Meet our new Miss South Africa: Ntandoyenkosi Kunene

By Shanaaz Prince
20 March 2016

It's only been a few hours since her crowing and our new Miss South Africa Ntandoyenkosi Kunene is already hard at work.

As we enter her suite at The Maslow hotel in Sandton, she sits at her dining table having a quick breakfast while, between bites, having her makeup and hair touched up.

She beams as she greets with a warm hug, donning her custom-made Jack Friedman crown and jewelry and looking breathtaking in a form-fitting Ted Baker dress.

"I still can't believe it," she says with a grin. "It's all still sinking in but what I can tell you is that I'm just filled with so much happiness."

Read more: Miss SA 2016: And the winner is…

Ntando's mom Baby had a surprise for her this morning - her very first pageant dress! PHOTO: Luba Lesolle Ntando's mom Baby had a surprise for her this morning - her very first pageant dress! PHOTO: Luba Lesolle

Winning the title of Miss South Africa has always been a dream for the 23-year-old qualified teacher from the eThandukukhanya township in Mkhondo in Mpumalanga.

Read more: ‘I get 12 new daughters every year’: Meet Mama J, guardian and ‘mom’ to SA’s beauty queens Ntando started modelling from the age of four, winning her first title as Miss Raindrop during a local festival held back home. By the time she was six, she knew that this would be something that would be an integral part of her life. "I remember watching Miss South Africa since I was six, when Kerishnee Naicker was still Miss SA and I knew that one day I would be there," she recalls. "Since I turned 18,  I started sending in my applications for Miss SA and I was never chosen...then in 2014 I made it through to the Top 33 and when I didn't get any further I was heartbroken but it drove me to keep on."

Her determination has always been her strongest point, she says. Growing up in a township where her bookkeeper dad, Christopher (67) and broker mom, Baby (50) started off running a tuckshop which they still own today, Ntando always knew that life for her meant breaking the boundaries of your average "township girl" and making a visible difference in her community and country.

"My plan during my reign is to make a visible change and I'm especially excited about the Take a Girl Child to Work initiative to help young girls realise their potential," she says.

"To me, she's always been our very own Miss SA. I always saw how much Ntandoyenkosi loved modeling and I did what I could to help coach her to fulfil her dreams," says Baby. PHOTO: Luba Lesolle "To me, she's always been our very own Miss SA. I always saw how much Ntandoyenkosi loved modeling and I did what I could to help coach her to fulfil her dreams," says Baby. PHOTO: Luba Lesolle

“I want my story to motivate girls out their that their 'one day' can happen, just like my 'one day' happened last night."

Ntandoyenkosi credits a lot of where she is today to the support, encouragement and love of her parents, five siblings and the rest of her family and community.

In fact when she was young, her mother enrolled her at a modelling school at the age of 11 to help groom her and achieve her reality of today.

"To me, she's always been our very own Miss SA. I always saw how much Ntandoyenkosi loved modeling and I did what I could to help coach her to fulfil her dreams," says Baby.

"I can't even express how proud I am and how I feel right now. And as her parents we'll do all we can to support her and adjust to what life brings her," adds Christopher. Just then, Baby reaches in to her black handbag, calls Ntando aside, saying: "I have a gift for you". As tears well up in her eyes she accepts a miniature, peach coloured pageant dress, the very same one she wore at the age of four, when being crowned as Miss Raindrop, the first step to realising her Miss South Africa dream.

I'm still in the best state of happiness. My ONE DAY was last night. Words fail to describe what I'm experiencing and I'm in complete awe of what God can do. I have always wanted this day, it has happened in my head many times before. Yesterday I got to live the moment. I am so greatful and honored to be an Ambassodor for my Country, Sun International and CellC. I look forward to a beautiful year where change is visible. Thank you all for your amazing words of encouragement, you have made my journey the most beautiful one. I appreciate you all. @liesllaurie You were a phenomenal Miss South Africa. The world is yet to see your greatness. South Africa I greet you all. I'm your new Miss South Africa 2016. #MissSANtando

A photo posted by Ntandoyenkosi (@kunene_ntando) on

5 things you didn't know about Ntando

- When receiving the bill at a restaurant, she still works out the sum total by doing long division, including 10's, 100's and 1000's

- When she's on her own, her secret pleasure is singing

- She is a sucker for laughter and is said to have quite the sense of humour - One of her best things to do is spending alone time.  She enjoys her own company - To get in her good books, all it takes is a good cup of tea. She's an absolute tea lover

Hey Miss South Africa what a gem! #MissSA2016

A photo posted by Shanaaz Prince (@shanaazprince) on

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