Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Untold Story Surrounding Reeva Steenkamp

I've written numerous times about the fact that Reeva didn't want to associate her brand too closely with Oscar's. Yet there is a persistent public perception that this was the reason Reeva was with Oscar in the first place.  To leverage her brand. Some time has passed since I wrote on that subject.  For example, this and this.

That content - contained in the second link - predates the first (published in Destiny Man on March 5 2014) by about 9 months.  Put another way, I wrote Reeva in her own Words about a year ago.  Early June 2013.

Why did I write it?  Simple.  I was curious.  There were a lot of people asking the same questions.  That was half of it.  Her family had basically shut down, they'd already forgiven Oscar and weren't even going to attend the trial (so there was no chance of finding answers there).  Also, Reeva's friends didn't want to talk about her.  I spoke to Tim Hulme, a fellow photographer who did Reeva's last shoot (and her very last facebook post is to thank him for her photos - she's dressed like an angel).  On Facebook we sent a few messages back and forth but he also seemed reluctant to talk about her.  There seemed to be a feeling that it was distasteful.  That finding out who she was was disturbing her already injured form.  A lot of people were announcing - just like Reeva's family - that they were going to ignore the trial.

But I wanted answers.

A lot of the story was about Oscar.  It was pretty intense.  95% was just wall to wall coverage. Oscar-Oscar-Oscar. But who was Reeva?  Just Oscar's girlfriend?  Oh, is that who she was?  I didn't think so. I wanted to know who the real Reeva was.  What kind of person was she? So, because we were friends on Facebook, and because her twitter timeline is in the public domain, I thought I would find out for myself.

It was quite a journey.  Following her story.  Here was a driven meisie clearly articulating her dreams and goals, and going for it.  It is difficult not to be impressed by her courage, and at the same time not also feel sympathetic to - what turned out to be - Reeva's battle to emerge.  Not just over one or two years but several. There's trauma, there are setbacks, there are problems. But like any decent hero (or heroine) she keeps her chin up, and so it's hard not to want to root for her. And soon you see how she finally transforms and matures.  Yet all along, through thick and thin, there is a wonderful grace about her, a wonderful self deprecating humor, and a wonderful depth and honesty.  I didn't expect it.  I'm a photographer and it's rare to come across people of real substance in this industry.  It's a shallow business, or it can be, and on average it doesn't always attract the cream of the crop.  Except that's exactly what Reeva turns out to be.

And so as the knowledge of how exceptional she is, she was, creeps up on, so does the dismay that this special life was so cruelly stolen from her.  And from us.

The more I found out about her the more I was charmed by her good manners, and her high standards.  Clearly Reeva liked to have fun, but she maintained class throughout.  There are very few people who can have their social media analysed and come out of it shiny clean the way she does.

And then I started seeing something else.  I noticed the underlying strategy.  I saw a lot of thought had gone into her personal branding, especially in the last few months of her life.  If you consider that she wasn't just with Ice Models, but had someone managing her brand, you realise how serious she was about her career.  And in early footage of her (see above video) even as a young student you can see behind the smile and fun is a seriously hard-working girl.  She's committed!

And yet I've recently found myself wondering...this business about Oscar's brand and her brand...has it ever been discussed in the media?  Not to my knowledge.  I don't know whether google's latest algorithms throw your own stuff right back at you, but when I google 'Reeva brand' and 'Oscar brand' all it comes back with is my own content!  So where did this idea come from?  And gasp, did I make an assumption, and repeat it so often it has become gospel?  Surely not!  Yet as I backtracked this week, all I could find were links to my own allegations, like this one.
[Scroll down a dozen or so posts and you'll find a link to this website].

I started scratching my head. Where on Earth did I see Sarit Tomlinson - from Capacity Relations - talking about Reeva's brand?  Why do I have such a clear memory of it? Because it was on TV.  Either the Oscar Trial Channel or eNCA.
And so this evening I tracked it down to the above clip.  Have a listen at 17:17:
Sarit Tomlinson: ...we had created a very solid plan around her brand. And how we were going to get her out, and relevant. And make that currency to generate the revenue and get the castings. It was important that we follow that path...

Reeva herself says as much in her interview with Heat magazine (a week before her death).  Playing the diplomat, she defers to Oscar, saying she doesn't want a 'public relationship' because she wants to protect him, and his brand.  She doesn't say anything about her brand, except that she is trying to transform herself into a 'classic model', something beyond the FHM stigma.

So why was I the only one talking about it?  I have already speculated that since Reeva had a meeting with Capacity Relations prior to driving to Oscar's on February 13, 2013, the discussions of that day - the day before Valentine's Day - probably came up over dinner.

And Oscar has admitted being involved in drawing up and fine-tuning Reeva's contracts, so he would have known exactly what was going on.
Reeva also cancelled an engagement (an event with a jewelry sponsor) that evening, in order to spend the evening with Oscar.  Did she break the news to him then that she felt she had to choose between her career and her relationship with him?  Or was it simply a case that she emphasised to him what she'd decided with Capacity Relations, that they wanted to keep their brands separate, and perhaps take the relationship down a notch, even put it on the backburner for a while?
Perhaps Reeva consulted with them specifically since the next day was Valentine's Day.  How to handle that on social media?
If Reeva had discussed this with her management team and made up her mind on the afternoon of the 13th, it could have meant that after an early dinner she planned to return home. Her card said 'I love you', but it was also an adieu for the time being.  If so Oscar would have felt a real sting of rejection, hours before Valentine's Day proper.  No wonder he didn't even open her gift.

Oscar, conscious of his public image, he may have begged her to simply stay the night, and when she relented, simmering resentments came out.  There was a lot of potential fuel for a fire.  Reeva's ex (and Hougaard), Oscar's exes, who is using who, how much he had helped her etc etc.  The most hurtful thing of all to him would be one of the world's biggest and most famous brands 'not looking good' or 'not being good enough' for her brand.  "You'll never get anywhere without me!"  "Do you know who I am?"

Personally I find the match somewhat odd.  Take away Oscar's money and brand...strip him naked...what sort of boyfriend was he warts and all?  But if you look at Reeva's previous boyfriend, Warren Lahoud, there's the same type...dark, Italian, wealthy.  Boyish.  Youthful. But not a conventional hunk either.  Reeva seemed to be struggling with her love life exactly because she was struggling not only to define her own identity, but the identity of the Other.  The partner.

The sad part of this is Reeva had her own disability.  It was the financial poverty of her parents.  In the glamorous world of modelling, one holds up a veneer of success, and shimmering glamour.  Which means those real insecurities have to be hidden away.  And then it is easy to become lost, and unsure what one wants.  I mean personally.  Besides the success and brand accessories.  And sadly, both Reeva and Oscar got caught up in a very dangerous game, in which both were playing to an audience.  A lot of money was on the line, and both their lives were on the line.  In Reeva's case, also her parents lives (whom she was supporting).

Simphiwe Majola: We did not want her to be 'seen' or rather labelled as 'Oscar's girlfriend. [17:43 in the above video]

You can't get any clearer than that. Here's the motive, clear as day, for both Reeva and Oscar.  Reeva's motive for holding Oscar at bay and Oscar's (possible) rage and disgust at being rejected by someone playing the same game he was...

If you'd like to learn more about her story, you can order Reeva in her own Words here. 
It's 57 pages and costs between $1 and $3.50.
You don't need a Kindle to read it.  You can download a free eReader here.  

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