Maria Nepembe, born in Eheke always had an active lifestyle from a young age. She played soccer for Dawid Bezuidenhout High School, UNAM Bokkies and Bremen Girls in Germany. As she grew up her interests changed, she lost a lot of weight and weighed between 42 – 45 kgs. In 2016, she fell ill and had a large fibroid removed in December that same year. As soon as she was completely healed in February 2017, she made the conscious decision to get fit and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Together with the assistance of her trainer Simba, her body transformed drastically within 6 months. She had gained muscles and was looking good. Her fitness journey was inspirational to many, and it gained so much social media traction that people would tag her in pictures and videos of their fitness routines. In February 2018, Pombili Shilongo approached Maria with the idea to create and work together on a reality show based on fitness. It was such an exciting idea that it took both Maria and Pombili quite a few months of creating concepts and brainstorming for the show that made NBC Sunday TV interesting again.
Launch Namibia also joined the Social Media bandwagon and invited Maria Nepembe to have a chat about her reality show, Body with Maria Nepembe.
What is your involvement in the production?
I came up with the name Body with Maria Nepembe and Pombili agreed immediately. 90% of the credit goes to Pombili, she did an amazing job. She is the producer of the show and was in charge of most of the content, flow and storylines. I contributed to the content here and there and gave my opinion on how I feel and everything that I did not like, we sat down and discussed it. Simba who owns Fitcity and started my fitness journey, was responsible for the contestant’s transformation. Props goes to Pombili and the crew, they were amazing.
What was the inspiration behind the show?
According to the producer, “I am the face of fitness.” It was inspired by my transformation and the reactions from social media. So, we decided on doing Body with Maria Nepembe with 10 contestants whereas one person will come out victorious and win the grand price. The concepts were executed effortlessly and the show was a success and #BodywithMariaNepembe was trending every Sunday.
How was the selection process for the contestants?
We received about 5000 applications and we narrowed it down to 100 applicants that went through to the audition stage, and then finally the 10 contestants that made it to the show. We looked at people with great stories and motivations because fitness is not just about losing weight.
What challenges have you encountered?
Quite a lot because we were dealing with real people and real-life stories. It was an emotional rollercoaster especially for the contestants. Embarking on a fitness journey is not easy, the motivation and want to go to the gym is not always there. Clashes between the contestants and the trainers, and breaking under pressure whereby some contestants decide to quit and walk out because they feel the trainers are being too harsh. We’ve also experienced technical difficulties during production.
What was different about this reality show experience to Big Brother?
With Big Brother I was confined in this house with people that you won’t always get along with but you have no choice but to stay. On Body with Maria Nepembe I had freedom not just of movement, but freedom and choice to change things and the authority to make decisions on different aspects of the show. I feel like this opportunity gave me a platform to change lives. I was in a position to help people become better versions of themselves, and that is one of my biggest accomplishments.
If you were to give fitness advice to anyone starting their fitness advice, what will it be?
Do not push yourself. You do not have to look in the mirror every day or weigh yourself every day. Each body will react differently, it may happen faster for you than it did for me or vice versa. Work out for yourself and not for social validation, that way you won’t end up having ridiculous expectations that may put you in a bad emotional space if not met.
Maria Nepembe hopes to create something bigger and better at different locations and with new experiences if the show comes back for a second season.