Jani Allan is remembered as South Africa’s first celebrity journalist. She joined the Sunday Times in 1980. Soon, she had the highest readership on the newspaper which had a circulation of some four million.

Jani Allan at home, 33 Kallenbach Dr, Linksfield Ridge. Painting 'Apartheid' by Norman Catherine (Gordon Schachat Collection)

Jani Allan at home, 33 Kallenbach Dr, Linksfield Ridge. Painting ‘Apartheid’ by Norman Catherine.

She was raised in Johannesburg’s privileged northern suburbs and read Fine Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand. As well as her writing career she was a concert pianist, exhibiting artist, fashion model, high school teacher and part-time closed circuit TV producer. She married Gordon Schachat, co-founder of African Bank and one of South Africa’s most pre-eminent art collectors.

In 1987 she was named the ‘most admired’ person in South Africa in a Gallup poll that was commissioned by her newspaper. The following year she moved from the champagne social circuit to the only arena that had real importance – the political one. As the pulse-taker of the politico, psyche-analyst of the powerful, her Face to Face profile column saw her interviewing the likes of Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Pik Botha, Magnus Malan and Beyers Naudé.

She’s credited with the honour of single-handedly destroying the weerstand of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging. Her interview with Eugene Terre’Blanche, leader of the AWB was misconstrued. The fallout and the leader’s increasing obsession with Allan led to what Marianne Thamm has described as a ‘manufactured scandal’. Allan was forced to leave the country in 1989 after a bomb exploded in her apartment.

She would work at the Sunday Times bureau in London before finding work as a freelance journalist. She would publish opinion pieces for prestigious titles such as The Spectator, London Evening Standard, Sunday Express, the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail. Her 1992 libel case against the British broadcaster, Channel 4 reverberated around the world.

She returned to South Africa in 1996 at the insistence of her then-partner, Mario Oriani-Ambrosini. Allan lived with the Italian-American constitutional lawyer in Cape Town’s exclusive Camps Bay. She quickly returned to the media scene with Style magazine devoting their cover story to Allan’s return. She was then contracted by M-Web to launch an online column and reinvented herself as a radio presenter of Jani’s World on CapeTalk.

Allan left South Africa in 2001 after being held up at gunpoint outside her home in Clifton.  Following an unsuccessful second marriage to an American inventor, Allan began working in the restaurant industry in New Jersey. Twelve years after her arrival she rebooted her writing career, sharing the snobbish cultural reflections of her second existence as a waitress. Her blog My Grilling Life was noticed by former colleagues that enthused about it on social media. Her re-emergence led to the Mail & Guardian commissioning a profile piece on Allan. Rowan Philp’s piece ‘The return of Jani Allan’ was widely celebrated winning industry awards.

Allan also began to enjoy viral success with her columns on other subjects. Her animal advocacy saw her penning an open letter to American trophy hunter, Melissa Bachman. Bachman had sparked outrage by sharing photos of her hunting exploits in South Africa. Allan’s self-published column was widely circulated and read by over 1 million readers. The following year Allan waded into the Oscar Pistorius trial publishing a widely-circulated open letter to the murder-accused comparing him to Terre’Blanche. In the column Allan opined that Pistorius was receiving acting lessons for his court appearances. This was reported on by newspapers and news agencies around the world.  Allan addressed the speculation by speaking exclusively to Fox News.

Friends reunited: author Jani Allan with socialite Peta Eggierth-Symes (owner of Pallu Boutique) and TV/radio maverick psychologist Dr Dorianne Cara Weil at Jani Confidential Book Launch, Exclusive Books Hyde Park, Johannesburg.

Friends reunited: author Jani Allan with socialite Peta Eggierth-Symes and psychologist Dr Dorianne Cara Weil at Jani Confidential Book Launch, Exclusive Books Hyde Park, Johannesburg.

Following the publication of Allan’s celebrated Mail & Guardian profile she was asked by Bridget Impey of Jacana Media to write her memoirs. Jani Confidential was released in 2015 to critical acclaim. Allan supported her best-seller with a widely publicized book tour. There are currently plans for a stage production adaptation with Sandra Prinsloo playing Allan.

Most recently Allan has contributed to several South African titles such as the Daily Maverick, Big Issue, Fair Lady and Dekat.


35 Responses to Biography

  1. Jeffrey Berry says:

    Best wishes and may God Bless you as you share as only Miss Jani can share…..
    Hope to see you soon Miss Juliet!!!

    • Emily Christensen says:

      Hi Jani,

      I love how you write, like many of your other followers, I read the letter to that woman *shudder and I have been following you ever since.

