What a beauty pageant looks like in the middle of a pandemic

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Miss South Africa top 10 finalists.
Miss South Africa top 10 finalists.
Photo: Indirect Media
  • Miss South Africa 2020 will be crowned at The Table Bay hotel during a closed event on Saturday, 24 October.
  • The event will broadcast live on Mzansi Magic and M-Net from 17:00. 
  • Channel24 spent the day with the Miss South Africa top 10 finalists to learn more about the protocols put in place to accommodate a pandemic-era pageant. 

South Africa is fast becoming a pageant powerhouse, and in recent years the Time Square's Sun Arena has attracted thousands, to witness the crowning of a new titleholder - that was until Covid-19 left the arena empty.  

This year Miss South Africa 2020 will be crowned at The Table Bay hotel during a closed event on Saturday, 24 October, in a grand finale unlike any other.

The global pandemic has presented challenges to all major events, especially in pageantry, which is known for the social components, not just between the women but their interaction with fans, and the lively audience participation on the night of the live-show.

In the days leading up to the grand finale, finalists take part in numerous activities, public engagements and press conferences in preparation for the live show, but this year, due to on-going coronavirus restrictions, the pageant has operated very differently.

If the boardroom, classroom and concerts can go virtual. Why not pageants too?

Channel24 spent the day with the Miss South Africa top 10 finalists at the Two Oceans Aquarium and learnt more about health and safety protocols put in place at The Table Bay hotel to accommodate a pandemic-era pageant. 

Miss SA
Miss South Africa 2020 finalists at the Two Oceans Aquarium.

Speaking to Channel24, head of legal at the Miss South South Africa Organisation, Lisa Shein, says that engaging with fans during public outings has been a big challenge this year, due to the strict precautions. 


"We can't go out into very big crowds, and every entry and departure is met with the appropriate screenings and hygiene protocols. It is also essential for not just the finalists, but also the fans, to wear their masks and to practice safe social distancing. Especially since we are so close to the grand finale, and we've kept everyone safe so far," she says. 

During a tour of the Two Oceans Aquarium, we were met by Maryke Musson, who explained the incredible educational efforts done by the Aquarium Foundation, and the finalists had the unique opportunity to feed the baby turtles which had been saved by the turtle rescue, rehab and release programme. 

"What stood out for me was the educational work and how they are not just focussing on visitors, but also teaching people who don't have access to the aquarium about conservation," says Lebogang Mahlangu, about what she took away from the experience.

Thato Mosehle agrees, saying she would be sharing the harmful effects of pollution on sea life with her followers.  

Miss SA
Miss South Africa finalists feeding baby turtles at the Two Oceans Aquarium.

About the various activities leading up to the grand finale, Lisa tells Channel24 that health assessments are completed at the start of each process, and conducted throughout, with medical professionals on-hand. 

She elaborates further, saying: "Another big challenge has been maintaining social distancing with photo shoots. In the earlier phases, each girl did their shoot individually, and we found a new way to merge the photographs. So, the official photographs were more focussed on having a cohesive theme, than having everyone together." 

During the earlier phases in the competition as people were still adapting to the new practices, Lisa admits that it was frustrating at times. 

"Everything took longer because we are sanitising and makeup artists are still getting used to applying makeup behind a shield. After getting their makeup done the ladies would put their masks on, smudging their makeup, which made things take really long when we had to constantly reapply," she says. 

"If a finalist shows even mild symptoms, they are placed in isolation and may only re-join the group when a negative test result is received," Lisa adds.  

Miss SA
Miss South Africa finalists at the Two Oceans Aquarium Penguin Exhibit.

Not only is The Table Bay hotel the venue for the 2020 pageant, but it is also the official accommodation for the ladies throughout the pageant process. 


Unlike previous years, where finalists would have a roommate, this year the finalists were assigned individual rooms as a safety precaution. 

"They haven't had the opportunity to be roommates, and that is when the major sisterhood happens. They are missing out on forming those meaningful bonds in that way," explains Lisa, saying that the accommodation arrangements have played a big part in the overall pageant experience in previous years. 

"It was also a challenge to maintain the excitement when the ladies were apart and unable to spend time together. We were very strict; they were not allowed within 2 metres of each other," she says.

Executive Housekeeper, Melissa Hugo, took us through the safety protocols inside the room, giving us an even closer look into the finalists' experience.

Each room is sanitised with an electrostatic sanitiser, which provides medical-grade sanitising before check-in, and staff members are not allowed to re-enter the room after it has been sanitised. 

Aside from the standard laundry services, the Table Bay hotel has added a unique mask laundering service, which has guests' masks laundered by an outside supplier and returned in a sealed bag. 

Throws, scatter cushions, and extra linen and pillows have also been removed from the room to reduce high touch areas. Menus and other leaflets are now available to browse on the TV - which can be accessed via your phone, avoiding the use of the TV remote. 

Miss SA
Miss South Africa top 10 finalists at the Two Oceans Aquarium.

The most significant change to the pageant this year, of course, is the grand finale. 


"We don't have a live audience, which is so fundamental and has changed the whole format of the show. It has made everyone so much more creative in the formatting of the show, and by doing the live streams, we've created so many employment opportunities," says Lisa.

Lisa explains that employees' roles at the Miss South Africa Organisation have changed as well.  

"Our financial manager, who is really responsible - she is also taking temperatures, checking oxygen saturation and recording data. Everyone has branched out," she says.

Although there will not be a live audience, the Miss South Africa Organisation has arranged for each finalist to invite two special guests to the show - with the space between each chair carefully measured. 

In addition to the broadcast on M-Net and Mzansi Magic, the Miss South Africa Organisation has also provided viewers with a pay per view option, which for R99.00, offers viewers bonus pre-recorded, and live backstage footage. 

Lisa says: "You'll see what goes into it, not just more about the women, but insight into the process. We've got an amazing before show, with behind the scenes' documentaries.' It's so much more content." 

ALSO READ | Miss South Africa 2020: The finalists, venue, prize package and everything else you need to know

Sun International's 5-Star Table Bay hotel in the V&A Waterfront will reopen on Friday, 30 October 2020, eight months after closing its doors for the national lockdown.

The Table Bay hotel, like all Sun International properties, has been awarded the World Travel and Tourism Council's (WTTC) safe stamp of approval, verifying that the Covid-19 health and safety protocols they have in place meet and even exceed international benchmarks.

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