As one of M-Net’s top presenters, and having just completed her run on TV1 in “The Game”, Ashley Hayden is the girl with a guture.
If Ashely Hayden’s aura could be captured and canned it would sell faster than the most potent parfum de Paris. Imagine it: you could revitalize your living-room with a quick spray of Ashley’s freshness, dab a little of her sex appeal onto your own skin, and sparkle her endearing naivety over all bad elements in the human race. The world would spin a little faster, more smoothly and a hell of a lot more merrily.
But that’s not going to happen – because this brazen blonde M-Net presenter and star of The Game (TV1), is not about to commercialize and publicize her private life and feelings under the microscopic eyes of the press. Her debut as a “celebrity” in South Africa wasn’t that long ago, yet already she’s learnt about the distortion of facts that tabloids thrive on. (Did you read about Ashley’s major role in the forthcoming sequel to Agter Elke Man? Untrue. Having grown up in Zimbabwe and England, Ashley can’t speak a word of Afrikaans!)
She’s relating her early years in those countries to me while we’re sitting in the garden, attempting to soak up whatever solar rays the winter sun feels like throwing us. Ashley craves sunlight! Her favorite “room” in her flat is the verandah where she can relax with a book in the sun.
As Ashley’s about to commence telling me about those childhood years, she spots a lemon tree nestled in the corner of the garden. Off she skips, and returns with about four bright yellow lemons which she plays with constantly during the interview.
The formative years of this Scorpio (born 4/11/67) were in Zimbabwe (then Rohdesia) where her father’s career resulted in the family having to move towns frequently. She begins listing the towns: Fort Victoria, Kariba… but then her husky voice trails right off the subject. She’s inspecting one of the lemons.
“Gosh, this one’s got warts on it… but it doesn’t matter – I’ll pick some more later,” says the actress who doesn’t believe in dwelling on regrets in life. (Her only “regret” is that she doesn’t play tennis well.)
OK, back to her growing-up years. When Ashely was about eight, her family moved to the UK for about three years but “it was mournful so we returned to Zimbabwe”, says Ashley (who’s now precariously juggling the lemons).
At 16, Ashely had her O-levels, M-levels (which is slightly higher than Matric), and had passed A-level English. Then it was off to Rhodes University because “my friends all said it was great, although I had no idea what I wanted to study”.
The next few years were spent casually cruising through a BA Degree in which Ashley majored with excellent marks in English and Drama. After that, she was almost tempted into accepting a teacher’s post “because the prospect of having a job and making some money was wonderful after being a student with bugger-all money!” Fortunately Lady Fate stepped in less than 24 hours later when Ashley was offered three bursaries to complete her Honors in Drama at Rhodes.
So, this 22-year-old is not just another gift-wrapped femme fatale in a to-die-for body. And if you dare to under-estimate her intelligence, she’ll defiantly “zap” you, and leave you reeling! Ashley’s an achiever, a go-getter, and a girl with guts. How many others would pack three suitcases, and armed with just R100, head to the big city – Jo’burg – to “make it”?
That’s exactly what Ashley did when she’d completed her honors, though “making it” didn’t happen overnight.
“There was no #@$# work and I had no real experience. So,” she starts laughing, “I tempted. I had to answer the phone because I can’t type. I’m hopeless at practical things!” (Though her fingers are pretty deft on a computer keyboard when she plays Tetris!)
As a result of a few months spent sleeping on a friend’s lounge floor coupled with unstimulating work, Ashley “slipped into a rut of existence. I was fat, pale and feeling ugly,” she remembers miserably.
Then the metamorphosis occurred.
“One day I just woke up and thought: what on earth am I doing here? I need to get off my backside!” Ashley exclaims. She pulled herself towards herself – started going to gym (and lost 9 kg), basked a little in the sun and highlighted her hair which was mousey-colored before. Today, her gym sessions aren’t as regular anymore. Hard to find the time! Instead, she pops off to the Sandton Sun Executive Health & Beauty Centre twice a week to be “pampered” with facials, saunas and waxes which keep her in tip-top shape.
Once Ashley was looking and feeling good about herself again, her onslaught on producers began. She tirelessly pestered for auditions until she got her break with M-Net as a presenter.
“I was so tense and nervous that first time on TV,” she admits, “but now it’s fun.” And the exposure on TV has given her credibility to be chosen for other screen work, such as an American movie in which she acted with Robert Vaughan.
“I had a great part in that movie as an aggro-punk in a reformatory, BUT they cut my hair so short! I cried and cried!” she wails in her “precious” voice. “Precious” is a word Ashley uses a lot when she’s feeling vulnerable. And at times (like when she reads bad critics about herself), she is “precious”, but at other times she can be strong and determined, willing to annihilate anyone who’s offended a friend of hers.
She’s passionate and compassionate. DON’T ever play Pictionary with Ashley – her piercing screams of joy when she wins will have the neighbors banging on the door! And don’t relate sad incidents to her either – you’re guaranteed to see tears tracing their way down her clear, clear skin. She’s one person who definitely empathizes with others – a quality which possibly helps in her method of acting.
Ashley’s most recent accomplishments have been a part she played on stage in Move Over Mrs Markham, and her role in The Game – the TV series centered around the rugby fraternity.
“It was handy that my character wasn’t enthusiastic about rugby, otherwise I would’ve been livid!” says Ashley who last watched a game when, as a prefect at school, it was compulsory that she attended. Sporty, she is not.
But, while Ashley may not be playing on the field, she is playing the field career-wise. She’s young and still feeling her way around when it comes to presenting or acting on TV, stage or the big screen.
“Whatever I’m doing, I want to be good at it,” says Ashley in a PR voice… but then mischievously adds “and make a hell of a lot of money out of it!”
Maybe one day she’ll start a production company, but she’s got enough work now to keep her going for a long while. She’s recently started presenting M-Net’s Hot Hits as well, and who knows, there could be a second series of The Game.
“I don’t like to think too far into the future. Once of my main ambitions is to travel more. I’ve only ever been on a school trip to France for a day, and to Botswana and the Commores for Bon Voyage,” she says. Her blue eyes light up as she mouths the word “Commores”. That’s where she scuba-dived for the first time – the highlight of her life!
“I’d never experienced anything like it… another whole world. I was so excited, I just burst into tears when we surfaced,” says the girl who had kept out of water since a ‘varsity incident in which she nearly drowned.
During Ashley’s ‘varsity years her parents divorced (or as she so quaintly puts it: “we got divorced”), and have since each remarried making it “hell at Christmas” to buy presents for an extra six step-brothers and step-sisters! That’s aside from Ashley’s real sister, Siobhan.
“Siobhan’s great! She’s not involved in the industry but she’s incredibly supportive,” reckons Ashley. Siobhan lives just down the road from Ashley’s flat which is “filled to bursting with plants – which I occasionally forget to water”.
Beulah, a cat “who adores her mistress”, shares the flat with Ashley and is the love of her life, though Ashley does also have a boyfriend “to keep the loonys away”.
As a “firm believer in woman’s rights”, Ashley strives for a relationship where there’s a “division of labor”. She’s not a push-over, and in fact feels it’s her “God-given duty to put arrogant people down a peg or two”. Her type of people are rather those who make “you feel extremely comfortable with yourself, who make you feel happy about being you”.
I’m sure, right now, it would be difficult for anyone to make this young star not feel extremely happy about being herself, about being Ashley Hayden!