Hello my Rave Reviewers...


I have been a few issues behind, I'm sure you would have noticed. Not because I don't love you, because I do, but because I lost someone so very dear to me. He was an integral part of my life, he was my best friend - and he lost his fight with Lymphoma. Some of you may have heard his name as he was a major profile figure in South Africa. His name is Charl Van Den Bergand he not only won Mr Gay SA in 2009 but went on to become Mr Gay World 2010 in Oslo the very next year. I use his name in the present tense because I really believe that he is still with me, just in a different way now. What he accomplished in his short 33 years of life was nothing short of astounding, and as my heart is breaking, i feel the need to pay tribute to him the only way I know how, and the only way I know you'll appreciate it - and that is by writing to him. This is a very personal tribute, and I feel so honoured to be able to share it with you - my readers, my friends, my supporters. I hope it touches you as much as it touched me to write it. And if you can take something away from it, please do so. Share it, tell people about him, and most importantly - dare to dream, and risk everything to love. Hug your parents and children a little tighter today and don't go one day without telling the people that you love how you feel. We aren't promised tomorrow. 



So here goes, I hope you enjoy reading it.


My darling is going to be the hardest day for all of us who have loved and lost you as we lay you to rest finally, and peacefully. I'm broken as I'm sitting in another country and not with you all there today. My heart and mind have been consumed all week by your handsome face, your incredible smile and your giving heart. But what has meant more to me have been the memories which have overtaken my thoughts. Memories I will treasure in my heart and mind forever. Some people will say 'come on Mandi, you're writing to Charl'? Surely he can't see it. But my guy, my heart tells me you can. 


Do you remember the night we met so many years ago? Almost 9 years ago! We were at an event, you hadn't won Mr Gay SA yet, that was still to come for you and we just started talking, it was an instant connection. I remember you saying 'you and me girl, we have to be friends'. And look at us, almost 9 years later. We both  went on to achieve so much in our personal and professional lives, but our connection stood strong, and we went on to share so many magical times together in our friendship. I'll never forget screaming, singing and dancing to 'how will I know' at the Whitney Houston show, and trying to out sing each other at the ABBA show on the song The Winner Takes It All. The dinners, the brekkies, the wine nights and the long phone calls. 



When I got my heart broken a few years ago, you were the one to step in and hug me and love me so much, that it helped to put the pieces back together, and I did the same for you. You reminded me that I deserved the best and to never settle for less. You taught me to believe the that only person who could ever make me feel inferior was myself, and that when people didn't treat me as I treated them, to not take it personally - because as you put it, some people just aren't able to give us what we seek in them - and that's ok. 


You told me I was beautiful when I didn't see it, and you made me believe it, not in an arrogant way, but in a confident way. When you spoke to a person, you really spoke to them. You listened, you understood, you engaged. And that, that made you one in a million. When you won the Mr Gay World title you managed to do what few people accomplish in their lifetimes - you bridged the gap between races, genders, and faiths. You altered people's narrow mindedness and you taught tolerance and respect for choice. When I started Rave Review you were one of only a few people not to laugh, you always believed, stood behind me, supported me and when this year it reached its ultimate success, you were the first person I called.



My life without you will never be the same, but how could it be? You're physically no longer here. To know there will be no more bear hugs breaks my heart. There will be no more smiley face messages throughout the day just to make me smile, and when someone calls me 'my girl', it won't ever have the same meaning. But one thing I have learnt about life, it always goes on. If we are ready for it or not, it carries on. I feel you with me and I know that you would want me to really live. You would want me to get up every morning and kick ass, achieve greatness while acting with kindness. To continue to walk the path of self belief, to have no ego and to be the best, most authentic me that I can be. I will do all of it, honouring the way you lived your life every step of the way. Most importantly, you would want me to love, not the half heart kind, but  to really love - the whole heart kind. To risk it all on someone who deserved me and who I deserved in return. 


Goodbye my best friend, my guy. My shining star, in my eyes you'll be forever young, and forever loved. Until we meet again, love always, 'your girl' xoxox