      Thank you for the letter to Nigella, I don’t care what, if anything she gets up to, she is a dream to watch and listen to even if her store cupboard essentials are a little extravagant, especially here in Dubai!

  2. Zelda de Wet says:

    I love your style of writing.
    Regards from a SAcan in Upstate NY.

    • Jani Allan says:

      Upstate New York? I am in New Joisey. Thanks!

      • Lee says:

        Wow, I used to religeously read your column in the Sunday Times back in the day. Loved it. A former prosecutor at the AG office in PTA and now living in NJ and practicing as a medium & teacher thereof. Will be following you once again. What an interesting project that you have created.

  3. Karabo Seane says:

    Oh your style of writing is awesome.please keep SA

  4. Miemsie says:

    Oh really . . . . . you are sooooooo enterprising, Doll. Well done, Miss Entertainer. Lots of love and fond memories, Miemsie B.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you! Can’t take credit for the concept. I have a colleague in Jhb who came up with the idea. Love that you are reading the blog. Now get on twitter. Your life will change forever!

  5. I found you via the Mail & Guardian article that dropped into my inbox this morning.

    I always read your column! Whether I agreed or not with your opinions, it was compulsive reading.

    I’m British; I lived in SA for 14 years, leaving in 1996 when the violence hit too close to home. I understand your need to write about that time; I have written a poetry collection about my experiences. It has taken twenty years to put together, but I think South Africa is finally out of my system.

    Good luck with the book!

  6. preeta singh says:

    Good luck Jani-you always kept us entertained, even before things went wrong for you. Enjoy your life in your quiet, safe end of the world & give us your best piece yet!!!

  7. miss Kate says:

    Who knew that the tall, thin waif who knocked on my bedroom window at 6am for refuge – and carrying her beloved tiny Pom “Tiggy” would turn out to be the infamous Jani Allan…. she became my best friend and after 10 yrs is like a daughter to me. People do not know the real Jani Allan – they just think they do. I love you my dear Jani. Your future is in the hands of the people who can put you back up on top where you belong. You touched many people and hearts with your unfailing character, wit, charm and beauty. You deserve the best life has to offer after the cruel treatment you have been exposed to in SA and work. Those people know who they are and they will not enter heaven so easily – they will pay a penance for their hateful heart. Thank God for those who see your shining heart.

  8. Cindy says:

    You talked me into my first perm and out of my first (unsuitable) crush. 37 years later and I’m still a believer.

  9. Jo says:

    I can’t wait to read your articles – 36 years ago you were an enormous support for me in my time of need and you were the best teacher I ever had! Good luck and get writing!!!

  10. Hi Jani
    A friend of mine just shared your message to Melissa Bachman. I must congratulate you for your prose which is sharp as a butchers knife (pardon the pun!), cunning and very witty! I laughed out loud about Ricky Gervais and your comment “He thinks you are a great hunt. Typo.”
    You now have a new follower of your blog. I am looking forward reading more about your story and good luck to you!
    All the best
    Olivier, Geneva, Switzerland

  11. Terri Braun says:

    Knowing you as a little girl…sitting watching you playing scrabble with my late mom (Janis Dorfman). I will always be a fan and know she always was. Love to follow to your articles. Loved your article on facebook about Melissa Bachman – well bloody said!!!! Excuse the Pun! You should always be writing.

    • Jani Allan says:

      Terri, I remember you and Janis with such fondness. Do you remember Janis teaching me Kendo? Please keep in touch. Love you girl. Such a lovely surprise to see you on the page XO

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks Jani!! Loved the article you just wrote about SAMs. I want to share that article on FB. You hit the nail on the head about SAMs. I am so glad my mother in law did an incredible job the first 7 years with my SAM. I have always tried to describe SAMs and you did it for me.

  12. Karen says:

    I have just read your magnificent article on Oscar. I am South African born in Durban I left in 1994 and now live n Los Angeles. I 100% agree with all that you have said about and to Oscar. It is embarrassing to watch as the World watches and makes their own assumptions about South Africa and its people. What a stunning girl Reeva was and what a waste of a life for this insecure, shallow, narcissistic pig that calls himself a man. May all mothers try and guide their beautiful daughters to notice and find the flaws before their lives are wasted by these men with all their baggage. This crazy controlling way I have experienced while dating many as South African man, I dont know if they feel they own you when they date you however let this be a wake up call for women everywhere to take a more assertive role as opposed to a subservient one in their relationships and see these crazed men for who they are. I love how you wrote and it spoke to a relatable part of me – I look forward to reading more of your work!

