WIEL | FEBRUARY 2007 (p90-91)
WRITTEN BY FERDI DE VOS
Should you decide to attend a course in Advanced Driving at the Volkswagen Academy, you may just end up next to Lee-Anne Liebenberg. No, not the model, the oríginal Lee-Anne, an attractive brunette who is literally afraid of nothing … She told Ferdi de Vos about her stunt life.
Mention the name Lee-Anne Liebenberg and many warm-blooded men’s eyes start to sparkle, because she’s a leading local supermodel. Not so?
Well, she’s actually just an “alter ego” for the real Lee-Anne Liebenberg – the woman who participated in the original Gladiators and graced magazine ads, stunt doubling for Hollywood stars, jumping from burning buildings and landing devastating kicks on bad men, and in between also teaching macho men the art of driving …
Because Lee-Anne is one of the instructors at the Volkswagen Academy at Kyalami (one of the advanced Driving schools accredited with Shayelo Approved courses) and, together with her fellow instructors, they offer courses throughout the country.
However, she is also a stunt coordinator for the film industry, responsible for the choreography and performance of stunts for films, a businesswoman with her own company, Stunts 4 Reel, and her own apparel sports range called Firefly.
But where does her love for adrenaline activities come from?
“From a young age I did everything with my brothers, even played rugby, and they dragged me into all their activities. I was a real ‘Rabbedoe’ (tomboy), and the fact that we grew up near the old Goudveld racetrack (nowadays Phakisa racetrack) has a lot to do with my love for cars.
“I wanted to be an actress, but has always been an adrenaline junkie, and my first boyfriend taught me to do donuts in a pickup trauck,” she says in a comfortable manner.
She did model work for the G3 agency in Johannesburg for a while, but then started practicing kickboxing as a sport, and also for self-defense.
“I’m not crazy about gyms, and kickboxing kept me fit and flexible.”
To such an extent that she obtained Springbok (National) colors in the sport and was selected to participate in the kickboxing World Championship in America.
During this time she appeared in TV commercials, and quickly became known for being able to “kicking in doors” as well. Lee-Anne soon showed she did not have one scared hair on her head, and she was used as a stunt double for famous Hollywood actresses in movies.
In There’s a Zulu on my Stoep by Leon Schuster (1993) she was a red-haired stunt double for Terry Treas who played Rowena, followed by many other local as well as overseas productions – including I Dreamed of Africa with Kim Basinger , The Cell with Jennifer Lopez, Species with Natasha Henstridge and Terminator IV where she was called in to help with the dangerous and action scenes. In December she was in the Cape where she was working on a new movie, Doomsday, with Rhona Mitra.
She also does stunt driving in movies – “you have to be extremely precise, because there is usually only one opportunity to shoot the scene, and yes, time is money” – and her involvement with the Academy helps a lot with this. But when did she start with Advanced Driving instruction?
“About four years ago I passed the instructor test at the Audi driving school and worked there briefly as an instructor before moving to Cape Town to concentrate on stunt work. I was unhappy there, however, especially because my family was far away, and soon was back in Gauteng again. The Volkswagen Academy then appointed me,” she says.
At the Academy she is “one of the boys”. “The other instructors accept me for who I am, and I do exactly the same job.”
But how does she deal with the egos of the predominantly male course participants? “No, if you show them you know what you’re doing, they are soon silenced and I have not had any problems yet,” she says.
More and more female instructors are now being used by advanced Driving schools and in addition to Lee-Anne, former racing champion Tannith Gardner and Formula Ford driver Jennifer Murray are both instructors.
Funny enough, given her passion for it, Lee-Anne has yet to participate in motorsport. “I would love to participate in motorsport as I have never had that opportunity …”
Meanwhile, she’s living her passion – amidst all her other adrenaline pursuits – behind the wheel of a white GTI. And men, if you ever end up next to Lee-Anne Liebenberg in that GTI, forget about passing comments, because thís confident woman knóws what she’s doing in a car.