attend live concerts, travel as much as possible, listen to music and collect as many CDs as I
can lay my hands on.”

She describes herself as an extroverted thinking type and enjoys others’ company as much
as she enjoys her own.
“I am feisty and passionate about everything and have a low tolerance level for stupidity,
ignorance and apathy.”

Favourite meal? Curry and seafood. Least favourite? Pineapples, Brussels sprouts, raisins,
anchovies and amathumbhu (offal).

To prepare herself for the programme she meditated to gain the mental strength required and
she tried to be more aware of what she was eating.

“Losing weight will change my life. I will be lighter in every way. I will finally be able to move
freely and jump on a trampoline without worrying that it will snap under me.

“I will be more confident to wear anything I want to. It will be great to feel healthy. “


Shakeel Kaskar (43)
Weight: 134.1kg
Financial Advisor
Blue Team

“I could possibly be the poster-boy for almost any diet that has ever been,” says Shakeel, who
obviously has a well-developed left-off-centre sense of humour.

“I have tried a host of diets, among them the Atkins, the fruit only diet, the low-fat diet, the
slimming tea remedy diet, the slimming shake diet. You name it, and I have probably tried it in
some shape or form.

“But the most depressing diet I have tried, is the starvation diet,” he says. His all time
favourite food is mouth-watering sushi and succulent roast leg of lamb.

“I love a platter of mixed sushi with a side order of saganaki, which is grilled calamari tubes
stuffed with feta cheese.” His eyes glaze over when he mentions this.

However, he also remembers the consequences of being overweight. He once sat on a chair
at a posh wedding, when the whole chair exploded under him.

“Everybody, but everybody turned around in horror. You have never seen a fat man become
so small so quickly,” he says.

He loathes people who are conceited and boastful and prefers authentic people. “I also abhor
violence, but once a gang attacked my brother and I hit one of the assailants, who then sped
off into the night.”

Shakeel, who is married with a six-year-old baby daughter, lives in Cape Town. He enjoys
(occasionally) a game of sport such as squash, tennis, golf, or going for a run or to the gym.

If he loses weight, he would love to go into a store to buy off the normal clothes rack, not
looking for the “Big Man” size. He would like to walk on the beach without being self-

“The hardest thing about being overweight is walking up stairs, tying your shoelaces and
generally just getting tired easily.”


Rosey Lavers (27)
Weight: 124kg
Pre-School Teacher
Blue Team
This pre-school teacher from Port Elizabeth is married, with a seven-year-old son, who is the
light of her life. “I thrive on progress and I delight on seeing my children grow and learn new
concepts,” she says.

The bravest thing she has ever done is skinny-dipping (with her husband, one starry night).

Her favourite food choices are (hold onto your hat), a bed of steaming hot rice, spicy mutton
curry, cauliflower with cheese sauce, roast chicken with extra roast potatoes and pumpkin
with sugar and cinnamon (of course using the tastiest spices).

She does not care for peas, tinned fish or paw-paws.

One of the most bizarre diets that she has ever followed was the pineapple diet, which meant
pineapples, morning noon and night.

“I was so sick on it,” she says. “It was sweet and acidic and my tummy was upset for weeks.”

Just how does she hope her life would change if she reached her desired weight loss? “Oh, I
would certainly have more energy.

“I would dance better, be more confident sexually, be more energetic at work and more
importantly, I would be able to shop easier.”

She is often embarrassed when people ask her if she is pregnant and once she got into a taxi
and the seat broke. I was so shy I just ran away without looking back.

One of the hardest things is to pretend that people’s comments and insults do not hurt.”

Rosemary traces her bad eating habits back to her teenage years, when her parents got
divorced. She had to take over cooking and one day, unexpectedly, her father committed

“I still think of him often, but today I have a fulfilling life with my husband and son and his
suicide taught me that no matter what happens or how difficult it is, you have to go on and
make a better life for yourself.

“Setbacks have made me strong and I am ready to tackle the challenges this show offers,”
she says.


Phoebe van Staaden (41)
Weight: 118kg
SAPS Detective
Blue Team

Phoebe is a detective inspector in the South African Police Services; currently investigating
bank crime related to fraud cases and is attached to the commercial branch in

She is married with two children. “I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl two years ago when I
was 38 and I am still battling to shed the extra weight I gained during the pregnancy,” she

“I used to play netball in my younger years and I did a lot of cycling, but now I have no
stamina and willpower.”

One of her most embarrassing moments was when her husband jokingly referred to her as a
boere tannie.
“It hurts when you know that colleagues and friends whisper behind your back. I also want to
feel proud when walking in public with my family,” she says.

“I want to be able to fit into skinny clothes and jump over walls when I do police street survival

Her favourite food is anything sweet, specifically lemon meringue pie, honey, horlicks… in
fact, all desserts. “And definitely crumbed calamari with slap chips,” she says.

When it comes to the voting process, she will not hesitate voting against people who are not
team players, those who do not want to exercise and those who sneak into the kitchen at

If she should be voted off? “It is part of the game, but it would really upset me. If they could
tell me why, then I can learn from it and go forward.”


John Dokos (22)
Weight: 117.6kg
Blue Team

John, like Charlize Theron, hails from Benoni. When he speaks, he talks in measured tones,
with a voice that sounds as smooth as a babysitter’s.