  13. We worked for SAAN in the same era though we never actually got to socialise…you were rarely if ever in the Fed! Loved your columns back then and love your writing again today…letters to Nigella, Melissa the Hunt, and now Oscar so penetrating they cut to the bone. Great wordsmiths never die…I look forward to more future offerings! Nelspruit, South Africa & Nairobi, Kenya.

    • Marion says:

      HI Daryl…just found Jani’s website and written to her too…was amazed to see your comment ‘cos I was working for Sunday Express (SAAN) too in the 1970’s (god, last century, nog al!!)…?
      I would love to contact some of the “Scatterlings”if you’re in touch with anybody else?.
      Ive been in Paris for 35 years….

  14. Shelley Rosenberg says:

    Jani, have rediscovered you and will def be following every which way, loved your writing then (when I lived in SA) and even more so now I live in the UK. You go grrrrl

  15. Phil van der Merwe says:

    Brilliant! Just discovered this now. Will definitely be following 🙂

  16. Joe Watson says:

    When you disappeared and Pnina Fenster arose, I was convinced it was just a hair dye thing. On discovering this site I realise it was not. I still however wait in anticipation for the resumption of my Jet Jungle newsletters which where terminated some time in the late 70’s with the promise that it was to be a temporary hiatus. The office manager of the law firm now inhabiting my childhood home in Benoni thinks I am peculiar in that I keep her abreast of my current postal address. Do you think Ken Owen liked you?

  17. maggie says:

    Hi Jani, I’ve been following your blog on Oscar. I posted a message this a.m but see there aren’t any further messages after that .

    I remember the ET scandal in the papers way back then, and at the time I believed in you fully – the scandal was all media hype. I remember commenting that you wouldn’t look twice at a hideous AWB dutchman such as ET . To avoid criticism : be nothing do nothing say nothing. Same as the Oscar support group – Reeva was too beautiful for them so the only alternative is to believe Oscar’s innocence. We’ve had a massive brain drain in SA, left with the dregs and space kadets…… shame man. Sad for us clever tribe having to put up with that mentality.

    I”ll be contributing to this blog , with my controversial views on life, people and our politics …….

  18. Vasari says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for your open letter to Oscar Pistorius. It was beautifully written. This case is very important to me and many others with an interest in human rights. This case represents what is happening around the world behind closed doors. Mr. Pistorius behaved as he did on the stand because he wants the pity of those watching. Pity, according to the book, The Sociopath Next Door, is widely used by individuals high on the sociopathic scale. His ability to cry in the manner he has goes beyond the norm. Not even victims of rape, cry the way he has on the stand, day after day. Yet their pain runs deeper than one can imagine. Their pain can be heard in their voices, can be seen in their posture, in their eyes, and their manner of dignity, because it lies deeper than the interior of their bones. Conversely, his emotion is a combination of a medication that is assisting his performance, including his throwing up, etc. Mr. Pistorius is determined to win his case in the same way he is determined to win his races. The world needs to look at that. The court room is simply a different arena. He took Reeva’s life, and has shown the world through his display of willful dramatics that the person they should feel sorry for is him.

    I love that you pointed out that it is the nature of people to seek out inspiration from those who have overcome great adversity. You are absolutely correct in stating that we also want such individuals to maintain their humanity. Sadly Mr. Pistorius has not. He has in fact lured the world into thinking that his journey gave his life meaning, humanity, and decency. This is not the case. He has not nurtured what makes him human. Once again, thank you so much. I am deeply grateful for your courage and integrity. You penned a letter that will touch the hearts of many who suspected his tears, were the tears of a fraud.

  19. Mark says:

    SAMS (South African Males) and the domineering approach

    Dear Jani and fellow bloggers,

    I shall state at the outset that I am not popular at barbecues (Or as we call them out here “braais”) due to the very views which follow.

    Small matter.

    Age brings the wisdom of what is important and fickle opinions grounded on insecurities matter little if you have self-worth inside. After decades of being around some of it is creeping back so – here goes…

    I have pondered long and hard on the malaise of domination and abusive tendencies aflficting a large number of my fellow SAMS and I have, I feel, an insight which I shall toss into the ring (My Journalist’s hat, being one of only a few fond pieces of Bric-A-Brac I have from years ago, shall remain on the bookshelf…)

    Lest I be flamed, let me state that my observation is not meant as a blanket condemnation of all SAMS. There are those of us who were blessed to be raised by thinking women. Both my mothers (My birth one and our housekeeper) attempted to get some basic ideas into my skull from an early age. I am blessed in this fact. I have tried at all times to be worthy of their time and effort and apply their teachings. Where I have fallen short, the fault is mine alone.

