April Alexander Model DiscreetMuse.com

#TBT My 6 months as a Capetonian in Cape Town!


-LIFE IN THE WESTERN CAPE-

April Alexander Model DiscreetMuse.com

I cannot believe it has already been over a year that I initially embarked on my first autonomous long haul trip to Cape Town, South Africa, a country and continent I never imagined I would visit in my lifetime. Out of all of the places I have visited so far Cape Town is literally one of my favourites (only justttt being trumped by my recent trip to Los Angeles, which is pretty much like the American version of Cape Town so I’m not sure if it counts lol).

I have received a lot of messages from hopeful holidayers, curious peers and mindful models about Cape Town, so I thought that it might be helpful to give you a honest little insight into my 6 months as fully fledged Capetonian.

Before my travels, many friends, family members and acquaintances had advised against me going to Cape Town for one reason or another. A couple concerned but OTT comments ranged from my potential mugging, rape and death which filled my head with paranoia and pretty much turned me into a social recluse for the first two weeks of living there. From the notion of “bergies” to heckling Rand Van men on street corners, I-was-petrified. Several times during the course of those first few weeks I had asked myself why oh why had I decided to come here? I was confident  that I was surely going to die, never see my family again and might as well start writing my “Will” now (!)

Yes, it’s true these things can happen to you but do you know what, they can happen anywhere in the world, including your home city so to think that Cape Town would be any different is a bit naive. It’s just about using your head, being aware of your surroundings and not flaunting your expensive sh*t around making yourself an easy target.

Pretty straight forward, right?

With that being said, I don’t intend to make this post about why you should rethink going to “super scary” Cape Town because in all honesty, my experience was anything but that. To be frank, it was nothing short of amazing; an experience I’ll never, ever forget.

– Transport –

Getting around Cape Town is pretty straight forward, super cheap and quite efficient to a certain extent. When out and about I primarily used the local “Rand vans” (the unofficial nickname for them) because they such cover a large area of Cape Town for so little and for an extra R3, you get to Camps Bay within 15/20 minutes from the city centre! Another reliable mode of transport is the western world’s favourite taxi service, Uber and also the local bus services Golden Arrow and MyCiTi. As a young woman travelling alone on these modes of transportation is perfectly safe during the daytime but obviously at night I took extra precaution by opting only for Uber as you have that extra sense of security (the local taxi’s are definitely not the safest option!).

I did learn a lot about myself travelling on my own for such a long period of time. I realised that yes,  I am human just like the rest of you and at times I will feel lonely. Sometimes even when in a large group of people but that just made me work harder to make myself happy above all else. If I didn’t feel comfortable  I would just spend some good alone time for a day or 3, write a new short story or in my diary and find a good release for any pent up energy I was harbouring. Walks by the Sea Point Promenade was also perfect for this. The fresh air grazing my face, the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks = pure perfection. There is nothing wrong with being alone, cherishing those silent moments and taking in the beautiful surroundings (yes, you can do this in London too, you just have to find those hidden gem locations!)

– My First Birthday Away From Home –

I also had my first birthday away from home which turned out to be a really lovely day. I was super happy, had sunshine on my face (which is nonexistent for February in London) and was shooting a lingerie story on a beautiful wine farm with my Truworths family. It was definitely one of my best birthday’s actually; different but so effortlessly nice. After my job I met up with my friend Unique at Cafe Extrablatt and we had Happy Hour cocktails. She had a Bloody Mary with a couple dashes of Hot Sauce (yuck lol) and I had a Long Island Ice Tea. Afterwards I asked the waiters for a cheese cake because it was my birthday and I wanted to treat myself and then they surprised me by putting a candle in it lol! It was such a simple, sweet gesture but I really appreciated it (I didn’t have it pay for it either! Score!) Later in the evening Toni, Jolie, Unique, Meron and I went out to dinner to the Cuban Tapas restaurant Buena Vista in Green Point, sampling many of their yummy staple Cuban dishes then we were lured to the heaving dance floor for some two-left-feet novice salsa dancing.

-MODELLING-

I had only planned on staying in Cape Town for 3 months from October to December 2014 because it’s  “season” in Cape Town. During “season” there is in influx of international models and clients who fly in specifically to shoot a lot of lucrative jobs like catalogues, campaigns and TVCs for our spring/summer collections. So if you’re lucky enough to get booked, you’ll be banking near to the normal rate what we usually expect to earn ( in £$€ ) instead of those pesky South African Rands – I repeat, IF you’re lucky!

