Jen Su

It’s not exactly every day that South African rugby icon Siya Kolisi pops into my neck of the woods, so I hopped on an Amtrak and made my way over to the New York Athletic Club Hall of Fame for the Kolisi Foundation’s first fundraiser in the Big Apple.

The 32-year-old Springbok captain from Zwide in the Eastern Cape made history by leading South Africa to a second consecutive Rugby World Cup last month, with SA winning four overall.

The sold-out exclusive event for a hundred guests honored Siya and his wife, Rachel, CEO of the Kolisi Foundation.

“We were so proud to win the (Rugby) World Cup for the people of South Africa,” he told the audience. “People know our country is going through a difficult time, and especially where I come from, from the township, I learned ubuntu (humanity towards others), and this sport has given me so much opportunity. It’s not about me but about everyone else around me and the spirit of uplifting each other.”

Rachel & Siya Kolisi at the Kolisi Foundation inaugural New York fundraiser. (Photo: Samuel Levin)

The silent auction items included the icon’s autographed book, Rise: The Brand New Autobiography, and signed Springbok rugby balls and jerseys. One of the most popular items was a pair of limited-edition RS15 Adidas collaboration rugby boots with various colors representing personal milestones and other design elements, such as I Love Zwide in Kolisi’s handwriting on the back tab, paying tribute to his home township.

Siya Kolisi and South African guest Thomas Andersson with Siya’s autographed book, which was part of the silent auction.  Photo: Samuel Levin

South African guest Thomas Andersson was thrilled to win an autographed book in the silent auction.

“I’ve played rugby since I was five, and I’ve always grown up watching the SA rugby team. and when Siya Kolisi became captain, I’ve always been so impressed with what he has done on the field and off the field, he’s a true leader and inspiration.”

The Kolisi Foundation’s vision is to see thriving communities, providing food and needed resources.

The Kolisi Foundation’s vision is to see thriving communities, providing food and needed resources.

After the Kolisi Foundation ( fundraiser, it was off to check out another brand-new boutique hotel in the city.

The Kimpton Hotel Theta (790 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019) in the Times Square area, is a modern oasis with large rooms at “reasonable” prices…remember, we’re in New York.

For the pre-Thanksgiving season, I booked my room at $300 (R5,495) per night, which was almost unheard of. Don’t get too excited, though – due to the hotel’s popularity, prices for December have jumped up a lot, so book early.

And yes, if you have a friend or even a friend of a friend in the Big Apple, reach out to them – sleeping on their couch could save you a ton of cash!

One of the lovely perks of Kimpton properties (belonging to the IHG Group of Hotels) is a complimentary wine hour from 5-6 pm, and the hotel also provides complimentary coffee and lemon-infused water. Wi-Fi worked extremely well, with lots of charging ports in the room.

Twin beds in The Theta

I prefer rooms with two queen beds rather than one king, so I can lay out all my outfits on one bed and sleep in the other. The photos look like the walls are stained, but they are an artistic water splash motif that looks much better in person.

The bathroom is small but beautiful, with a mid-century modern vibe, a white quartz vanity, and dark brass fixtures. I ordered Uber Eats because the hotel’s restaurant is still under construction.

Always look both ways when crossing a bike lane in NYC.

Which gets me to the bikes. The Big Apple is full of bikes, so make sure you look both ways when crossing the streets and crossing the bike lanes. Those food delivery people on bikes are the worst. They come zooming through in all directions, so take your eyes off your phone screen for a moment, and watch out.

Filming “Fashion Moment” with the models at our studios in New York. Photo:  EBIN New York

Finally, it was over to our New York location to film the next episode of my TV show, “Fashion Moment” – and like Cinderella’s coach became a pumpkin at midnight, I was on the train to Philadelphia and back to reality.