Miss SA involved in rigging scandal

By Drum Digital
12 April 2017

Around 15 of the Miss SA participants have alleged that the pageant was rigged to favour Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters as the winner.

Around 15 of the Miss SA participants have alleged that the pageant was rigged to favour Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters as the winner.

The Sowetan reported that a letter sent to the paper by a group of participants who alleged that Nel-Peters was groomed to win by being allocated a "Sun International-affiliated" trainer known as Werner Wessels. He was also responsible for training consecutive Miss SA winners, Ntandoyenkosi Kunene, Liesl Laurie, Melinda Bam and Rolene Strauss.

"Sun International claims that Mr Wessels has no influence regarding the winner of the pageant and that he serves purely as an external stylist to any girl who wishes to employ his services. However, Werner does more than just styling. Part of his package includes providing the girls 'inside information' throughout the journey to the crown," the letter reads.

According to the paper, they heard voice notes in which runner-up Ade van Heerden alleged she was offered to participate in the Miss World pageant when she complained about the alleged rigging.

In the voice note she is heard telling another finalist: "We were not really smiling and stuff  . . .  I watched the video and I am like sh*t Ade, you have already rolled your eyes once when she got crowned."

She continued: "People don't know the whole story behind it, so they do think that I am bitter? My disappointment is not necessarily in the loss and I am not the only one that is disappointed, we are 11 girls that are disappointed that the wrong person won," Van Heerden is heard saying in the voice note.

Yesterday, Wessels admitted to working closely with Nel-Peters during the pageant, but denied he has a relationship with Sun International. "I worked only with Demi-Leigh this year, but this has been changing for the past five [years] or so that I have been working on the pageant.

"I am in no way contracted to Sun International and none of the things they are saying are true. I'm an independent pageant coach and professional stylist. I am passionate about working with beauty queens. I started working with Demi-Leigh when she was 16 years old."

Claudia Henkel, who speaks for both Sun International and the Miss SA pageant, dismissed the allegations as "unfounded".

"The calibre of contestants in this year's competition was exceptionally high and the contestants undoubtedly felt the pressure. As with many competitions, there can only be one winner and inevitably someone will end up disappointed, which is understandable."

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