Joan Steel suffered a horrendous accident that meant she had to have part of her arm sewn back on, she’s also suffered from illness, yet living up to her name, she’s refused to give up and is now determined to be as fit as she can be and to inspire other women to be the same.

When you meet Joan for the first time, her mane of long shiny blonde hair, her soft golden tan and her piercing green eyes leave you fixated, but it’s when you really get to know Joan you discover her real beauty.  Joan is one of the original Galaxy Girls, she has been with the show from the beginning and there is more to her than meets the eye.

You may have known this Galaxy Girl a long time and would never notice the skin graft on her hip or the severe scar on her arm, but why would you? Her breath-taking beauty and her extended generosity in helping those around her takes over.


Joan is always there for advice and confidence building and when you read her story, you will be amazed at her own confidence and fitness level. Hers is a lesson to be learned that no matter what happens to you in life and no matter how bad life treats you. You can still reach great heights… Joan Steel (Tehrani) was born and raised in Stellenbosch in the Cape Winelands, South Africa.

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“Joan is one of the original Galaxy Girls, she has been with the show from the beginning and there is more to her than meets the eye”

From a young age she was naturally interested in sports and her love for the water resulted in her becoming an accomplished swimmer at a young age. Joan started to compete in duathlons, cross-country and bike races – her biggest achievement was completing the Cape Argus bike race which is a 76 mile bike race around Table Mountain.

Apart from her sporting talents as a child, Joan’s main pursuit was music and she trained to be a classical pianist. At 17 she already had many victories behind. In 1997 Joan was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland and had a partial thyroidectomy. Her sports performance was massively affected by this illness, but she recovered and continued to train.

Joan’s life changes for ever – the car crash…

And then, in 1998 Joan was involved in a serious car accident, which changed her life forever. She was on her way to a music performance when the car she was travelling in burst a tyre and barrel-rolled several times. The result severed Joan’s left arm at the elbow leaving it hanging by a small piece of skin.

At that moment Joan knew this would probably mean the end of her music career. However, surgeons managed to save and reattach the arm with several operations. After a year of physiotherapy Joan’s arm was strong enough to do daily activities and tasks, although it left her with only 90 degrees of flexion and significant nerve damage.

Joan returned to the piano in an attempt to get back to where she left off, but she soon realised that her piano performances would never be the same and she decided to pursue a career in commercial and corporate law.

Many girls are embarrassed about scars or stretch marks and continually try to cover and hide them. To Joan hers are just another part of life and the days of covering them up are far-gone. At MGU, the girls are not marked down for any scarring/marks like they would be in other shows.

If girls have lived through accidents or childbirth or great weight loss and even surgery, the judges recognise that this is a part of life and are instructed in their rules to over-look this. Especially as the founder Sarah Donohue is no stranger to hospitals and operations.

She says, “If you don’t have a scar, you haven’t lived life!” Joan also has a problem with one of the fitness disciplines required for the Miss Galaxy Universe competitions – press-ups. She simply cannot get as low as the other girls. The reattachment of the arm was incredible, but its flexibility is as mentioned lacking.

MGU noted how far Joan could lower her body in a pressup position at one of their training camps and kept this in mind for their fitness tests providing her with a marginal dispensation for her on this discipline. Lets face it, the fact she can do the show at all to the extent she does it is an achievement in itself and the organisers will never penalise a girl for something she can’t change.

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“Many girls are embarrassed about scars or stretch marks and continually try to cover and hide them. To Joan hers are just another part of life and the days of covering them up are far-gone”

Surviving these two massive life threatening health trials in a matter of two years made Joan realise how short life really is and she decided to leave South Africa for London where she started working in a shipping law firm.

Even though Joan continued to stay fit in the gym, it wasn’t until after the birth of her first and only child five and a half years ago that she took her fitness a bit more seriously and started to change the way she trained, incorporating resistance training into her routine.

Joan realised her body was changing rapidly for the better and she decided that her calling was to also inspire other women, especially new mothers, to get into shape and overcome any trauma or health trials they might have suffered or were suffering.

On attaining her personal training diploma, Joan started her freelance personal training business, Joan Steel Personal Training . Joan sees herself as a lifestyle guru rather than just an exercise coach. Getting into shape is not just a temporary procedure.