On the other hand, some clients come to Cape Town to undercut models, as they know if they were to have booked him or her in, say NYC they would have to pay a much higher rate. So with Cape Town it is truly about building your book and client base rather than your earning potential. You’re better off focusing on the campaigns/tear sheets you could potentially book and bring back to the city you’re based in. These jobs will make you irresistible to western local clients who WILL pay your usual day rate. As my Mum always says, “Look at the long money; not the short money!” which basically means sometimes you have to take a small loss in present to receive a big gain in the future. Investing in yourself may take time, energy and tears but if you don’t do it, you can’t expect anyone else to!   

Luckily for me, the first time around I worked quite consistently which was a total shock to me as my London agents and model peers who had worked in Cape Town had said to “think of Cape Town as a vacation, maybe you’ll be able to get some good images for your book, but just have fun”. Although I do like to have fun – just like any ol’ Joe Blogg I want to make money too! It was a big financial risk for me as I had paid for my own flight and accommodation in Cape Town plus my flat in London still had to be paid for. However, one thing I made sure of when I met my lovely agents at ICE Models for the first time, was that I let then know my financial situation and also my income goals. They then advised me on what to expect and whether my expectations were realistic or not for that particular market. From there we were able to work together as a team to try to make my stay in Cape Town a success (or at the very least break even) which I’m happy to say we were able to; thankfully. I worked for some great local South African and international brands such as Truworths, Woolworths, Edgars, The White Company, Mothercare United Colors of Bennetton and also shot a beautiful editorial for ELLE Magazine SA!

I was quite surprised by this but I actually ended up I working way more with my straight European wigs than my natural Afro hair. Maybe i’ll put it down to naivety, but I assumed being in Africa that my Afro look would have been an advantage point to me; I mean c’mon! I’m in “The Motherland!” lol! All jokes aside, I eventually realised that my “look”, (having a big curly Afro with my particular skin tone) probably didn’t fit the “typical aesthetic of a black girl” in Cape Town and perhaps a long straight wig was more relatable? I did notice most of the lighter skinned models worked fine without having to straighten their naturally curly hair. I began to realise that unfortunately the texture of black and/or mixed hair still plays a major factor when booking people of colour on jobs – even in Africa

-DINING-

Aside from work, Cape Town is renown for their yummy food. Many models have been known to go back to their home countries a few lbs heavier. So all who are wanting to visit – you have been warned lol! One thing I absolutely love about Cape Town are the quaint, independent coffee shops and patisserie’s which are great for a spot of writing, reading and solitary dining. There are plenty of scrumptious restaurants within walking vicinity (literally anywhere, trust me lol) my favourite place to have a solitary lunch date was EuMeul Bakkery. I dined there so often they would cheer when I came back and would even notice if I  changed my hair! lol!

I lived in the Green Point / Sea Point area both times I was in Cape Town and would take a brief walks to Giovanni’s Deli, Café Extrablatt or Knead Bakery for an occasional bite to eat with friends. Richards Bistro at the bottom of Glengariff Road was my friends and I’s usual meeting spot, primarily due to the free wifi (the wifi connection in Cape Town is so weak or at times pretty non existent) and a good ol’ sing along at supper with their amazing live musicians, to which we joined in with our off key harmonies! Much to the dismay of the other diners.

Just to put into perspective how cheap it is for a Brit to dine in Cape Town, for a Full English Breakfast with a freshly squeezed Orange juice at Café Extrablatt comes to a whopping £3.90! Now can you understand why people gain weight so easily?! haha!

– Old Biscuit Mill –

Old Biscuit Mill is a huge market situated in the gentrified area of Woodstock filled to the brim with a fusion of freshly made cuisines from all over the world; sweet, savoury – you name it they pretty much have it. I became OBSESSED one of their lamb burger stalls, it was the first time I had ever tried a lamb burger  and since then I’ve been hooked. The meat was so damn tender *salivates*!  Alongside the endless amounts of stalls filled with lush food, The Old Biscuit Mill is a base for a lot of home grown designers, jewellers and crafts(wo)men. I ended up buying a beautiful coin necklace from a local Capetonian designer called Oh Dear Megan for R380.00 (£17.00).

