Strictly judge Motsi Mabuse turns 40 in April. That kind of concentrates the mind, it seems.
‘This January, I’m starting a new challenge — preparing myself for my 40th birthday,’ she says, giving one of her trademark laughs, full-bodied, rousing, even room-rocking. ‘I’m going to be 40 and FABULOUS.’
Where the mind leads the body will follow, she insists. She’s spent the past few weeks preparing — ‘conditioning my mind,’ is how she puts it.
‘I’ve got apps loaded on my phone. I’m ready. I got Christmas out of the way, and then in the New Year I start my challenge.’
Motsi Mabuse: ‘You have to accept your body will change, and love every stage of your life’
Motsi won’t be alone in embarking on a lifestyle overhaul this January. On Saturday, the Daily Mail is launching a 30-day health kick to get the nation in shape, starting with a weight loss plan devised by WW, Weight Watchers reimagined.
And who better to extol the virtues of the delicious WW recipes than Motsi, who is quite the glittering new ambassador for the brand, having previously lost two stone, after having her daughter, by embracing the WW approach.
Motsi doesn’t like to use the D-word (‘I don’t like the word diet. It’s so restrictive’) but says she will be taking a closer look at what she is putting in her mouth, tracking it and tweaking her lifestyle.
Because, well: Christmas. Lockdown. ‘You know,’ she says, conspiratorially. ‘I’ve been in quarantine. All you do is wander around the kitchen . . .’
And now? She wants to spend less time with the biscuit tin, it seems. ‘It’s about feeling good about myself and being able to say I’m healthy,’ she says, suddenly quite serious. ‘I look at my daughter.
By the time I am 40, she will be three years old and if I want to spend a lot of time in her life, I have to look after myself.
‘We have diabetes running in the family. Both my parents are dealing with diabetes so I want to take care of myself, because I know that is going to be an issue in my life. I’m going into this with a healthy attitude.
I’m not saying: ‘I want to be this size’, or ‘I want to lose this amount of weight’. I just want to look at myself on April 11, 2021, and say: ‘Well done, girl!’
Perfect 10: Motsi on Strictly. She was inspired to lose two stone by her parents’ diabetes battle
To achieve her goals, Motsi —whose sister Oti lifted the Strictly trophy this year with her celebrity partner Bill Bailey — plans to use the new MyWW+ app, which gives access to new WW recipes, including the ones which will be serialised in the Daily Mail tomorrow and throughout next week, as well as motivational ways to track everything from pounds lost to water consumption, at the touch of a button.
‘The thing is, we all have smartphones now so it’s very easy,’ she says. ‘Before I’d just shop and shop, but once I started scanning things using the app, and seeing what was actually in the food I was eating, I started to make different choices.
Yes, you can have the ice cream, but maybe think about a salad for dinner if you’ve had a bowl. It’s about choices.’
But she is quick to point out that her own work on her body and, more importantly, her health, is most definitely a work in progress.
Yes, she lost a huge amount of weight in the past and, yes, she needs to tweak things a bit, once again. Such is life.
‘What I’ve come to appreciate is that it’s not about a quick fix or a crash diet. Life fluctuates. We have different stages — our bodies have different stages too — and a lot of my own thinking is about allowing that to happen, and accepting that it WILL happen.
‘In my case, my dancing career was one stage. Being on holiday is another stage. Lockdown, too. A lot of people had tough times, but my way of getting through that, in terms of what was happening to my body, was accepting that, yes, this is a stage.
I told myself: ‘When the gyms open, when I can go out and socialise again, when I can do my dance classes, it will be a different stage.’
Many people will be starting 2021 heavier than they were a year ago, never mind a decade ago. But she is all about the here-and-now rather than harking back to the bodies of our youth.
Motsi talks about her professional dancing days, when she was competing at the highest levels, and had the va-va-voom figure to show for it.
‘In those days, yes, I had a dancer’s body. I was working out all day, dancing all day, going to the gym. I never had to do a crash diet, but before a big competition — like the German championships, for instance — there was a real restriction on what you would eat.
‘Like athletes, you want to give your body all the best nutrients, but also you want to look the part. But that was for competitions. I’m not a dancer now. My goals are different.’ She seems very accepting that she’s never going to have THAT body back again.
‘Sometimes I do look at those pictures and wish we’d had Instagram in those days. I’d abuse it, putting on pictures of me working out,’ she jokes. ‘But, honestly, I’ve accepted that I’m never going to look like when I was dancing. Everything changes. My body changed when I became a mother.
