Former millennium Miss South Africa, Jo-Ann Strauss, seems to have one of those enchanted fairy tale careers which has seen her catapult from beauty queen to become a successful model and stylish media personality, sought after master of ceremonies and an astute business woman who continues to capture the attention of her many fans.
Born in Cape Town in 3 February 1981, Strauss grew up in Blackheath with her parents, Ingrid and Johan Strauss and younger brother Heinrich. She attended Uitsig Primary School and then caught the train to Hottentots-Holland High School in Somerset West for her senior school years to include Xhosa amongst her subjects. She was head girl, played some school soccer, but mostly concentrated on her studies.
After getting a 93% average in her matric finals, Strauss, who had dreams of becoming a hotshot obstetrician or gynaecologist, was accepted to study medicine at the University of Stellenbosch – but she decided to keep her options open and opted for a commerce degree at Maties.
Her University friends talked the elegant and adventurous Strauss into entering Miss Stellenbosch University, then they dared her to enter Miss Teen SA where one of the judges suggested she enter the Miss South Africa competition – which she won in 2000, her second year at University at the age of 19.
As our millennium Miss South Africa, Strauss represented SA at the Miss Universe pageant in Puerto Rico, placing sixth, and in the Miss World pageant at Sun City in 2001. She also launched a successful media career, auditioning for a position as a presenter on the Afrikaans magazine programme, Pasella on SABC2, in 2000.
She completed her commerce bachelor’s degree, with a focus on law, at Stellenbosch University, and presented for Pasella until 2004 when she secured a position as an anchor for the English lifestyle magazine show, Top Billing. As one of four presenters for Top Billing, she filled four passports travelling the world widely for Top Billing and travel series Top Travel over a six-year period, and interviewed a range of local and international celebrities.
With growing recognition as one of South Africa’s most stylish presenters, our glamorous beauty queen also regularly graced the covers of a number of South African magazines including Mooi, Rooirose, Makeover, My Health, Kuier, Sarie, Women’s Health, My Week, Juice, Destiny, Finesse, De Kat and Top Billing magazine.
A respected media personality, fluent in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa and German, Strauss is a sought after MC and speaker and has entertained audiences in South Africa and around the world. She also presented the opening of the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa for German television network ZDF and has charmed guests as far afield as the BMW World Golf Final in Phuket to awards dinners Sardinia and Monaco.
In 2009 she was chosen as the face of Lux – a career highlight for Strauss because Lux has always used top celebrities and beauty stars such as Marilyn Munroe, Sophia Loren, Rachel Weisz, Sarah Jessica Parker and Catherine Zeta-Jones. She also launched her acting career with a short role, appearing as pushing journalist in a German movie called The Secret of the Whales. The plot involves saving whales whose sonar is disrupted by technology used by companies drilling offshore for oil.
Following several years of dating her German doctor boyfriend, Michael Held, who’s athletic background is reputed to have improved Strauss’ workouts, the two wed earlier this year at a small and very private function, with 31 guests and no media, at Camps Bay Retreat.
Apart from running her own communications company, Strauss sits on a number of boards including the Western Cape Board of Ubuntu-Botho, a division of Sanlam. But her main interest is in corporate social investment.
In 2008 Strauss started the Princess Project, providing deserving young ladies the chance to go to their matric dance or proms in designer gowns previously owned by South African celebrities. She’s the chairperson of the Partnership Foundation Trust which has provided life and career skills training to more than 1,200 disadvantaged students. She’s also a shareholder and director in a venture capital company Partnership Investments, a women-owned black economic empowerment company that aims to contribute to the transformation process in South Africa and develop leadership talents in underprivileged children.
Towards the end of 2011 Strauss initiated the first online Presenter Search 2012 competition to put the presentation skills of young would-be presenters to the test. The top four candidates were taken on a life-changing trip to Zambia and given the chance to hone their skills with training and mentoring from Strauss and Bonang Matheba. Although some prizes were donated most of the competition cost were as paid for by Strauss to help talented South African’s, like winner Buhle Moletsane, break into the media industry.