– Braai Culture –

In summer you’re bound to wind up at a Braai (BBQ) or 5, or 10 or 15 and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve never declined an invite. Two places you have to visit whilst in CPT that really epitomise the South African Braai culture whilst serving up the most succulent lip-smacking meats  to chow down on at the same time, are Mzoli’s in Gugulethu and aMadoda Braai in Woodstock.

My personal favourite out of the two is aMadoda Braai, simply because it isn’t far from the city centre, the wait for the food isn’t too long, the crowd usually isn’t too large so you and your friends can go have a drink and dance without feeling too claustrophobic. (Plus the food is soooo good!) I’d usually order the “Da Chopshop” which includes 1x Pork Chop, 1x Lamb Chop, 1x Pap, 1x Xhosa Bread, 1x Chakalaka-Lifestyle all for R60 which converts to about £2.90!!! Crazy, right! The best day to go is the first Sunday of every month in summertime and is about R15 (£0.73p lol) to get in which makes it a pretty cheap day out for you and your friends!

Sidenote: The DJs there are so sick, they don’t play the generic chart music but the R’n’B / House / Garage music we all reminisce to at home. 

Mzoli’s on the other hand, is located in a township called Gugulethu which is a little further out so my friends and I had to travel about 30 minutes to get there. Which isn’t necessarily an issue per say, in my opinion especially if you take one of the “Rand vans” all the way there it’ll cost you about £5 or less to travel about 20 miles or more BUT if you get there too late you could be waiting over 3 hours for your food! NO EXAGGERATION!

Mzoli’s is a real tourist attraction so can garner up to hundreds of visitors every Sunday. It was so overwhelming for me at times as you’re surrounded by so many people inside and outside the venue. At one point I literally wanted to run away get in a “Rand van” or Uber and go home. Saying that though, if you arrive early, order your food before the huge crowds arrive (before 11am) – you will have a great time at Mzoli’s! Some things I think you have to experience at least once just to say that you’ve done it and Mzoli’s is one of them!

So the moral of this story is, don’t be like my friends and I be tardy, get there in good time to really participate in some Mzoli’s fun and who knows your might see some Celebs like British Chef Jamie Oliver dining next to you. There used to be no entry free but now it’s about R30 (£1.40 lol) with ordered food (seriously… no entry without your receipt of purchase, the bouncers are feisty!).

-LIFESTYLE-

As with most sunshine cities, Cape Town isn’t any different when it comes to throwing the occasional pool party, boasting bouji weekend festivals or over exhausting beach day after beach day after beach day, namely in this case Clifton 2nd or as most refer to it as “The Model Beach”. There are countless obscure and beautifully preserved beaches that aren’t as packed as the infamous Clifton seafront’s such as Llandudno, Cosy Bay and Sandy Bay (which is a regarded primarily as a nudist beach, though I didn’t strip off) that are about 30 minutes or so to get to from the city centre but it’s oh so worth it to see those crystal white beaches and serene views.  I even shot a scene from one of my campaigns at Cosy Bay!

– Hiking & Exercise –

I never thought I’d be the kind of person who would be harping on about how hiking is so much fun, especially when every step I took on those hikes I literally had to thank to the big guy upstairs that I hadn’t slipped and fell to my untimely death (lol?),  but hiking is surprisingly quite an enjoyable pastime. Fitness in general is infectious in Cape Town with most locals and internationals spurring each other on to try out the newest Yoga, Pole or Boxing class. Hiking on the other hand is probably the best way of witnessing the true beauty and breathtaking views of Cape Town with your naked eye whilst sweating it out and getting a real work out.

Read more and watch my VLOG about my experience hiking up Lions Head >> here << !

– Cheetah Outreach –

As well as amazing scenic views and walking down historic corridors that housed one of the world’s most celebrated activists at Robben Island, you can’t not go to Cape Town and not take advantage of coming face to face with the some of the wildest predators of the animal kingdom. I unfortunately didn’t get to go on a Safari but my friend Toni did however take me out to a preservation centre called Cheetah Outreach. We only paid R10 to enter then R130 to meet and greet the Adult Cheetah’s; it was truly an amazing experience. (Here is the 2016 price list.)