‘The point is, it should change. It’s normal. I don’t want my challenge now to be about becoming the woman I was then.
‘I don’t want that pressure. I’m not that person any more.’
Motsi has rather strong views on women who DO put pressure on themselves. While she jests about Instagram, she actually considers it quite dangerous, and feels that the constant stream of seemingly perfect bodies is something we should steer clear of.
‘People have become obsessed with looking at themselves, and comparing themselves to other people. I try to avoid that because if you keep comparing yourself to others in every aspect of your life, you are going to struggle. Stop it! Jump out of it! Move on!
‘The key is to do it for yourself. Yes, it’s going to be difficult. When I did it (the WW programme) last, I knew it was going to be difficult, but I knew it was going to be worth it, too.
There really is nothing better than waking up in the morning and feeling: ‘Wow, I feel good and I look good.’ Does she have tips for food choices? Her own preference seems to be for salmon, and more salmon. She can have it for breakfast ‘on rye bread’ and then again for dinner.
‘I think the lovely thing now is that there are so many things that you can try, which weren’t around when I was growing up. We didn’t have quinoa, for instance, but now my daughter loves it. There is so much out there.’
She is a stickler for the whole family eating together. ‘So if I was having a carrot, my daughter would have it pureed. Now, we will all have the same thing, but my husband might have a few more potatoes with his.’
Fad diets were more of a thing when Motsi was growing up in Pretoria. Her mum — a more curvy lady (‘Oti and I had more of our father’s shape, thin legs and arms, albeit with curves, too’) — was obsessed with a particular type of slimming tea.
‘It was awful stuff, and it was supposed to cleanse the stomach,’ says Motsi. ‘There was always that sense that there were things to be ‘fixed’.’
While she and Oti were naturally slimmer than their mother, they did not have typical dancer bodies. (It was their older sister Phemelo who was ‘more athletic’).
The first time she used a ‘diet’ was during those intensive getting-ready-for-dance-competition periods, ‘but it was only for a short time’.
It was motherhood that really changed her body, however. She married fellow dancer Evgenij Voznyuk in 2017 and seems to have accepted that her competitive dance days were over.
Others –— most famously her Strictly colleague Shirley Ballas — did return to the professional ballroom after becoming a mum. Motsi says it was never an option, because the life of a dancer is such a single-track one. ‘I can’t see anything running alongside it.’
When she became pregnant with their much-wanted daughter, she started to notice her body shape change ‘within days’.
‘It really was that quickly. It wasn’t a bad thing — the opposite. It was amazing, quite overwhelming really, realising that your body is growing another person. Within the first week really, my back hurt, my breasts changed.’
A lot of women hate their post-baby body. But Motsi says she
never did. ‘I didn’t judge it. I think I was kind to it because I was just so in awe of what it had done.’
She still needed to get back to work though — by this point she was a judge on the German version of Strictly, and was also running a dance school. She turned to WW and lost two stone, over ‘some months — there was no rush’.
Little wonder the German WW snapped her up as an ambassador. Her no-fret attitude chimes perfectly with the organisation’s new ‘wellbeing’ ethos. ‘It’s not just about what you eat,’ she points out. ‘It’s about sleep, exercise, so much more than just food.’
It’s a difficult balance to strike, being a curvier figure in an industry famed for the uber thin.
And today she does talk of there being a pressure to look a certain way, even as a retired dancer.
‘But I also see myself as representing another type of woman,’ she stresses. A less than perfect type of woman, perhaps.
She jokes about how, while her TV image may be all about the frocks and the high glamour, her off-screen look is a million miles from that. ‘I’m a mum and sometimes that means being a bit stressed and putting your jacket on over your PJs to bring your baby to school. I’m not Beyonce.’
She’s clearly not above some body angst. In an interview with this paper last month, she admitted that her large boobs are a blessing, but also a bane, and that she has not ruled out the option of breast reduction surgery, having seen the results on a friend.
But she refuses to have the idea of what she SHOULD look like dictated by others.
‘You can’t win that way. It all depends on how you see yourself. If you are saying: ‘I would like to be different’ and you have the possibility to change, then change.
‘If you are happy with the way you are, then that’s good, too. At the end of the day, you have to appreciate and love yourself.’
Motsi Mabuse has joined WW as a new ambassador and launched its #ResolutionsRewritten campaign. Motsi is encouraging everyone to make 2021 their healthiest year yet. To sign up to myWW+ and start your own weight loss and wellness journey go to ww.com