Miss SA: It takes more than just ‘world peace’

2014-01-26 10:00

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These days, winning beauty pageants is also about reality TV savvy

The Miss South Africa pageant is going in for some serious plastic surgery – with a little help from reality TV, dance music gurus like DJ Black Coffee and the support of a top fashion magazine editor.

The 58-year-old beauty pageant has been struggling to reinvent itself and be relevant in today’s society. The contest was suspended last year and only makes its comeback this week.

This afternoon, the charm offensive begins on Mzansi Magic with The Road to Miss South Africa, which chronicles the journey to a crown that’s been worn in recent years by, among others: Jacqui Mofokeng, Basetsana Kumalo, Peggy-Sue Khumalo, Joan Ramagoshi, Cindy Nell, Bokang Montjane and Melinda Bam.

Under the tag line “Inspire a Nation”, hopefuls will strut their stuff under the watchful eye of Black Coffee, opinionated radio DJ Anele Mdoda and respected Glamour magazine editor Pnina Fenster.

It is hosted by DJ and presenter Elana Afrika-Bredenkamp.

The mid-tempo song, I Know What’s On Your Mind by Black Coffee featuring Tortured Soul, provides the soundtrack of this year’s search.

The show tracks the judges’ search for the 12 women who will make it to the final at Sun City in March. Yolisa Phahle, M-Net’s director for local interest channels, believes the contest is a great concept that celebrates an “amazing woman and provides

an opportunity for her to be educated and participate in socially responsible causes while enjoying economic freedom”.

Mzansi Magic has been broadcasting the talent search for four years.

“Our actual viewership has shot up in the last three years. During the finale, the channel is the most watched in the entire DStv Compact bouquet.”

Phahle said more money, time and effort have been pumped into the pageant to ensure it doesn’t stagnate.

It’s clear that visions of “world peace” are not enough to win a place among the country’s most beautiful women.

Mdoda said she was looking for “a lady who walks into a room and her beauty commands attention”.

She added: “The brains and the personality are also important but they come second to beauty because Miss SA is a beauty pageant. After that, I look for an authentic person, the entire persona has to be of a comfortable person and not one trained to be a beauty queen.”

Zoleka Skweyiya, the manager of public relations strategy at Sun International, which owns the title, said: “Miss SA is a platform to launch careers. We see it as a relevant project that contributes to women empowerment, and presents opportunities and exposure to the winner.”

Afrika-Bredenkamp said she had been compering at beauty competitions since 2001 and had seen what it does for the confidence, business and profile of young women.

In the first episode, the show brings out the big guns with interviews with former titleholders Khumalo, Kerishnie Naicker, Tansey Coetzee, Claudia Henkel and Jo-Ann Strauss, among others, who all extol the virtues of the “life-changing experience” as they reminisce about their road to the crown.

Then come the hopefuls – and some funny, cringeworthy and downright weird moments.

In an eyebrow-raising incident, Mdoda asks one of the contestants – who is wearing a bikini and a cape – to show her buttocks.

When asked about her pseudo-American accent, another hopeful replies that she “stayed in London for four months”. This leaves the judges speechless.

Yet another hopeful bemoans her spray tan gone bad because she is “a little on the white side”.

Then there is one of the longest names the judges came across, a Cape Town lass named Afika Lulongalo UthandolukaThixo Avathe Okuhle Jadezweni.

There are tears of disappointment for those who don’t make it past the first hurdle.

In her parting words to Joburg hopefuls, Mdoda says: “To those who didn’t make it, please drive home safely and don’t be too depressed. See you next year.”

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