I was a bit apprehensive about going at first because others who had been to preservations before had mentioned how some of the animals weren’t too responsive and under some kind of sedative, but these Cheetahs were anything but sedated lol. One Cheetah was incredibly “playful” so we had to be ushered out of the caged area after only 15 mins of being let in (there was about 7 of us in there not including the workers). There weren’t just Cheetah’s in the preservation, but also Serval’s, Jackal’s, Meercat’s (so cute!) and Bat-eared Foxes for our viewing pleasure, although some of them were a little camera shy.

– NIGHTLIFE –

The social scene is incredibly small in Cape Town and getting to know who’s who doesn’t take very long even if you’re not a very sociable person. But aside from the abundance of gossip and stories (which makes it oh so juicy) Cape Town remains vibrant during the summer season with always something to do when the weather hasn’t decided to be its usual bipolar self. The downside to Cape Town being so small is that if you don’t go to specific places on specific days, you’re sure to have a dud night. So if someone says such and such a place is “goin’ UP on a Tuesday“, please, for the life of you don’t be adventurous and go on a Wednesday, no one will be there and nothing will be going up, except for your Uber bill! lol Trust me, this is unfortunately a tried and tested theory.

Chez Ntemba which is just off of Long Street and Jade Nightclub in Green Point are probably the most popular clubbing spots. Chez Ntemba is an African House nightclub that isn’t exactly the type of club you go to for a slice of eye candy because its pretty redundant in that area. What Chez is great for however, is letting your hair down, shaking a leg and being taught the latest dance craze by overzealous ravers on the sweaty dance floor. Jade on the other hand, definitely has a few posers and faux ballers up in there but it’s best place to go to hear your favourite current hip hop and r’n’b chuuunes on a Thursday night.

– First Thursdays –

Another great event on a Thursday is “First Thursdays“, which is an art & culture evening event that encourages you to explore the different Art galleries and exhibitions in town by foot as music, food wine and chatter pour out on to the street. First Thursday’s happens every first Thursday of the month, hence the catchy name, and is quite successful at bringing this tiny community together.

– We Love Summer –

The only festival I attended in Cape Town was We Love Summer, created by the lovely Gal Ezra. My friends Unique, Amber and I took a coach all the way from Sea Point t0 Paarl and arrived at the wonderful Sante Hotel and Spa resort. As always in Cape Town the festival was filled to the brim with gorgeous scantily clad guys and girls in their crochet bikini’s and ray bans. Unique, Amber and I kept to ourselves and had a mini photoshoot in the corner to entertain ourselves lol! It wasn’t what we expected in terms of it being labeled a “festival” as it was more of a lavish pool party than anything else but it was still loads of fun! It was a little annoying that we had to wait for the return coach to be full before we could go home though.

Oh the woes of not being able to drive!

and finally…

-FRIENDSHIPS-

When arriving in Cape town I was a little nervous about the potential of not making friends and being #ForeverAlone in a foreign country but luckily my friend Adeola who had relocated to Cape Town a few years prior (and just so happens to be Elizabeth Arden’s 1st African Ambassador! Go Girl!) had kept in touch with me so in the end the move wasn’t so hard. She was nice enough to introduce me to all of her friends which made me feel so welcome and less overwhelmed.

On the other hand, I did have a few friendships that I thought would have grown stronger whilst in Cape Town together that unfortunately didn’t. I guess that’s just part and parcel in growing up. One thing I have come to realise is that some people who have known you for a long period in your life can drift apart from you and there’s nothing you can do but try to move on and make some new kick ass friends – which is what I did.

Since parting ways with most of the people I met journeying through Cape Town and returning to our respective home countries, we have managed to keep in touch, meet up in various cities and have travelled to different continents together; I truly cherish these moments because friendships like these are rare.

Don’t underestimate the power of the Cape! lol

No, but seriously, so many of my friends have found unexpected love and companionship here that not even long distance can diminish. So it’s truly a place that brings people from all walks of life together and if you go in with the right mindset can create memories that you’ll never be able to forget.

All in all, Cape Town will always have a special place in my heart and I could definitely see myself living there for a longer period in my life for sure.

It was also in Cape Town that I properly invested in >> my photography <<, took advantage of my downtime and the amazing locations it had to offer and started something that I am really loving at the moment.

Hopefully this long ass post about my Cape Town experience wasn’t too boring for you guys but here it is and I hope you somewhat liked it. 😉

April Alexander Model DiscreetMuse.com

Hmmm…where to next?

– Discreet Muse xo