Cape Towm - She represented South Africa on the global stage, spoke at the United Nations and launched a campaign close to her heart.
And when she places the crown on her successor’s head she’ll have one important thing to tell her: This year is going to be bigger than you ever imagined.
Tamaryn Green, the outgoing Miss South Africa, admits she was surprised by the clout that came from holding the title.
"It’s hard to comprehend just how big the Miss South Africa platform is and the opportunities it offers," the 24-year-old says. "I found myself in the position where my voice was heard and that was fantastic. But this comes with immense responsibility because the pressure is on you to help as many people as you can. You have to seize the opportunity and run with it."
The opportunity Tamaryn seized and ran with was the launch of her TB awareness campaign, #breakthestigma.
She overcame the disease in 2015 and opened up about her fight in the hope of encouraging others to seek treatment as soon as possible and to banish the stigma that still comes with a diagnosis. Seeing her campaign take off was the jewel in a year of highlights.
Another memory that stands out strongly for Tamaryn is bonding with fellow contestants and meeting previous Miss South Africa titleholders in the build-up to the 2018 pageant.
As last year heralded the 60th anniversary of the contest, 40 previous winners joined that year’s contestants at a pre-celebration bash to celebrate the milestone birthday.
"I discovered this special sisterhood – it really is like a family." She also felt honoured to represent South Africa on the world stage at the Miss Universe contest in Bangkok, Thailand, and was thrilled to appear at the UN General Assembly to discuss her TB campaign.
"But most importantly, what really stands out is the love and support I received from ordinary South Africans. We sometimes focus so much on the negative that we don’t realise how many wonderful people there are in this country."
The toughest part of the contest is missing your family and friends, Tamaryn says. She adds that there’s a lot of hard work involved and it certainly isn’t all glamorous, but the rewards definitely outweigh the challenges.
"In the beginning I was worried the media wouldn’t portray me for who I am but they turned out to be incredibly supportive and kind and helped me promote my TB story."
Her reign has been special and the past year has been "a blessing from God", she says. "It’s been an amazing opportunity to make a difference both in my own life and in the lives of those people whom I’ve been fortunate enough to meet during my time as Miss South Africa.
"This experience has shown me another side to life I hadn’t been exposed to – and that’s priceless."
Her advice to the current crop of Miss SA contestants is they must really want it.
"Miss South Africa needs drive and passion. She must also have a giving heart, be relatable and generous and passionate about empowering women and girls. She should be kind and loving, humble and gentle, willing to learn and determined to strive to always do good."
Tamaryn is completing her final year studying medicine at the University of Cape Town – she put her degree on hold while she was Miss SA but was back in her white coat wearing her stethoscope around her neck in April this year.
She’ll continue her work with her #breakthestigma TB campaign, she says.
"I want to continue to live my life as an example as much as I can for as long as I can."
Now for the next queen
Glitz, glamour, gowns and crowns – it’s that time of the year again when young women blessed with beauty and brimming with ambition vie for the title of loveliest in the land.
And this year’s contest will be bigger than ever, with 16 finalists instead of 12 and a record R3 million in prize money and sponsorships.
The winner will receive R1 million, the runner-up R250 000 and the rest of the top 16 will take home 25 000 each.
Entries for the 61st Miss SA pageant opened last month, soon after organisers launched the Miss South Africa Light Up Your Dreams campaign with the so-called Big 5 of the local pageant industry: former titleholders Bokang Montjane-Tshabalala, Rolene Strauss, Liesl Laurie, Ntandoyenkosi Kunene-Mthethwa and Tamaryn Green.
As the official media partner, YOU is helping to search for the next Miss SA and will be documenting highlights on the road to the grand finale, which will be held at the Sun Arena at Time Square Casino in Pretoria on 9 August – Women’s Day.
The top 16 will be announced on 11 July and hundreds of women have entered from all over the country, according to pageant organiser Stephanie Weil. The pageant is continually trying to reinvent itself as a way of staying relevant and current and has adapted over the years to keep up with the times, Weill says.
"It’s changed dramatically since Norma Vorster became the first Miss South Africa back in 1956.
"Social media plays an important part in how Miss SA connects with her audience. She can now engage directly with the public on a variety of platforms, which makes her more approachable and real." But the premise of the pageant remains the same, she adds. "The Miss South Africa pageant will continue to support bold, clever, confident and beautiful young women who have the power to inspire a nation and make a difference.
"Miss SA is a woman who has her own goals and strong ideas of her role in society. These ideals are emphasised by her work with charitable causes that largely benefit from Miss South Africa’s patronage."
The pageant embraces what it is to be a proud African woman and changes the life of not only the winner but also the finalists.
"It’s the stuff dreams are made of and is empowering, inspirational and aspirational all at the same time.
"The competition is a celebration of young women who work hard and are dedicated to helping others."