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Bame Modimogale
Customer Marketing Manager, Modern Trade

Not many people get to see themselves on a huge billboard on the side of the highway. So, when Bame Modimogale found herself driving past a giant picture of herself in a Vodacom ad on the N1 between Pretoria and Johannesburg, she did a double take.

“It was kind of a realisation of how unusual my story was,” she says.

It was just a few years earlier that the feisty Customer Marketing Manager, who now works for Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa, found herself in an unusual position.

While studying law at the University of Pretoria, she was taking a stroll on campus when she saw some young women practicing their cheerleading routines. It turned out to be the well-known cheerleading squad of the Blue Bulls rugby team – known as the Bulls Babes.

“I’m trained in Latin American and ballroom dancing, so I asked the girls if I could join,” she laughs. “Next thing I knew, it had become a major part of my life.”

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But like everything she puts her mind to, Bame put heart and soul into the team and became captain of the – mostly white, mostly Afrikaans – squad after just one season. She went on to captain the team for the next four years.

The routines required not only physical fitness because of the acrobatics involved, but also a busy schedule of performances and functions. The Bulls Babes performed at the team’s home rugby games which packed out Loftus Versfeld stadium – forming a welcoming ‘V’ as the players ran out from the tunnel onto the field; as well as at corporate functions like the Vodacom Durban July and smaller venues too.

“The experience taught me a lot about Afrikaans culture, but also about how to be a humble leader,” says Bame. “Everyone has different skills and each brings their skill to ensure the collective’s success. To me leadership means identifying each person’s skill and bringing them together.”

Bame recalls how as captain she would often play a background role, running along the side of the field, giving direction to the squad and signalling to the cameraman when they were about to start a routine. She was also in demand for interviews with sports journalists since the Bulls Babes were working with the rugby players – amongst them Brian Habana, John Mametsa, Victor Matfield and Derick Hougaard - on the ground.

Looking back, it’s no surprise Bame ended up making a name for herself in unchartered territory.

Growing up in a small town in Mafikeng in the North West Province, she attended a dual medium English/Afrikaans Mafikeng Hoerskool and became one of the first black students to scoop up armfuls of awards.

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She played netball at national level from U12, represented her province in athletics in the 100m sprint and hurdles as well as the United Nations Debating Programme in the North West legislature in Grade 11. To top it off, she was recognised by the North West province for her contribution to the world of dance and was ranked second in South Africa in Latin American and ballroom dancing and was president of the Student Representative Council too.

“I was a high school busy body, participating in everything and anything I could,” she says. “I would take two bags to school, one full of sports clothes and one full of books. When I got home from sport at 6pm, I’d hit the books.”

Having grown up in an academic household – both her mother and father were teachers and her sister is a university lecturer – her house was home to a set of encyclopaedias – much to the neighbourhood’s envy.

“My dad always used to say that once you’re educated, no one can take that away from you. You become a better version of yourself.”

She is teaching her two young daughters – aged ten and seven – that they too have a destiny to fulfil and that they shouldn’t rely on anyone else but themselves for motivation. 

“I tell them you never have to fit into what someone thinks you should be. You just have to grab every opportunity that comes your way.”