The 10 finalists in this year’s Mr South Africa competition are battling against a tide of social media body shaming, with some critics labelling them “ugly” and “fat”.
Photos of the shirtless contestants were splashed on social media platforms this week under the theme #ManEnough.
The finalists wore unbuttoned jeans to show off their sponsored underwear.
But instead of being enticing, the photos left many Twitter users wincing.
“You would never say that there are attractive men in South Africa if this is what the top 10 finalists look like,” tweeted one user.
Several people compared the Mr SA finalists with the finalists in the Miss SA competition, who they said were more attractive.
Critical tweeps also had little sympathy for the challenges faced by the competitors after they had spent months under the strict nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.
“They are too lazy to exercise,” one unimpressed person tweeted.
The competition was called a “national joke” by others.
“Who chose these guys? I know a good optometrist,” commented another.
This isn’t the first time that Mr SA finalists have faced heavy criticism. Last year, the organisers were forced to remove the photographs of the top 20 finalists after receiving a barrage of criticism on social media.
JP Robberts, CEO of Mr South Africa, said he was not bothered by the criticism.
“Mr SA isn’t a beauty competition any more, not since I took over in 2018. Participants are judged on their ability to be [brand] ambassadors and to set an example for young people. They don’t have to look like front page models to do that.”
Asked why the finalists were photographed shirtless wearing unbuttoned trousers, Robberts said there was a swimwear category in the competition.
The manufacturer of the underwear was one of the sponsors, he said.
The photographer was not spared criticism, either. Social media users commented that the photographs appeared to have been taken using a smartphone.
Dionne Jordaan, the photographer, said the criticism was uncalled for. “The finalists are not professional models. They don’t know how to pose in front of a camera,” Jordaan said. “I have no control over how they pose in front of the camera.”
Ashraf Ismail, a former participant and shareholder in Mr SA, blamed Robberts for the mess. As a former competitor – second prince in the competition himself – Robberts should have known better, Ismail said.
“JP is responsible for this epic failure, not the finalists or the photographer. JP was not prepared to invest in the photo session and the photographer had to work for free. Cutting corners will cost you, and that’s the reason the photos look amateurish.”
Ismail and Rudi Baker, the former owner of the Mr SA trademark, are embroiled in a legal dispute with Robberts.
Baker is claiming more than R1 million from Robberts, alleging that he only paid him R240 000.
Robberts said he was not going to react to Ismail’s allegations.
Mr SA will be crowned on November 28 during a live online event