Wine is the blood flowing through the veins of Natalie Jordaan – the only representative from the Cape Winelands at the prestigious 2020 Mrs. South Africa. We speak to the 36-year-old about her love for the wine industry and her path to pageantry.
Born in Bonn, Germany, Natalie Jordaan (36) is the child of a Diplomat, which meant that she grew up in a new place every five years. The family eventually settled down in Paarl where Natalie attended La Rochelle Girls’ High School.
After her studies, she began travelling the world, studying and working in Europe and parts of Asia. She married her Stellenbosch University (SU) sweetheart, Shiru Zhang (a Chinese citizen) at the age of 28 and the couple moved to Hong Kong where she worked for Pepkor International. After having children, Natalie opened her own ballet and dance studio in Shanghai, and also began a new career in early childhood development. For five years, she worked her way up the corporate ladder, with a baby in one arm, while keeping her dance school going on the side.
This led her to her most recent position as art director at a Singaporean company. Then Covid-19 happened and threw her life upside down. With her husband still stuck in China’s lockdown, Natalie and the kids took time out in South Africa, and that’s when she decided to dive head-first into the Mrs. South Africa pageant.
The wine connection
Being the only semi-finalist from the Boland/Winelands region, Natalie spent her student years working on various wine farms in Stellenbosch to earn extra pocket money. She did stints at Constantia Uitsig, Neethlingshof as well as Le Bonheur. With one of her minor subjects being Mandarin Chinese, the manager at Le Bonheur informed Natalie that a Chinese wine importer was due to arrive for a tasting.
“I informed my manager that I spoke Mandarin quite well, and he handed the task over to me.” The Chinese importer was no other than Robert Wang, a renowned wine importer. Robert was impressed with Natalie’s Mandarin and knowledge on wine. Two years later when she received a scholarship from the Chinese government to complete her Master’s Degree in International Politics in China, Robert made her a brand ambassador for his company.
“I had to find time in between my studies to travel over China to represent South African wines (such as Arabella wines) as well as Chilean wines at Food & Beverage Expos and conferences.” Natalie travelled to Sichuan province and appeared on television as a translator for the South African minister of trade. “This was a great source of secondary income and afforded me the opportunity to travel. I also established networks, business relations, and close friendships.”
How do you plan on representing the Cape Winelands at the Mrs. South Africa pageant?
I may have had an international upbringing but my dad was also a student at SU and South Africa has always been in my blood and my culture. I am a true Winelands woman through and through. I try to use this in my campaigns and social media presence. Due to Covid-19 and the lockdown, our online presence has become more relevant as many events and campaigns are conducted virtually. My charity initiatives (women empowerment, food parcel donation, as well as the charity blankets and clothing drives primarily in Stellenbosch, Kayamandi). The photoshoot for my top 50 judging interview was taken at SU campus around the beautiful faculty buildings, and Victoria Street, an iconic part of Stellenbosch. During lockdown some wine farms allowed us to do photoshoots in their vineyards. This is part of my personality in the competition, the lady from the Winelands. I love that aspect and totally rock it.
Are there any issues within the Cape Winelands (perhaps wine industry) that you’d want to address as a potential future Mrs South Africa?
Although I’m sure the government had their reasons for placing restrictions on alcohol sales during lockdown, I look at individual livelihoods of not just the farmers and winemakers but also their staff, the farmworkers, as well as all those directly and indirectly affected. I feel for my region, its economy and its culture. It might sound overly poetic but wine is the blood flowing through the veins of the Boland. Without the vibrancy and culture of our vineyards and wine farms, Stellenbosch has this lifelessness to it. I hope its vibrancy will be restored soon. My most pressing concern is the livelihoods of people, especially those not in a financial position to get through the subsequent job losses.
How important a role does social media and online marketing play in your campaign?
Social media has always played a role in Mrs. SA and similar pageants but this year during Covid-19, as with many industries, the value of social media has exploded. I was new to Instagram because we used different social media platforms for marketing and our online presence in China. I started Mrs. SA not even having an Instagram account. I’m happy for this opportunity to learn about social media marketing and I can say even though I have around 650 followers after the first five months of Mrs. SA. My following has grown organically and these are the people who engage with my content and seem to really believe in and support me. I always believe in quality over quantity, although I admire influencers who have these huge followings and think “wow, maybe one day!”
What’s the competition like for full-time moms?
I admire women with full-time jobs and while giving it their all in this race to the top. I was working full-time in Shanghai but was forced to move back to South Africa due to Covid-19. I gave up my life overseas, but Mrs. South Africa has been my main project and my own MBA. Although I have been job hunting, lockdown and my two children are keeping me homebound. I decided to take this opportunity and began rekindling my fine art career. If you ever wanted to start your own thing there is no better year than this one. The official Mrs. SA sponsors know how much contestants put into it and periodically sent us gift packages and pampered us.
Your chances of winning?
Honestly, I am grateful to compete with inspiring women. I often think to myself: “how am I supposed to shine brighter than all these other stars?” I am confident that I am in their league and my parents have raised three resilient daughters with strong self-esteem. While I have courage, stamina and willpower to make a difference and (hopefully) win, I still am humbled and filled with gratitude by the opportunity.
Do you enjoy wine? What’s your favourite cultivar of choice?
Yes, I enjoy wine and it is my drink of choice. I am keen on dry/brut sparkling wines. I enjoy Eikendal’s dry rosé and their Janina unwooded Chardonnay, Neethlingshof Pinotage, the 2018 Shiraz from Delaire Graaf and the 2016 Aspect Merlot from Remhoogte. I also enjoy wines from Spier and Vredeheim. My children love going to the Big Cat Park at Vredenheim and I love their sparkling wine and rosé. Although South African wines remain my favourite, I also enjoy foreign cultivars. I enjoy Prosecco for some bubbles, and for wine cultivars I enjoy Carmenere (a uniquely Chilean wine).