NIKKI JACKMAN Joy catalyst and performing heartist


Five inspiring stories of reinventio­n

Challengin­g times find us all, as many of us discovered in 2020. Although we would never choose to go through them, they can, paradoxica­lly, lead us to a better, brighter life and a renewed sense of purpose. If you’re going through a difficult time, draw strength from the inspiring stories of these five women whose darkest hours led to radiant rebirth.

Ibecame a familiar face on South African television screens from 1998 to 2001 when I took on the role of Elise Buller in Isidingo. It was a real boost to my career, but after a while I began to feel stifled, playing the same character day in, day out. I believed I was on track to achieve all my career dreams, so I took a risk and decided to start my own production company, with the goal of launching my own internatio­nal travel TV series. I resigned from my job with a sense of purpose and put everything in place.

I was psyched. I prepared the pilot and proposals so thoroughly that when I headed to New York to sell my idea, I thought it was a sure thing. But it wasn’t. It didn’t get picked up, and I found myself returning home without a job, without confidence, R180 000 in debt and with no idea how to move forward. I was terrified and I fell into a deep, dark well of despair. It felt like my future had been cancelled.

What a blessing!

One day, after months of depression, my father said to me, ‘Stop being such a charity headcase.’ And I replied, ‘You know what? That’s exactly what I am going to be, a charity headcase!’

I had an epiphany: the only way I was going to pull myself back into the light was to focus on the needs of others. So I shaved my head in support of the Sunflower Fund (literally becoming a ‘head case’), and

I began to donate one hour of my time to entertaini­ng the young patients at the Red Cross Children’s War Memorial Hospital. Not only did these small actions pull me out of despondenc­y, but they also showed me that joy is available to anyone at any time, no matter your circumstan­ces.

I felt so inspired that I founded the Upliftment Programme, which is still going strong after 17 years and has trained more than 500 people to bring joy, enthusiasm and meaning to children and caregivers throughout the country. I became a joy catalyst and performing heartist – it is my life’s mission to make the world a more joyful, compassion­ate, uplifted place.

❛Debt and a stalled career showed me my true calling.❜

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