'I can just be me!' Miss SA finalist becomes a plus-size model

By Saskia Hill
12 September 2016

The 23-year-old lost 14kg in four months for Miss SA. Six months on, she's back to her “default setting” – and she’s more than comfortable in her size 14 jeans.

As young girl she never dreamed she’d be on stage in the Miss South Africa pageant, but more than a year after her journey started, Marciel Hopkins (23) is making her mark as a model.

When she entered Miss SA in March last year she knew she’d have to make many sacrifices, such as her weight. She went ahead and lost 14 kg in four months to be bikini-ready for Miss SA.

A photo posted by Marciel Hopkins (@marcielhopkins) on
But six months after the end of the competition Marciel has fallen back into her “default setting” – and she’s more than comfortable in her size 14 jeans.
It certainly wasn't easy to drop the kilos for the famous pageant. Marceil didn’t have much time to lose the weight she needed to for Miss SA, but she rose to the challenge. In April last year she started training with a personal trainer and “drastically altered” her diet. She put her social life on hold and started exercising two hours a day, plus another hour over weekends. Read more: Meet our new Miss South Africa: Ntandoyenkosi Kunene But the blue-eyed beauty always knew the lifestyle wouldn’t be sustainable for her in the long run – she would have to become a professional athlete to keep it up, she says.
Now, six months after Miss SA, she says she didn’t choose curve modelling, it chose her. “My body’s always been naturally curvy which, with a sustainably healthy lifestyle, enables me to be a curve model,” she explains.
But she doesn’t want people to misunderstand – she was never unhappy during the Miss SA competition. “I had a specific aim and I knew my decision would come with certain sacrifices,” she says. “I was never sad or discouraged to exercise and work so hard, because I knew there was a bigger picture to keep in mind.” So she approached Ice Genetics, a modeling agency in Cape Town, who signed her immediately. She recently signed contracts with agencies in London and Germany, and now it’s time to fulfill another dream. “My dream is to go to New York two years from now,” she says.
Marciel grew up on a farm near Franschhoek and when she was 13, her family moved to Paarl, where she spent her afternoons climbing trees and playing with the farm animals, she says. “I never followed the Miss SA beauty pageant,” she admits. But five months before the first elimination round of the competition, in August last year, she decided she needed a new challenge.

“I’ve always been passionate about looking and feeling good,” Marciel explains. “I think it’s a wonderful form of creative expression to be able to transform yourself into difference characters and styles.” After all, she did study drama at Stellenbosch University!

She says there were people who thought she was just going through a phase which would blow over, but as she started getting results from her efforts, she proved the skeptics wrong. Her mom, Annaline, has been her biggest supporter from the start. “She saw the dream with me right from the start,” Marciel says. Her dad, Charles, is the winemaker on the De Grendel wine farm near Cape Town. Read more: It’s a double celebration! Inside former Miss and Mr South Africa’s birthday festivities in Mauritius Now, after the pressure of the competition, she’s more comfortable in her body. “I’m not letting myself be restricted by the regulations of a competition anymore,” she says confidently.

You may also like: Former Miss SA Liesl Laurie in ‘horrific’ car crash She wants to be an inspiration to other women to accept their bodies in their natural state. She says being healthy doesn’t necessarily mean being a size 10 or 12. It simply means being the healthiest version of yourself.
These days she enjoys the odd glass of champagne and started drinking honey in her tea again. “I can just be me and that’s an incredibly liberating feeling!” For Marciel, Miss SA was never the end. It was the beginning.

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