She's spent much of her time on Celebrity Treasure Island in a bikini, but incredibly, Edna Swart confesses there was a time when she wasn't so comfortable in her own skin.
"I was an introverted, shy girl, so my dad put me into athletics to build my confidence," the South African-born entrepreneur and star of reality series Boss Babes tells Woman's Day. "I hated competing because I had to wear a crop top and I had severe acne growing up – not just my face, but on my chest, back and legs.
"I'll never forget when I was in primary school and the teacher asked everyone who had freckles to put their hands up. This girl turned to me and said, 'Those aren't freckles – you've got pimples!' I was completely and utterly embarrassed by my body."
After years of athletics, Edna says she finally "made peace" with her appearance at about 23. It was only four years later that she learnt the reason for her acne, as well as her irregular periods and excessive hair growth.
She recalls, "My doctor had always told me, 'You're just weaning into your period,' but by the time I was 27, I was like, 'Six or nine months without a period isn't normal!' So I insisted on some tests and they found out I had polycystic ovaries, which explained everything. I was so angry it wasn't picked up earlier."
These days, Edna still suffers from acne on her back, but she insists, "I don't give a toss any more. I'm 31. Are you kidding?!" However, she admits, "I still have moments of self-doubt and lowly days where I think I'm not worth it – that I'm not good enough. It's not all confidence."
The influencer and former swimwear designer candidly confesses she started having Botox at age 25, and has spent about $20,000 on her face and body since. Before appearing on Treasure Island, she had her anti-wrinkle injections topped up and underwent micro-needling.
She adds, "I also had my team collate a full skincare system for while I'm on the show. It costs a lot, but anything that takes care of you properly costs money, right?
I have no regrets because I'm not changing how I look – it's purely for maintenance."
During her time on the TVNZ 2 reality series, Edna is raising funds for the Stroke Foundation NZ, a charity that is very close to her heart because her mother Sandra tragically suffered a stroke on a flight to South Africa when her daughter was just 14.
Edna remembers, "By the time I could fly over there to see her, I didn't recognise her. She was just skin and bone. She'd lost all speech and mobility, and weighed just 40kg. She was like a grown baby essentially. I watched her in rehabilitation, getting better and then getting worse.
"During my teenage years, when I needed a mother figure, it was hard seeing my friends go shopping, lunching and doing girly things with their mums. All I could do was visit my mother in hospital or the retirement village.
"Long story short – at the age of 52, my mother gave up. We could see the daily struggle and the follow-on strokes take their final toll. As a family, we had to collectively decide to turn the machines off on her. She passed October 8, 2007. I was 17."
Since then, Edna has channelled her heartbreak into her career, getting a finance degree and working for years in banking, before starting her own swimwear and skincare labels.
"Leaving the corporate world to go self-employed was scary, but I wanted to be my own boss instead of living someone else's dream," she tells.
"If I look back at it now, I'm like, 'My word, that was easy money!' It's so much harder to write your own pay cheque, but it's made me a stronger person."
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