Miss World SA Thulisa Keyi on how her father's death directed her to find her purpose

Thulisa Keyi (Photo: The Juice)
Thulisa Keyi (Photo: The Juice)

Four months since Thulisa Keyi was crowned Miss World South Africa, The Juice's Nikita Coetzee sat down with the UCT graduate to find out what she's been up to and what's to come.

Johannesburg – Chartered Accountant in training by day, and beauty queen by night – this is the life of Miss World South Africa, Thulisa Keyi. 

It’s been four months since the former model took to the stage at the Sun Arena to compete with 11 other contestants for the coveted crown and sash that comes along with the title of Miss South Africa. And while she did not walk away as the official winner of the pageant, the UCT graduate was selected as the contestant who will represent the country at the Miss World competition in China in December. 



It was 10:00 on a Monday morning when I met up with Thulisa for a cup of coffee and a quick chat at The Maslow hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg – a chance to get some work done, but also a welcomed opportunity to step away from my desk for a little while. A sentiment that Thulisa understands, having stepped out of the office of her day-job for the interview as well.  

“I am with one of the four biggest audit firms. I’m doing my last year of articles, I’m training to become a Chartered Accountant,” she explains when I ask what she does for a living.  

Thulisa lives a dual life – in one, playing the role of a corporate woman with plans of taking the business world by storm, and in the other, taking on the life of a pageant queen and all the responsibilities that go along with it. Her mission remains the same in both spheres though: To make a difference in the lives of those around her. 

It’s easy to see why the 26-year-old was scouted to take part in the Miss South Africa pageant – her beauty is undeniable. And even though I can so easily see a beauty queen within her now, she says it was the furthest thing from her mind growing up. “Pageants have never really been a thing for me. I’ve always supported people who did it, but I was never a part of it or saw myself in that light.”  

Everything changed when she was approached by a Sun International representative while doing her Honours at UCT in 2015. “I was just so puzzled. I was like, ‘Me? Miss SA? I’ve never done a pageant before in my life, what do you mean?’” 

It took three years before she could find the time in her busy schedule to enter the competition. And boy was her timing perfect. 

Thulisa Keyi


At the tender age of 17, Thulisa lost her father in a brutal murder. I watch her demeanor change from across the table as she talks me through what she refers to as the greatest tragedy of her life. “He was brutally murdered, and my mom and I had to witness that. I think from then on its kind of directed my life to what I was supposed to do. I already knew what I wanted to do, but it just brought a lot of meaning to what I already knew.”  

Thulisa’s father was the sole provider in their household, leaving her stay-at-home mom floundering, now having to take on the responsibility of keeping the family afloat.  

During the Miss SA pageant, Thulisa spoke strongly about her passion for education and the difference it could make in the lives of our youth. It all starts to make sense as I listen to her tell her story.

“My whole campaign throughout Miss SA was to encourage economic participation of women and youth, and really inspire them through education. And that comes from a personal space because when my father passed, it became our reality that now my mom, who had been a stay-at-home mom all my life, doesn’t have the skills to take on that role. That’s why we struggled as a family. So, I want women to be able to be independent outside of their spouses and be able to really gain that independence for themselves, and also to be able to participate in the economy through their independence. And for me, what has allowed me to do that is my education.”

She explains that her Beauty with a Purpose campaign, which will be launched through the Miss SA organisation, will further tap into her passion for education.  

Thulisa Keyi


Right now, Thulisa has got her sights firmly fixed on the Miss World pageant. “I’ll be spending about a month in China before the actual pageant. A lot of what goes on the night of the pageant is sort of based on what has happened throughout the month. So, it’s important that you prepare for the entire month.” 

Her plan of action has already been worked out. “We are going for a very effortless feel in everything – my hair, my makeup, [and] the clothes that I’ll be wearing on a daily basis.” 

She’s also got other tricks up her sleeve, like taking on Letshego Zulu as a fitness coach for the next few months leading up to the big night.  


So, what happens when the sash is hung up and the crown moves on to the next beauty? Thulisa says the idea is to take over the corporate world. First by completing her Chartered Accountancy training, and in the near future, by starting her own investment company. “In order improve my technical proficiency in investments, I will qualify as a Chartered Financial Analyst which requires you to write three exams. And I also plan to do my MBA with an Ivy League school.” 

Though it may seem like she’s got her future planned to a T, she still remains open to exploring any other opportunities in media that may arise.

(Photos: The Juice/Nikita Coetzee)