In an intimate chat with Rachel Kolisi, she opens up about work, motherhood, being married to a sports star, her struggles and her purpose.

Arriving straight from OR Tambo International Airport in an all-black ensemble, Rachel is fresh-faced when she gets to the Johannesburg studio for our shoot. She shows no signs of sleep deprivation and one wouldn’t say the 30-year-old had just touched down from a 6am flight from Cape Town.

‘Generally, I have an early start after very little sleep,’ she says. Not surprising, since she is the mother of four! She has two children with her rugby-captain husband, SiyaKolisi, and opened her heart and home to Siya’s two younger siblings.

Rachel says life currently is a bit of a rush – but she refuses to be one of those people who use the word ‘busy’ as a life description. ‘I do what needs to get done and try to take breaks in between to be in the moment,’ she smiles. Her typical
day starts with getting the kids ready for school, then it’s school runs filled with interesting conversations. How does she do it? we ask. ‘By just winging it,’ laughs Rachel.

After getting everyone to school, our super-mom then squeezes in a workout that’s followed by back-to-back meetings by 10am. But she’s not complaining, she says, as it’s all part of being a parent, wife and social entrepreneur.

In 2019, inspired by her own fitness journey, she teamed up with her good friend, health coach and trainer Tammy Rawstron, to start Rise, a ‘community-based transformation guide for women’. Tammy and Rachel encourage other women to achieve their personal exercise goals, and equip them with tools to help them be their best selves, maximise their talents and fulfil their dreams.

Rachel says after her second pregnancy she had put on a lot of weight and struggled to start exercising again. ‘I then started working with Tammy, and she encouraged and challenged me to get going again,’ says Rachel. ‘I’ve never felt better. Rise was created with women from all walks of life in mind, to help encourage and motivate them.’

Some of the young women they work with are destitute, and profits from Rise are used to afford them the opportunity to study. ‘Finding a breakthrough and fulfilment was the most liberating thing,’ says Rachel of her personal fitness journey. ‘I had this desire to share it with others. I know what rock bottom feels like, and I hope to help many other women out of it.’

For Rachel, reading the incredible personal stories of women changing their lives keeps her going. ‘They move me and stoke the fire inside of me,’ she says. ‘Every single life and every single story matters.’ Not surprisingly, given her passion, Rise keeps growing from strength to strength. An online training platform and a nutrition guide were recently launched, and Rachel and Tammy are also looking forward to the launch of their first Rise training studios.

Rachel, a former marketing executive, quit her job to be a stay-at-home mom and to be there for her husband. She is living proof of the saying, ‘behind every successful man, there is a strong woman.’ Siya attests to that. Recently, he paid tribute to his wife of three years, saying she played a pivotal role in his success. ‘Thanks for always being there for me, believing in me and pushing me to be the best I can be,’ he wrote in an Instagram post. Siya made history when he became the first black captain of the Springbok rugby team. He also led the Boks to a spectacular Rugby World Cup victory in 2019. The pair met in 2012, over a meal with mutual friends at a restaurant in Stellenbosch. ‘I thought he was rude because he didn’t greet us when we arrived,’ laughs Rachel. But they soon became friends, then started dating and got married in 2016. ‘I am so grateful that I am married to such a great guy,’ she says.

Rachel admits that with children and endless other commitments, it is challenging for the couple to squeeze in quality time together. ‘Date nights are a thing for us,’ she says, ‘We’ve also been blessed with opportunities to make a few short trips overseas for work, and we always value that time.’ Sundays are for family in the Kolisihousehold. ‘Church is always a priority, and then some couch time with the kids,’ she smiles.

“My first priority is to be the best mom I can be to my kids.”

In 2014 the pair adopted Siya’s siblings, Liyema and Liphelo, who had been in foster care after their mom’s passing. They moved in with Rachel and Siya three months after their son, Nicholas Siyamthanda, was born. Rachel says her relationship with Liyema and Liphelo came naturally – and the blended family was completed with the birth of a daughter, Keziah, in 2017.

‘I love the challenges that come with being a mother,’ says Rachel – although nothing could have prepared her for some of the hurdles she faced. Nicholas was born two months prematurely, and she also had to fight through postpartum depression (PPD). ‘That was one of the most difficult things I’ve experienced,’ she says. Her advice to women going through a difficult time is to remember that they are not alone and it is not the end. ‘In fact, I like to believe that bad or hard times are a beginning,’ she smiles. ‘I have four of the coolest kids in the whole world; it is my why, and I feel I have the resilience to sustain it.’

After taking care of everyone else, how does she refuel? ‘I wouldn’t really say this is a reality in this season of my life,’ says Rachel. ‘Even spa treatments are coupled with conference calls and content creation!’ However, a good workout always does the trick. ‘I have always loved fitness; I train with everything I have – the more challenging the workout, the more I enjoy it. It is my me time. I am actually a better person after a good sweat session!’ She remembers how she felt about herself before getting fit again. ‘That is why I am so passionate about helping other moms and women in general. Honestly, I get my fire from serving others. My first priority is to be the best mom I can be to my kids.’

Rachel’s popularity on social media is evident from her 220 000 followers on Instagram alone. She often gives her followers a glimpse into her life by sharing funny family snaps and fitness inspiration. But despite her popularity, she has faced her fair share of social media backlash. ‘Life hasn’t always been smooth sailing,’ she says, ‘but I believe in making the most of it and not letting anything weigh you down or hold you back.’ She tries not to let trolls get to her but admits that some of the comments are pretty harsh. ‘People don’t warn you about those moments when you’re growing up, and it’s tough trying to keep your emotions in check for the sake of your kids.’ But she draws strength from prayer. ‘I find my value in what Christ thinks about me,’ she smiles. ‘I stopped caring about what others thought of me or placing value on those opinions. I’m also not afraid of a clap back.’ We certainly can learn a thing or two from Rachel.

• She is extremely organised.
• She worked in a BnB while she was pregnant with her second child, because she couldn’t find any other work.
• She used to drag-race cars and competed at Killarney and in Saldanha Bay.
• She can’t apply make-up.
• Contrary to popular belief, she didn’t grow up rich.

• Exercising!
• She loves to holiday anywhere remote.
• Her go-to outfit is a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and sneakers.
• She loves sushi.
• You will never find her without her phone.


RACHEL KOLISI: ON THE RISE RACHEL KOLISI: ON THE RISE Reviewed by Jet Club on March 13, 2020 Rating: 5
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