Stefan Ludik is Mambaonline’s Sexiest Man of 2006 – as voted by an overwhelming majority of you out there. He was followed by up-and-coming actor Izak Davel in second place and Survivor’s Sam Allerton in third.

To be honest, I was relieved that Stefan won; I knew that his manager was gay and Stefan has long been accessible to his queer fanbase. Thus I wouldn’t have much of a problem arranging an interview.

Stefan Ludik first came to our attention thanks to his turn as a housemate – representing Namibia – in Big Brother Africa in 2003. Without a doubt, the best looking man to inhabit the Big Brother house in South Africa, his blonde good looks, contagious smile and easy nature made him an instant favourite of any admirer of the male specimen. For many, there was little point in continuing to follow the show after he was tragically voted out.

Stefan next showed up in the daily M-Net soap Egoli, as the lawyer Werner Kranz. And while the show is not particularly demanding on the thespian front, Stefan has shown a natural ease with the camera over the last few years.

I have an appointment with 25 year old Stefan at the Johannesburg studios where Egoli is shot. He meets me for lunch at the studio restaurant, still wearing television make-up – giving him a slightly dull look in real life. The base and powder don’t disguise the fact that he’s a very handsome man indeed.

Stefan notices me looking at scrapes on his knuckles and assures me that “It’s not from fighting”, explaining that they come from working out with a kickboxing bag at the gym.

I’m surprised by the fact that he seems very shy, slightly hesitant and perhaps even a little nervous. He claims later that he is by nature a shy person; “I’m an introvert actually,” he insists. And I believe him.

Stefan says that he never imaged that he’d ever be where is now while growing up in remote Namibia. He always wanted to be a performer; dreaming rock star dreams while listening to the band that inspired him to start making music: Queen. “I learnt all the words to their songs”, he exclaims.

But the reality was that Windhoek was far away from the spotlight, and on advice from his dad (who’s a head honcho at Namibia’s criminal forensic services), he studied forensic sciences. Proving that’s he’s not just brawn, he qualified in Psycho-Physiological Detection of Deception, registered with the American Polygraph Association and started his own business, Invictus Intelligence.

He describes the work of putting people – mostly company employees suspected of theft and spouses accused of cheating – through lie detectors tests as “a really interesting job. But there’s so much responsibility and stress on your shoulders.” That stress included regular death threats from disgruntled people that he’d catch out with his polygraph machine.

Big Brother was an opportunity to break out into the entertainment world. “I watched Big Brother [South Africa] 1 and it had cool tasks and stuff and I thought it would be a cool competition,“ says Stefan. He adds that he was shocked at the media frenzy when he left the house: “You’re in the house after 106 days and it’s a totally different picture from when you went in.” He insists that the experience “didn’t change me as a person. I never take myself too seriously.”

Looking back, Stefan muses that Big Brother Africa was more than just an excuse to watch people shagging and getting drunk because “it was the first continental one – we didn’t just sit around and drink. We did some cool stuff and some important things in terms of promoting African unity.”

After the show, he surprised just about everyone by snagging a role in Egoli – in the process becoming one of the few reality TV stars in South Africa to maintain some kind of career in the entertainment business after the usually-fleeting fame.

“To be chosen by the gay community… That’s a real compliment!” – Stefan

He says that he was nervous, but not star-struck when he showed up for his first day on set; he’s not much of a TV fan, and he’d never really watched Egoli before, “…so I didn’t know most of the actors. A soap is a strange thing to get used to – to learn soap acting. But I was just thrown into the deep end.”

And while’s he’s become a star, now based in Johannesburg, he returns to Namibia once a month to visit his parents: “My mother’s my agent in Namibia so when she wants to see me she arranges a gig over there.” He describes his upbringing as being liberal and open-minded, explaining that, “My parents are very young; they’re like my best friends. We party together, we can tell dirty jokes together…”

Stefan admits some frustration at having to put his musical career – his real passion he enthuses – on hold because of the show, describing Egoli as a full time job. In fact, I get the distinct impression that he’s somewhat bored by the routine acting in the soap. He says that he aims to focus on a new album in 2007, which he excitedly claims includes the first real hit song he’s written.

When asked what the worst part of what he does is, he blurts out: “The times! Getting up early every morning, sometimes just before six. That’s the worst for me. I can deal with everything else”, he says laughing. When it comes to the best aspect of being an actor and singer, he says that it’s undoubtedly “getting positive feedback from people about what you do.”

But he admits that the spotlight can also take its toll: “Things are blown out of proportion – all the speculation about what you’re doing and it’s actually totally different from what’s happening in your life.” He tells me about the bizarre letters he’s received from fans, including genuine marriage proposals and even a middle aged woman’s demand that he send her explicit nude pictures of himself. He adds matter-of-factly that he didn’t comply.

When it comes to the matter of his gay fan-base Stefan – who’s performed as a singer at gay clubs such as Pretoria’s Legends – declares that he’s highly appreciative of our uncontrollable swooning at his presence: “Since Big Brother I’ve had a lot of support from gay people. It’s a great audience to have”, he says.

And what about being voted as Mambaonline’s Sexiest Man of the Year? “It’s very cool. It’s flattering and I enjoy the attention. It’s nice to get recognition for what you’re doing and it’s even more flattering to be seen as ‘the sexiest man’.” He grins, adding, “I have a lot of friends who are gay and they have great taste in everything. So to be chosen by the gay community… That’s a real compliment!”

On the subject of same-sex marriage, Stefan shrugs at the furor around its legalisation, saying that he supports gay marriage: “I think it’s just another form of love…” While he may not bat for our team, he shows his metrosexual colours by admitting that in his spare time, aside from working on his music, he enjoys a good restaurant and shopping!

When it comes to relationships, Stefan describes himself as a romantic, claiming that he’d happily serenade a girl, although confessing that at the moment he’s single. Stefan concedes that relationships can be difficult as a celebrity, especially when dating someone in the entertainment industry. “It’s worse [than dating someone outside the industry]”, he says, “because of your schedules – you don’t see each other at all.”

Before we finish lunch it occurs to Stefan that his Sexiest Man status does have its

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