The only lows of serving your country on an international platform that Miss South Africa 2016 Ntandokayise Kunene admitted to experiencing is occasionally missing home and friends.
Talking to City Press on Saturday during behind-the-scenes rehearsals for Miss South Africa 2017 at the Lost City in Rustenburg in North West, the elegant Kunene could not hide her excitement as she chatted with the 12 finalists.
“I understand what the girls are going through; the stress, happiness, excitement. This is a once-lifetime opportunity. They must grab it and run with it,” Kunene says.
This time last year, Kunene admitted that while it was a beautiful feeling to be a finalist, she was hanging on to hope that she will take the crown back to her Mpumalanga province.
Her advice to the girls: “Enjoy tonight as finalist for Miss SA. It is such a huge achievement for all the girls, and they need to be proud of themselves.”
For those who won’t make it tomorrow, Kunene had a few encouraging words. “The crown is obviously made for one girl, but that doesn’t make you less worthy for being a Miss SA. The fact that you’re part of the top 12 means you’re a potential Miss SA and if you really want it, you can come again,” she said.
Asked about the lessons she learnt for being Miss SA, she said she learnt to be strong, remaining grounded and always knowing who Tando is. “In a sense, I am not lost in this whole thing.”
She described the highs of the Miss SA 2016 experience as finding and understanding the value of “giving back”. “I work with Varsity College where we give young girls bursaries and I also work closely with breast cancer awareness.
“When you become Miss SA, your own view on life changes because you’re a representative of your country. You need to continue giving back and serve the country even though you are not the reigning Miss SA,” Kunene explained.
Another former Miss SA, Rolene Strauss, who also graced the venue with her presence, told City Press that when she drove into the Palace of the Lost City in Sun City on Friday night, she got goose bumps all over again.
“This is a place where my dreams come true, after all,” she recalled.
She said the finalists should take solace in the fact that they’ve already done and shown their very best and therefore they should just enjoy every moment at this stage of the race. “From now it’s in someone else’s hands.”
After this your life starts - this is not everything but the beginning,” Strauss said.
She said a lot of people had the misconception that one has to win a Miss SA to make something of their lives afterwards. “Some of the girls who were in my group, they’ve made it so big in life without the title. You can really do a lot by just being a finalist, focusing on your future and knowing that you can still use this,” Strauss said.