“I have always been fascinated by people who do things out of the norm,” says TV and radio legend Rian van Heerden. “Those who go against the grain and live their lives unapologetically free and the way they want, no matter what other people say or think about them.” Those individuals all have unique stories, and what better way to give them an opportunity to share their life stories than on Rian’s brand-new show called Karakter S1, every Monday on kykNET (DStv 144) at 20:30.

In each episode, Rian sets out to meet these eccentric people through the eyes and experiences of the people in their community – who have a lot to say – and then finally meeting the person face-to-face to hear their side of the story.

Since the show made its debut in April 2021, Rian has rubbed shoulders with a former nudist, a man riding a 3-wheeled motorcycle with a coffin hitched to it, and a wrestling legend who visits schools with his anti-bullying campaigns.

“They all had a story to tell that left me stunned,” says Rian. And that is just the tip of the iceberg compared to what the show still has in store.

People who are different

Like a moth to a flame, Rian has a knack for attracting unique individuals. “For some reason, my path always crosses with people who are different,” says the host. “I then take the time to get to know them better and I am always left feeling blessed by what I have learnt from them,” he adds.

S1 of Karakter will have 13 episodes in total, and Rian is hoping for an S2 renewal… because he already has material. “We are so overwhelmed with content that we can actually go into production for a second season right now. That is how rich South Africa is with interesting people,” Rian reveals.

And speaking of interesting people, viewers can make their way to Catch-Up to feast their eyes on the first 6 episodes of Karakter and meet the characters Rian interviewed, including:


Rita Woodall-Terblanche (episode 1):

Rita lives in Vanderbijlpark and is a former nudist, member of the AWB (Afrikaners Weerstandbeweging) and Lotto winner who recently married herself.

“Rita blew me away,” says Rian. “We have been in talks with her for almost a year to build trust and make her comfortable appearing in front of the camera,” he adds. “When we finally met, she informed me that she did her own research on me by reading my book (16 Dinge Wat Ek Nie Moes Sê Nie, 2018) and didn’t hesitate to put me under the spotlight.”


Rusty Pool (episode 2):

With his clean-shaven head, dark classes, earrings and bushy beard, Rusty looks like a real gangster. But as a former prison guard from Zonderwater Prison where he experienced violence on a regular basis, Rusty just wants peace and calm around him. “His 3-wheel motorcycle with a coffin at the back is a sight to be seen,” says Rian. “And to think that he takes tourists on trips through Cullinan with it, now that’s a once in a lifetime experience.”


Rooies Strauss (episode 4 & 5):

Rooies is a former narcotics detective, and his intense story needed more time to be told, which is why Rian and his team gave him 2 episodes. “Nowadays Rooies manages his own church on his farm near Groblershoop in the Northern Cape where he also raises crocodiles,” explains Rian. “He comes across as very passionate and aggressive in his sermons, and regularly preaches against drugs, gays and tattoos in videos on his social media pages.”

Rian and Rooies enjoyed a braai and ate some crocodile. “It tasted like chicken,” Rian jokes. “But I won’t eat it again.”


Vanessa Jarvis (episode 6):

There is a lot of mystery surrounding Vanessa Jarvis from Clarens in the Free State. She rode a white horse bare-naked through the main street of the town to create awareness around mental health and the healing properties of cannabis. Vanessa is also the owner of the cannabis shop in Clarens and a cancer survivor.

“Vanessa’s story is interesting because people of the town think she is a witch, and I find it baffling that people in the 21st century still think this way about people who are different to them,” says Rian.


Nicohaan Combrink (episode 7, 17 May)

1 look at his curly moustache and you know that Nicohaan must be an interesting character.

He was a big name in event planning, and did flower arrangements for, among others, Presidents Mandela and Mbeki. He recently lost everything due to an alcohol addiction and the Covid-19 pandemic leaving him homeless. He is currently staying at a gay shelter and is trying to rebuild his life.


Manila Von Teez (episode 8, 24 May)

RuPaul, eat your heart out! The journey of Manila von Teez as drag artist started in 2011, and since then she has gone from strength to strength. She even appeared on SA’s Got Talent in 2016 and came second! Not bad for someone who only knew the streets of Elsies River as a young boy.

More of the weird & wonderful

If you were impressed by the people Rian has met so far, we have more of the weird and wonderful coming your way during the rest of S1, including…


Riaan Swiegelaar (episode 11, 14 June)

Riaan is the co-founder of the first Satanic church in SA. He is a former pastoral therapist for the Apostolic Faith Mission, and says that the shortage of answers about faith that he needed is what attracted him to Satanism.

“There is more to Riaan than his faith, people assume as a Satanist he would be slaying cats, but in truth he and his church are supporting an animal shelter for stray dogs and cats.”

Creating a platform

According to Rian, Karakter offers the eccentric characters in our country the platform and opportunity to tell their story in their own words. “A lot of the time, all that is known about these people are rumours and lies and other people’s opinions and perceptions, where in Karakter we talk to them directly and they set the record straight.”

If Rian could, he would love to give the characters more time to tell their stories than the 24 minutes they have for each episode of Karakter. “It’s difficult to cut things down because there is always more you would like to expose the viewers to,” he says.

Watch Karakter S1 Mondays on kykNET (DStv channel 144) at 20:30

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