As the big winners were announced and accolades handed out at this year’s virtual Premier Soccer League (PSL) awards a fortnight ago, the spotlight shone brightly on host Julia Stuart.
The former Livingstone High School pupil and UCT Film and Media Studies graduate has come a long way from churning out hard copy at the Daily Voice to establishing herself as a sought-after anchor on DStv’s SuperSport channel.
The fact that she was hand-picked by the soccer bosses to co-host their annual showpiece, bears testimony to faith decision-makers in the industry have in her.
By no means a small gesture, and probably one of the biggest gigs on any aspiring South African soccer or sports presenter’s radar, Stuart’s appearance in front of millions, is no fluke.
She’s knowledgable, well-informed and highly opinionated – exactly what is required to succeed in a competitive world.
She had already hosted the Gauteng sports awards and won last year’s SAB Video presenter of the year award ahead of industry veterans.
The call to host this year’s edition of the PSL Awards came unexpectedly, dropped on her like an unexpected bomb a week before the live broadcast, much like everything else that happened this year.
And, she says, although she would’ve loved an opportunity to appear in front of a live audience, she quickly made up her mind to embrace the virtual experience.
The national lockdown turned out to be a homecoming of sorts.
As she puts it, she was “summoned home” to spend time with family in Ottery.
Once, during the lockdown, while out shopping for essentials, a viewer recognised her and could hardly believe it was her, standing right there in front of him in the neighbourhood supermarket.
Yep, she was was home, alright, and even made time to visit the family’s former home in Portland, Mitchell’s Plain, before heading back to the City of Gold once the travelling between provinces was allowed.
“2020 was the year none of us expected and it made us rethink what is important,” she said.
“I think it was needed to make us realise what’s important – community and charity,” she said.
“I hear people talking about how plans they made were ruined. I’m just grateful for every blessing and those of us that are still here should be grateful that we survived. Many people the world over did not make it, many are struggling. Life is fleeting,” said Stuart.
Although based in Johannesburg since making her move into broadcasting five years ago, Stuart still considers herself very much a Cape Town girl and had no qualms spending most of the lockdown at home with her family in Ottery.
The Mitchell’s Plain-born television sports presenter spent most of her childhood years with her grandmother in Hanover Park, around the corner from another famous personality from that neck of the woods, soccer star Benni McCarthy.
Making her mark in an all-too often male-dominated industry, especially as far as sport is concerned was never going to be easy.
A comment that she’d never make a good presenter only served to motivate her even more.
Although relatively new to broadcasting, she’s certainly no newbie, having worked in print for seven years and two years at e.TV.
“It’s not about how far I’ve come but about the work that went before. And that’s the message I’d like to share with young women.
“The work that you do sets the standard.”