BBA winner’s yardstick

Quizzed about her relationship with 2003 United Kingdom Big Brother winner Cameron Stout, she says there is nothing to it beyond being very good friends, although a man like Cameron is her idea of Mr Right.

“Cameron and I are just very good friends. He is a very good person, down to earth and never forgets his roots. We share a very strong bond and our families have now become close.”

The two met when Cameron spent a week in the BBA house while Ugandan contestant Gaetano was flown to the UK to take his place.

Cameron was clearly impressed with Cherise’s physical beauty and as the week wore on, the two became inseparable. As luck would have it, they both went on to become winners of both shows with Cameron grabbing the 70 000 pounds prize.

Cherise admitted that if she was to tie the knot with any man, Cameron would be the ideal candidate as he was a kind and passionate man who, despite having money, still preferred the simple pleasures of life.

“I am not saying we are dating, but since you have asked, the answer is yes. If I ever do get married, I would want someone like Cameron because of his simplicity, he’s a good-natured man,” she said, laughing during a recent interview.

For weeks after winning the BBA contest, Cherise was the toast of Zambia.

The country’s hottest property was feted by the rich and famous. It looked like people were looking for the slightest excuse to host a party in her honour.

Then it all began to get a little blas’ for the public as most good things do and before long, she had become the subject of malicious gossip.

Cherise admits she had been warned there would be a price to pay for the fame the BBA contest won her. She just had no idea how high the price could get.

“When I was informed by the organisers that I was going to lose my privacy, I never imagined that the situation would be this bad. I have learnt to have a thick skin and ignore what is being said, but sometimes it gets to me and hurts very much,” she says.

What hurts Cherise even more is not being able to defend herself. It seems the harder she tries to clear the air of the lies, innuendos and aspersions put out about her, the more the rumours spread.

“I gave up trying to explain to people that what they hear about me is not true. For some reason, everyone thinks that it’s okay to attack and hurt me. It seems like they have forgotten that I am a human being too,” she says without going into details.

Even so, Cherise says not once has she regretted having taken part in BBA and winning the grand prize.

For her winning the US$100 000 prize has made her realise her biggest dreams ‘ owning a house, travelling the world and being able to further her studies.

“The money fulfilled my dream of owning a house. I believe that no matter where I go I have a home that I can always go back to if things don’t go my way. Until then, I had to worry about so many things,” she says, flashing her trademark smile.

Apart from the money, the highlight of her win was meeting former South African president Nelson Mandela.

After meeting Mandela, a banquet was hosted for her by Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa on the stately lawns of his residence in Lusaka.

“I am a very talkative person but when I met Mandela, I found myself speechless. When I came back to Zambia the next day, I sat next to President Mwanawasa at a banquet organised in my honour and the next morning former president Kenneth Kaunda was rushing to have breakfast with me,” said 27-year-old Cherise, who was also given a diplomatic passport after her win.

Cherise has spent the last three years trotting the globe, attending and hosting various functions which are charity-orientated.

She has made countless donations and participated in charitable events, that is why she is the proud owner of a children’s educational play park.

“I realised that despite making so many donations to various projects, I still wanted something solid that would portray my love for vulnerable children. So I came up with the idea of a kids’ park which would include a resource centre where they could get knowledge on health and other related matters while at the same time enjoying themselves,” Cherise revealed.

That idea is no longer just a dream. Though not fully operational, the “Cherise Kids Park” now hosts weekend fun programmes for children from various orphanages and centres.

The resource centre and other facilities are yet to be constructed but jumping castles and trampolines with children from disadvantaged backgrounds having fun and receiving free medical check-ups are a common weekend sight at the park located along one of the busiest roads in Lusaka.

Although Cherise will be away for at least 18 months while she studies for a diploma in marketing and public relations in the UK, she is determined to ensure that the park is completed.

“It is my duty to make sure that the park is finished to my intended plan. I will be making regular trips back home to check on the developments,” she says.

Although it has been three years, Cherise says she still keeps in touch with some of the housemates, especially Angolan songstress Bruna, who is now living in the United States.

When her humble journey from being a Kitwe purchasing and supply manager is mentioned, the only words that come out of Cherise’s mouth are: “God has greatly blessed me.”

September 2006
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