    Other SAMS have, perhaps, not been so lucky.

    Part of my journey to date has involved reading education and the study of the development of thought patterns. During this I learnt that views on relationships and our inter-personal skills are largely shaped in the first 7 years we spend on this planet.

    When one considers the aspect, the role model most SAMS have had in regard to women in their early lives have all been submissive and subservient. This could, perhaps, be at the core of the problem?

    If we think back to the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and even later (but the named periods are, I feel, the key) most middle class households with a nuclear family also had a housekeeper to help ‘madam’.

    Now, where typical childhood misdeeds needed forceful consequences, mothers would often yell at our little SAM “Just you wait until your father gets home!”. Lesson: The dominant adult male is to be feared and a wife needs him to take charge and “handle” things because she obviously cannot.

    If the housekeeper accidentally burnt something with the iron or did not quite meet whatever standard of mythical excellence she was supposed to attain, she was told the matter would be discussed with “The baas” (Boss). Lesson: The dominant adult male is to be feared and holds sway over ALL females in the household at all times. His word and judgement is law.

    Given this effective daily display of subjugation, is it any wonder then that most SAMS grew up with a deeply ingrained concept of entitlement when dealing with women?

    After all, if the housekeeper (herself usually a mother and the head of her own home) and mother never said “Boo” to the ‘Boss man’, it would be strange and shocking if our little SAM – upon attaining “maturity” encountered his girfriend/fiance/wife suddenly voicing an opinion contrary to his own. Worse still, imagine if she decided to do what SHE wanted?

    Circuits trip, blue screens of death appear on the internal brain display – “How dare she question me?” lines of code insert into the application without warning and toilet doors become swiss-cheese or he makes bedroom flambe.

    The ticking time-bomb was not, in my view, assisted by the fact that most SAMS in the 70’s and 80’s had to undergo primal male bonding training with weapons – it was actually called national service or joining the “liberation forces’ but I am sure you understand my label for it?

    From my own experience, conversation after hours or when on patrol during rest stops typically revolved around your ‘stukkie’ (A rather degrading collquiallism for girlfriend meaning “little piece”) back home and if she was going to hold out on you during your next pass or not.

    None of the conversations I recall ever involved the feelings of the ladies at home – their role was quite firmly to be of service and to be ready to go and do whatever one wanted when you got back. When I dared interject and ask what the ladies views may have been I was immediately judged to be of an alternate pursuasion. Either you “hannled jaw wimmen” or you were a moffie. QED.

    During this period female leaders – be it as heads of schools, politicians or corporate governors were few and far between. I remember our primary school appointing a head-mistress way back and she was the only one among 120 schools in the city so perhaps a nod to her is needed by me too? I therefore raise a glass to Mrs Rita Thompson who used assemblies to effect to emphasise respect of different viewpoints, opinions and the importance of considering the feelings of others. She always led with a calm, caring authority. Now that I think of it, I cannot remember her having raised her voice like many other Headmasters and male teachers I encountered. I digress, however…

    Add to this early childhood SAM training I have discussed the partiarchal traditions of the continent and the fact that one generation normally passes its habits on to the next wherever there is little or no thought for the consequences and you have, I believe, a hint of the problem and its origins.

    The only solution I can offer is that each man raising a male child ingrain in the child the dictum given me by my mother “Any woman shall be treated as a lady at all times. If not, watch out because I will be on your case!”

    Perhaps it should be up-dated to state that a “Human shall be treated as such at all times. If not, watch out because I will be on your case!”

    We need to send the message that inherent or manipulative domination of one gender or person by any other is incorrect. Lest you think this is one sided, there are many women I have encountered who lever the privileges afforded them by society to abuse influence and many that emotionally abuse their husbands with impunity as the family violence act law in South Africa is skewed against SAMS. It is practically impossible for a man to obtain an interdict against a woman in most magistrate’s courts (a fact I am aware of as I am currently researching the FV law and how it is being abused by the legal profession in divorce matters to illegally evict men from their homes and businesses). This is, of course, the problem going the other way but – perhaps – the expected swing of the pendulum until stasis is reached?

    Nevertheless, abuse of any human by another is the issue – whatever the supposed foundation or justification.

    Given that this is a generational issue – if my observation holds any water – we need to ensure that the current crop of under 7’s is fed the right patterns otherwise this problem is not going away soon.

    I would have ended by saying this is just my 2c worth but they have withdrawn those coins from circulation.

    At least some things change?

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