Joan specialises in pre- and postnatal care and works mainly with new mothers although she also has quite a few sport specific clients. Her personal journey in life has given her the ability to truly be in touch with each client’s individual needs and therefore each training session is tailored specifically to that client.

Being an ex-office worker she also very well understands how that environment can affect your physical health and fitness and being a mother, she totally understands how important it is to get back into shape after baby, but also how important it is to be stronger and fitter to deal with the daily tasks required of being a mum.

Her training sessions are therefore not just about getting fit, they are also about correcting posture, strengthening and recovering after child birth and injury and reducing stress. Joan has also recently been appointed by Reyna, London’s own high-end postnatal wellbeing company to be their fitness expert. See the Huffington Post and iTunes for regular updates on postnatal fitness.

In April 2012 Joan visited the Vitality Show in London where she came across a new show, Miss Galaxy Universe. The Galaxy Girls immediately drew her attention as it was all about a show for women of all ages, shapes and sizes, promoting fitness and health and how to better themselves resulting in stronger women overall.

This of course was and is what Joan stands for, so she decided to enter their very first competition in May 2012. Although Joan hardly trained or prepared for the competition it was a valued first experience and the first step to becoming part of a very special group of women.

Joan continued her journey with Miss Galaxy Universe and decided to enter the competition in June this year. She trained hard, commenced a strict dietary regime and pushed through the pain as her arm is still a daily weakness, although she sees it as her strength and something that fuels her to become even stronger.

Then, three weeks before the show Joan suffered tremendous fatigue, joint pain and fever and pleurisy and doctors diagnosed her with the autoimmune connective tissue disorder, systemic lupus, a life threatening illness for which there is no cure.

This came as a massive shock, but again Joan decided to pick up the curve ball life has just thrown at her once again and run with it. Joan competed and came 1st in the Yummy Mummy category, 5th in Fitness Champion out of 90 women of all ages and won “Best Dressed”.

This show is not just about looking good on stage. This achievement has made Joan realise even more to never give up and her aim in life has truly become one of inspiring and motivating others. That the mind is the most powerful tool we have and that through visualising our goals and dreams we can truly achieve anything we want and desire in life. Joan says, “Miss Galaxy Universe has become a big part of my life and the founder, Sarah Donohue is one of the biggest role models in my life.

Miss Galaxy is a safe place to continue the journey to becoming fitter and healthier and to compete and the camaraderie between the girls is truly amazing resulting in many valued friendships”. Despite her new health trial, Joan remains strong willed and continues her discipline in following a healthy diet and strict training regime.

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Her diet consists of small meals five or six times a day high in lean protein, good fats, green leafy vegetables and lots of green juices. Joan prefers to stick to a low carb diet with slow releasing carbohydrates such as oatmeal and brown rice.

Her diet is dairy and wheat free and she stays away from anything manufactured. Joan is a big fan of natural fats such as avocado, hemp, nuts, seeds and oily fish. Joan’s biggest food love is coconut, which forms a big part of her diet. She says, “You can never drink enough coconut water! It is amazing for the skin too!” Joan supplements her diet with CLA, LCarnitine, glutamine and green tea and also believes in taking a good multi-vitamin.


Joan has a very varied training regime. She trains most days and when time allows she will do two sessions. Cardio first thing in the morning is a great way of burning fat. Joan is a big fan of HIIT (high intensity interval training), which is a training method she also uses with her clients.

Tabata (a form of HIIT) training is highly effective and Joan likes to incorporate plyometrics (jumping exercises) to make her faster and more explosive. Joan also loves to lift heavy weights and will work on different muscle groups on different days to sculpt the body and give her that toned bikini shape.

Functional training is Joan’s speciality as she believes that we need functional strength and ability to perform daily tasks, especially as a mother. She still occasionally carries her five-year old daughter on her back to and from school! Joan loves training outdoors in different environments and loves riding her bike.

Joan’s biggest inspiration in life is her daughter who fuels her dreams. For Joan it’s of the utmost importance to be the best role model she can be for her daughter. She wants to be inspired to also aspire and follow her dreams and to believe that they can become a reality no matter what life throws at her.

Apart from health and fitness Joan also loves interior design and fashion, enjoys dancing and socialising with friends. And playing her piano still remains an important part of her life.


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