Johannesburg - The Mr South Africa 2019 finalists were announced in a now-deleted tweet on Wednesday.
Following the reveal of the top 20 finalists, Mr South Africa hit trending status on social media, with many South Africans voicing their opinion on the appearance of the finalists.
Channel24 spoke to the CEO of Mr South Africa, JP Robberts about the severe public criticism, and how the organisation hopes to impact the broader community.
JP was crowned as the second prince in the Mr South Africa 2016 pageant, and Mr Photogenic the following year. In 2018 he decided to take over the Mr South Africa brand, saying: "The Mr South Africa had suffered damage to its reputation in previous years and I wanted to change to country's attitude toward the pageant."
Former Mr South Africa Armand du Plessis tweeted on Thursday: "As a former Mr. South Africa; it is sad to see how the quality of this competition has drastically declined over the past few years."
SEE THE FULL TWEET HERE:
"Everybody has this perception that you need to be this muscle boy, cover model or good looking guy to enter the competition. No disrespect to anybody who fits that profile, at the end of the day, I feel like a lot of people don't see the amount of work, dedication and countless hours that the guys put into this type of competition," he says.
JP adds: "This is one of the things that I tried to change and that is why my perspective on this competition is: 'You don't necessarily need to be a male model to be a model male'."
HERE IS THE MR SOUTH AFRICA TOP 20 ANNOUNCEMENT ON INSTAGRAM:
"I think the most hurtful thing about the Mr SA finalists is that Miss SA finalists always look like supermodels whereas Mr SA looks like they picked random guys off the street and said 'I guess you'll do'," one Twitter user wrote following the announcement.
About the social media onslaught, JP says: "The question I would like to pose to people commenting on the finalists' appearance is: 'How would you feel if someone were to say such things bout you in a public space?'"
He adds that he welcomes constructive criticism with "open arms" but can't agree with people "attacking someone on a personal level or based on their appearance."
According to JP, he has spoken to all the finalists, and told them to prepare themselves for the "media war."
"All of the guys are very, very positive, and they have all vowed to stay in the competition and promised me their support. I am very grateful. If I had to put in as much work as these guys have, I would also not be deterred by what a couple of people have to say on social media."
Many people of social media have questioned the pageant's entry criteria, especially when compared with the stringent prerequisites to enter the Miss South Africa pageant.
"I'm curious to know who is the judging panel and what is the judging criteria for Mr South Africa. @MrSAofficial is vast," Earl September tweeted.
JP explained that different organisations host the Miss South Africa, Mrs South Africa and Mr South Africa pageants and the various organisations set the criteria.
Elaborating more on the judging criteria for Mr South Africa, he says: "Basically we opened the platform to anybody to enter. So if you feel that you can make a difference in your country, if you are involved in community work, we welcome you with open arms."
"From there we put our contestants through various challenges which ranged from business acumen to charity challenges. We then looked at how these guys perform. The person that works the hardest, the person that makes the most difference in the community is a person that will be able to go to finals. From there the contestants are whittled down to the top 50, top 30 and top 20," he explains.
"I do, however, feel that I am a giving more the 'average guy on the street' a chance to better himself and to make a difference in the world, rather than focusing on the 'good looking people'."
The winner of the Mr South Africa pageant will be involved in various charitable initiatives and projects throughout his reign, says JP: " One of the biggest things that Mr South Africa will focus on is a child welfare organisation based in Cape Town, which also deals with national issues and has branches around the country as well. Then we'll also be dealing with the SPCA, which is another one of our charities."
"Their the duties would be to support these charities and drive more awareness around them. Also if there are situations like the floods currently happening in KZN, we would extend our support both as an organisation and our representative.".
"I think the biggest thing I would like people to take away from this is that we are a fair competition and that we give an equal opportunity to everybody," he says.