Guests at the recent launch of media doyenne Jane Raphaely’s autobiography Unedited at Kalk Bay Books can be forgiven for momentarily thinking they may have gate-crashed a Fair Lady staff reunion. Hosted by former editor Ann Donald, with former staff journalist turned freelancer and stand-up comedienne, Marianne Thamm in the interviewer’s seat, centre stage on the night was very much a Fair Lady affair as a mainly standing room only crowd jostled for space in the scenic South’s literary treasure trove.
Filled with childhood memories from her humble working-class beginnings in England, anecdotes about her life spanning three continents and launching a women’s magazine in a male-dominated Naspers while sporting an anti-apartheid bumper sticker on her car, to her family life and the myriad of personalities she has met in her illustrious career, Raphaely confesses she learned a lot about herself while writing the book and swears with a telling smile that print is a woman’s most powerful weapon.
A self-confessed hoarder, the Queen of South African women’s magazines dug deep into memories stored in kists, bureaux and suitcases hidden in the rafters for old diaries and memorabilia documenting her life, yet the book had been part-written and in the pipeline for about five years before it was ready for the presses. What took so long then? Well, Raphaely concedes only half joking, revealing her wicked sense of humour “some people had to die first” before she could tell the world the truth about them.
There is no doubt this media icon has been paved the way for many women in business with her sheer courage and determination and that she serves as an inspiration for many others, yet her advice is baseline simple – overcome whatever is holding you back and “just do it”. “That probably should have been the title of the book”, she says as an afterthought.
Asked if she had any regrets Raphaely surprisingly conceded she had many. Right up there was that she wished she had taken more “freebie” holidays with each of her children individually – quality time to prove that she really had listened to them. Pretty telling for someone who went straight back to work after a pregnancy while other women at the time abandoned their careers for motherhood.
Karen was a newspaper journalist in the 1980’s working for, among others, The Star and The Daily News. These days she focuses on documenting life in the fairest Cape in her blog http://theearthbeneathmyfeet.wordpress.com/ – a photographic journal about “Living on the tip of Africa, travelling, hiking and simply being”.