He is an apprentice electrician, with big, sensitive hands. John is also an excellent cook and
his favourite meal consists of spare ribs with lots of marinade.

“Generally I enjoy eating takeaways and drowning my food with sauce. Food is constantly on
my mind,” he says. “Once I lost 40kg, but I could not see myself living on a protein diet

“Unfortunately, I gained all the weight again due to concentrating so much on a new
relationship that I neglected my weight. It all came back with a bang.

“But this show will motivate me to lose weight. I will be able to share my hardships with the
viewers and show them that anything is possible if you persist and if you really want it.

“Being smaller would allow me to have more energy and zest for life. I would love to take off
my shirt on the beach and feel comfortable doing it.”

Dishonest, pretentious people who treat others badly annoy John. He describes himself as
kind, nurturing and fun-loving.


Mpho Molefakgotla (29)
Weight: 112.5kg
Medical Doctor
Blue Team

Mpho is exotic, dramatic and intelligent. Not merely because she trained in Havana as a
medical doctor, but also because she has oodles of personality.

It has a life of its own and splashes like a fountain all over the place, with her big eyes,
provocative and flirtatious.
Nevertheless, behind her gorgeous black skin, she hides a poor self-esteem, brought on by
being overweight. She often feels tired; some of her friends subtly discriminate against her
and her son innocently make comments about her weight.

“Sometimes I can’t even look into the mirror,” she says. “It has been 10 months now. It was
since the birth of my daughter that I removed all mirrors in my bedroom.

“My weight, however, has always been a major issue, since my birth (or that is how it feels),
my childhood, into my adulthood.

“Every day I face this demon. Not having nice clothes to fit in is the hardest part. I would so
much like to look sexier for my husband. I am uncomfortable in a room full of strangers,
because I am always thinking that they are judging me”, she says.

“Beautiful, well-dressed and confident women intimidate me. I tend to run away from such
circumstances. Either I sit, do not move around, or I disappear. In my dreams I am athletic,”
she says.

“I’m even prepared to go to jail to lose weight.” On the subject of being in jail, if she had to
choose her last meal ever, what would that be?

“Mmmm… it would have to be grilled chicken, rice and sumptuous tomato gravy (oddly, she
hates raw tomatoes), mashed potatoes, an Italian green salad on the side, a glass of ice-cold
sweet wine and Malva pudding with thick custard to round it off.”

One of the wackiest diets she has ever been on was when she had her jaw wired and drank
only liquids for six weeks. “I had to, because I was going around and eating everybody’s left-
overs. It was scary.”

She lives in Mafikeng in the North West Province. At work, Mpho is admired for her skills with

Moreover, if she had to be voted off? “It will be very hard. I will listen to reasons and learn
from them. In fact, every second on the show will be a learning experience.”


The Producer: Gail MacLellan

Gail MacLellan recently returned to South Africa after 17 years in London working for the
BBC. “I missed home and friends too much,” she says, “and also yearned for blue skies.”

Gail started off as an English teacher, teaching for seven years at Northcliff High in
Johannesburg. She then moved into television during the early years of the TV broadcasting.

In 1988 she left for London, to try her luck in the industry there. At the BBC she started off at
Breakfast News and went through all the news programmes ending up on BBC World as a
Senior Producer.

She also produced over 20 documentaries for current affairs and worked overseas on live
outside broadcasts. In her spare time, she made films for charitable organizations, including a
documentary, shot in Ghana, with singer Ronan Keating for the Make Poverty History

“Producing The Biggest Loser SA is an exciting project; it’s also a programme close to my
heart because I’ve been an aerobics instructor for 25 years.
“The Biggest Loser SA is a fantastic reality show because everyone wins. Even those who
are voted off have learnt enormous amounts and been given the chance to lose weight and
turn their lives around. It’s been a wonderful experience.”


Red Pepper: Production House

The Biggest Loser South Africa is produced by one of country’s top production houses, The
Red Pepper. Their mix of creative talent, niche skills and state-of-the-art facilities provide the
perfect recipe for achieving “Flavourful Content, Peppered with Passion”: their promise to
both clients and consumers.

Over the last 10 years Red Pepper has grown into a vibrant and diverse creative design and
production house serving the needs and capturing the vision of Broadcasters, Advertisers and
Corporations in South Africa and Globally.

Although Red Pepper has grown into one of South Africa’s biggest production companies, it
still maintains a boutique style service and regards its biggest asset, its incredibly passionate,
creative and talented people.

At Red Pepper they use production strategies and techniques that take advantage of the
latest digital technologies and trends to create engaging productions that resonate with
audiences. As a result, they produce and facilitate over 5 500 minutes of on-air television a

The Red Pepper Pictures group consists of Creative Directors, TV producers, Writers,
Animators and Designers who through collaboration, interpret each assignment with detail
and care, ensuring that the subject matter is peppered with a flare of intuition and creativity.

 “Our productions speak to the whole continent in all its diversity, bringing stories,
entertainment and truths to the homes of our viewers. At Red Pepper we strive to be Africa’s
content provider of choice. ” Cecil Barry – Executive Producer, Red Pepper Pictures.


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