From anchoring live prime time news to practicing martial arts, Graeme Richards is a man of every moment. Having presented on almost every South African television platform and having conducted interviews with local and international superstars in sport, lifestyle and entertainment, Graeme has sustained an admirable level of success. Perkolate spoke to Graeme about his career, Kung Fu and how he maintains his motivation.
Congratulations on being a dad-to-be, it must be very exciting?
Graeme: It's awesome, it's a game changer through and through. The due date is the twenty-seventh of April, but he's growing very quickly so I have a feeling he might surprise us a little bit earlier.
Tell us a little about your interest in sport, especially martial arts?
Graeme: I think in our industry, the fitter and stronger and healthier you are generally the more work you can do and better present yourself. It just goes hand in hand, certainly with the kind of content that I've done. I've hosted and been involved with martial arts programmes and with a lot of sports broadcasting. I was always a mad sports nut when I was younger. I was a product of the '95 World Cup generation, I played first team rugby around that time and was able to interview and really get to know Francois Pienaar and many other Rugby World Cup legends.
“...Kung Fu became a very dominant force in my life. It's something that I always use when I feel like I'm losing my focus...” - Graeme Richards
My mom, to give me a bit of backbone I think, put me into Karate when I was really young. As a teenager I did Tae Kwon Do and loved it. Then as a young adult, looking for a more cultural connection to martial arts, I got into Kung Fu. I absolutely loved it and it was certainly the one thing that I have the most aptitude for. Kung Fu became a very dominant force in my life. It's something that I always use when I feel like I'm losing my focus, when life becomes a little overwhelming. It has opened my eyes to so much more of what life is about. So much so that I almost feel with regret that it's amazing that we don't learn about our bodies. We see it as this esoteric, out-there hippie thing and it's really not. Within the Eastern world and their philosiphy, when it comes to health and medicine and also martial arts, they almost have a fourth dimension to their world that we just don't comprehend.
I've been able to really see and feel the effects of being able to build that component of myself physically. I love it and will certainly try and introduce my son to the wonders of what his body can actually do if he opens his mind. That is very much a big part of it, undoing of the conditioning that you are subjected to all your life. I would say the first three or four years in Kung Fu is spent breaking down those barriers.
When you say barriers, do you mean physical or spiritual?
Graeme: I think it's on every level. You begin to realise that about ninety-nine percent of those barriers or limitations you think you have physically, and often mentally and sometimes emotionally, they are perceived barriers. If you've got the right training and right approach to things then you really can do anything. That has been a big lesson in my life and is something that I fall back on all the time. Knowing that no matter how difficult a situation is, whether it's physical or not, you'd be amazed at how strong you actually are, how amazing you actually can be in those moments.
It's something that I use in my job all the time as well when I feel things get a bit overwhelmin. You suddenly start tapping into that deeper reserve and it is amazing to know you really can do so much more than you ever dreamt you could. What I found after two or three years of Kung Fu is that I am able to achieve things that you were physically just not capable of doing and that's an amazing thing, something to keep re-inforcing in your mind. People often forget about the physical triumph that comes when you are able to achieve something, being able to run one kilometer further today than you were able to yesterday. Your brain registers that as a success, as a positive and that is something you can apply in other areas of your life. It has taken the limitations out of my life completely.
“...I get to meet the most inspirational people all the time, so you're constantly having your cup refilled by these experiences and that keeps you fresh...” - Graeme Richards
Your own production company, please tell us a bit more about VHP Productions?
Graeme: It is a company owned by myself and a couple of friends. We use it on a project-to-project basis to do a certain amount of philanthropic work. It's a vehicle for me to be able to do these kinds of upliftment work, whether it's a talent showcase for kids from the Cape Flats or a stationary drive with shopping centres. I've found that often people are not creating sustainable models so by having my own vehicle I can create things that are sustainable, meaning after I've disenganged they can continue to make money. I've learned some massive lessons on that side that's allowed me to grow an entrepreneurial side of myself. I think a lot of people in the entertainment industry often overlook that side of things.
Using this platform has allowed me to really use every opportunity I can get in television. Whether it's acting or directing or something else, I'm always meeting amazing people. Meeting people who could be mentors, meeting people who need help, organisations who need media. Amazing things can be done just by connecting the dots and so often you work with charities and they're limited because they are a charity. They're not an advertising company or a marketing company. Often for me I need to be able to break rules and kind of operate outside of the norm, the more you can think out of the box the better. People often don't have the know-how to do that so just by being in the position that I am in the industry have given me a lot of advantages in that sense. I've been so lucky to work with amazing people and help where I can. Through these projects I've gotten kids off the street and put kids in school. It's probably the thing that I'm most proud of in my life.
What keeps you going with such a busy lifestyle?
Graeme: Coffee! A ridiculous amount of coffee. No, obviously I think the key thing is the human interaction that comes with all this. I'm blessed to have an amazing girlfriend and that relationship is being taken a step further now with the baby on the way. I think I'm going to be propelled to do even more because of that, it's a huge motivator for me. My girlfriend is very understanding because things can be quite unpredictable in my world. She really gets it and supports me. I also work with amazing people. Everyone involved in our Expresso environment, especially all our crews are just absolutely amazing. I get to meet the most inspirational people all the time, so you're constantly having your cup refilled by these experiences and that keeps you fresh.