Venessa Clack

Most people think Venessa Clack dons a pair of perspex heels, then twirls around a pole. They also assume that in her fitness studio in Johannesburg she teaches women how to do a sexy striptease. What they don’t know is that competitive pole dancers like Clack require similar levels of physical strength, flexibility and stamina to those of Olympic gymnasts. In fact, pole dancing has become so popular among men and women all over the world that there’s a push to have it recognised as an Olympic sport by 2020. And Clack thinks it’s about time. “Any discipline whereby an individual dedicates time, motivation, diet, consistency and determination to succeed beyond a social level requires professional respect,” she says. At the first-ever World Pole Sports Championships held in London last year, Clack was placed fifth overall in the women’s category. Impressive, considering that the competition attracted pole dancers from as far afield as Japan, Russia and Italy. She also won the Pole Fitness Championships organised by the Pole Fitness Association of South Africa and hasn’t fared too badly in its more theatrical counterpart, Miss Pole Dance South Africa, finishing as a runner-up four times and winning the contest in 2011. In November she’s off to Singapore for the International Pole Championship, for which she qualified as a semifinalist thanks to an impressive three-minute video she sent to the organisers. Inspired by her father’s advice: “Never let others determine your dreams, you can achieve anything,” Clack has developed her own signature moves, which she recently shared with dancers at various workshops in Australia. She’s also a digital strategist, wife, and mum to a two-year-old girl. It’s a busy schedule, but she loves every minute of it, particularly the impact she has on the lives of women — both as a teacher and as a sportswoman. — Fatima Asmal