What do you do when you reach the age of 50 and suddenly your life is a blank canvas as you have done it all – ranging from winning the prestigious Miss South Africa title, modelled (internationally) since the age of 16, established yourself as a successful entrepreneur with a business that you ran for 21 years, married and had children who are now all grown up, and so much more?
Well, that was exactly the predicament that Michelle (Bruce) Mountain (now 51) found herself in. As she states: “I could’ve either gone down the road of a ‘traditional’ life by working a normal 9 to 5 job or I could’ve been brave and courageous by following my dreams and passions. I chose the latter. Establishing myself as an actress and model all over again is one of the most exciting, scariest and adventurous journeys ever. This passion and excitement is something I would so love for other people to discover for themselves, allowing them to chase their dreams, and to never give up. You want to regrets in your life!”
Michelle says that although she is establishing herself once again as a model and actress, she is not after fame or “celebrity status”. The past year proved to Michelle that she made the right decision as she has done several short films and television commercials – including Booked which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival this year, Disowned which was shortlisted for the 48 Hour Film Project, as well as working with a Hollywood legend and veteran actor.
Another big passion for Michelle is raising awareness about living a natural life, by assisting people to become more conscious about what food they put in their bodies and what products they use on their bodies.
From Jozi to living and working all over the world
Michelle and her younger sister were born and raised in Johannesburg where she lived until she was 18 years old. Her father was a pilot and her mom a bookkeeper and entrepreneur. After matriculating, Michelle moved overseas and lived in Germany, Spain and Switzerland for 4 years where she worked as an international model. It was after she returned that she won the Miss South Africa title in 1989 at the age of 22.
She shares: “I started modelling when I was 16 years old. At that stage I had been at a Performing Arts school for ballet, but after grade 9 I decided to move to a ‘normal’ school so that I could take science as a subject, which wasn’t offered at the current school. At the new school, I was encouraged to enter their fashion show. Although reluctant, I took up the challenge. Being on the ramp was so exciting and fun! To my absolute surprise, I actually won. One of the prizes was a modelling contract.”
Michelle says that her modelling career really took off when she was in Europe, working almost daily and traveling extensively. “Winning Miss SA was a peak event for me, but personally, the most enjoyable and successful part of my career was as an international model. I ran it like a business and approached it professionally, always being on time, and always properly prepared for each job. I believe this gave me a reputation as a pleasure to work with.”
After her “beauty queen” year as Miss SA, Michelle gave up her public life entirely and started a business that endured for 21 years. “After closing that business, it took me a while to ‘discover myself’ again. I had forgotten who I was and what made me happy and passionate. After some deep and introspective soul searching I decided to restart my modelling career, which organically developed into acting,” she says.
Michelle states that on jobs, castings, auditions and movie sets, she never mentioned that she was a Miss South Africa, feeling that there would immediately be assumptions made, judgements passed and expectations felt from others. “I would far rather have my hard work, work ethic and performance be seen for what it is, and not what someone thinks I should be,” she states.
Both Michelle’s children are actors too. Her son completed his 3 year acting training last year and is doing exceptionally well. Her daughter is currently at an acting college overseas.
Getting to know the real Michelle Mountain
Michelle describes herself as kind, honest, compassionate, loyal, responsible and humble. Her philosophy in life is to “tread lightly”, as she explains: “This relates to how I treat people and the planet. My daily mantra is ‘what am I doing today that moves me closer to my dreams and goals?’. One should take control of your life and your destiny, and take action by keeping moving forward.”
She furthermore adds that she is definitely an introvert and a highly sensitive person. “I’m easily upset when I see injustices done to people or animals, or when our planet is treated badly. I’ve dealt with a lot of personal emotional pain and the rawness often sits on the surface,” she shares.
Michelle continues: “Insecurities, self doubt and never wanting to ‘step forward’ and be seen caused me to miss many amazing opportunities, some of them being once in a lifetime opportunities. I’ve been doing a lot of ‘mental and personal’ work over the last while and I’ve learnt how to ‘get out of my own way’. I’m still a work in progress, but hey, we have to continue to grow as a person. Every day is an exciting, and sometimes daunting, new opportunity.”
Other hidden talents of Michelle include writing poetry, cooking, using her photography skills and dancing. In her free time she also researches all things “green”, organic and natural living, especially on how to improve health by consuming the right food. Furthermore, she enjoys sauna bathing for detoxing and enhancing her immune system, going to the gym to exercise, and she just started sailing – already completing a Competent Crew and Day Skipper course.
Things that might surprise Michelle’s fans include:
- She does not like public gatherings;
- She considers herself to be an eco-warrior;
- She was a published contributor to a few magazines over the years;
- She started embracing her grey hair almost 12 years ago, when going grey naturally was not in fashion and was frowned upon;
- She has won two cars in her lifetime (both for beauty pageants);
- And she can snow ski, scuba dive, ride motorbikes and motorboats.
Other fun facts about Michelle:
- Her favourite food is Brussel Sprouts;
- She is a technophobe (“bring back paper and pen please!”);
- She has always been fascinated by astronomy and space and would love to travel to another planet. “Mars could be my next home if they would take me on that one-way mission to Mars”.
- She is a chocolate addict;
- And she’s a very a good listener.
Michelle concludes: “Health & wellness are the pillars for a good life. For with good health, energy and mental clarity one can truly experience the abundance, the mystery and the adventure of life. We only have this one life. Don’t waste it. Follow your dreams!”