Why you should care
Because lifehacks are always better with a side of humor … or fire.
As Suzelle, the overdressed and overenthusiastic host of “How to Make a Braai pie,” is explaining that a braai pie is “a pie that you make on the braai” (South Africa’s take on the barbecue) and going through the list of ingredients, you’ll start to wonder whether you’re watching a legit DIY video or a comedy spoof. Then, when she pages through a fashion magazine while the pie cooks, your suspicions will be ramped up a notch. And by the time she’s floundering around to extinguish her blazing umbrella, all doubt will be expunged. Except — and here’s the thing — you will also have learned how to make a braai pie.
The braai pie video was, according to Julia Anastasopoulos, the classically trained actor behind the Suzelle character, the 10th SuzelleDIY video. But it was the one that made her a household name overnight. Since then, South Africa’s first — some might say only — YouTube star has produced more than 100 videos that blend vaguely useful DIY advice with humor. With her ear-scalding accent and no-nonsense approach, Suzelle is as South African as they come. But her advice and humor are universal. After all, it’s good to know how to fold a fitted sheet — but how much “traveling down” the sheet does that require?
With videos that are now racking up hundreds of thousands of views, it’s hard to believe that SuzelleDIY was an “experimental side project” she and her director fiancé (now husband) cooked up while waiting for commercial work to come along. Or that it was one of Anastasopoulos’ first forays into comedy. While there was an element of luck, SuzelleDIY did do a lot of things right. The supershort episodes make them eminently shareable. And by deliberately leaving their names off the credits of the early episodes, they created an element of mystery. Were these hilarious videos on how to cut cherry tomatoes and how to make a happy hugger for real? Was this loopy Afrikaans DIY diva, who pulls out lines like “Because anybody conduit,” actually legit?
Besides, the premise itself is authentic. Because “the funny cooking tips and DIY tricks really do come from me,” as Anastasopoulos freely admits, the show has a softer, more likable feel than if it were pure parody. Anastasopoulos really does wrap masking tape around her hands to remove fluff from her jersey and has known for long before the series how to tell if a battery is dead or alive. The how to chop an onion tip comes directly from her sister (although I doubt she wears safety glasses to prevent herself from “crying … for the second time today”). And the mute Marianne character is also a friend in real life who has plenty to say for herself, says Anastasopoulos.
While she continues to add Suzelle videos when the mood takes her, Anastasopoulos has gone on to star in her own TV show. Tali’s Wedding Diary (2017) follows vain, self-obsessed Tali in her quest to achieve the perfect wedding — to a hilarious but somewhat pathetic end (it’s hard not to pity her desperate efforts). The show, which was the first to be commissioned by South African streaming service Showmax, saw overwhelming success — it outperformed Game of Thrones on launch day and recently took home five South African Film & Television awards. “South Africans can’t get enough of Tali,” says Candice Fangueiro, head of content at Showmax, “and we think the rest of the world will feel the same.”
With confirmation that there’s a second season of Tali in the pipeline and rumors of a Suzelle “origin movie,” what’s next for Anastasopoulos? “I’d love to play a rich Constantia mommy,” she says, in reference to Cape Town’s leafiest suburb.
And with Anastasopoulos recently becoming a mom, there’s the real possibility of Suzelle branching out into parenting tips. Now there’s something I could set a minute and a half aside for.