Reigning Miss Universe Catriona Gray will join her predecessor Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, and three other well-known women, on the panel that will choose Miss South Africa 2019.
The Miss South Africa pageant spectacular takes place on Women’s Day, Friday, August 9 at Sun International’s flagship venue, the Sun Arena at Time Square, Pretoria. It will be televised live and simulcast on M-Net (DStv Channel 101) and Mzansi Magic (DStv Channel 161).
The all-female judging line-up includes some of the country’s most respected and influential personalities.
As well as Gray and former Miss South Africa Nel-Peters (who is now based in the US and took the Miss Universe title in 2017), the line-up includes the queen of SA talk and radio jock, Anele Mdoda; actress and businesswoman Connie Ferguson and SA model, activist and lawyer Thando Hopa, who was the first woman with albinism to grace the cover of Vogue. It was while working as a prosecutor, that Hopa was scouted by leading fashion designer Gert-Johan Coetzee to work as a model.
Nel-Peters – one of SA's national treasures – is delighted to be on the other side of the Miss South Africa stage for the first time: “This is a responsibility I don’t take lightly. What better way to celebrate Women’s Day than on home soil! I have been in these ladies' shoes, so I understand what they are experiencing and I can relate to them in every aspect of the competition. I also know how much effort I put in as a competitor and how much dedication it takes to win, not only a national title, but the most sought-after international title. Being an international model and having the experience of judging multiple national titles I believe my knowledge and experience will be valuable.”
So, what will she be looking for in a potential Miss South Africa? “Most importantly an excellent representative of our rainbow nation who truly loves her country and will be able to fly our flag high on the international stage. Secondly, I will be looking for a strong, independent, well-groomed, well-spoken lady who is gracious, genuine and kind. Miss South Africa doesn’t have to fit any mould or be perfect or give the right answer, instead I am looking for a lady who knows what her mould is, is proud of it and embraces and owns her flaws.
“My message to the Top 16 is simple. Be genuine and be real! When you speak, speak from the heart. When you smile, smile with everything in you. In the words of the award-winning US TV producer Shonda Rhimes, ‘You can waste your life drawing lines or you can live your life crossing them’. I am so proud of each one of these contestants and applaud them for chasing their dream. By doing so they are already an inspiration and motivation,” says Nel-Peters.
Says Gray: “Having been through the pageant system by competing nationally, earning the right to represent my country at Miss Universe and then going on to win the title, I feel that I have first-hand experience of what’s required of a candidate to compete on a national and international level, as well as understanding what the role and platform represents. I will be looking for authenticity, confidence and purpose, to find the woman who will continue SA's amazing success in the Miss Universe pageant.”
Her number one piece of advice for the finalists? “Find your purpose in why you're competing. Only one woman will realise the dream of representing her country, so this journey should be about more than the crown - whether it be a chance to develop confidence, gain experience, pursue a career or advocate for a purpose. Embody everything that makes you proud to be a woman. Celebrate yourselves. Celebrate each other. Remember the journey never ends here, it only begins.”
Mdoda – who is a Miss South Africa veteran, having been part of the judging team that sent Rolene Strauss to Miss World, which she won – is back for her third time as a judge.
She recalls the moment in 2013 when Strauss first walked into the room: “(All the judges) went boom, we have found her. She was effortless, gracious and had the look of a ‘50s bombshell and she was not thin but healthy.”
Will she approach her judging duties differently to what she did in 2013? “Definitely because I have grown as well with the world. I have become a mom so that
also not only makes me be more nurturing, but also more focused for the task at hand. Don’t be under any illusions, being Miss South Africa is a massive undertaking for the person wearing the crown.
Mdoda admits to always having been a supporter of beauty pageants: “I have been a fan since I was a child and I would make judging papers for my sisters, and we would see who won in our house. I have met some former Miss South Africa title holders and I am still in awe of them. I always say, if you are beautiful, go out there and use it. Everyone can be pretty but being beautiful comes from a deeper place. This competition serves as a launch pad to go out into the world and get attention for whatever your calling is. Pageants are the original reality shows!”
Is there any advice she would give her fellow first-time judges? “Your mind will change at least three to five times and that is good, it should.”
What is she most excited for this year? “Another 16 ladies to join this industry, more actresses, TV presenters, radio presenters, models, businesswomen and dream chasers. Why not? And my advice for these 16 is be disciplined, all is at your disposal now in abundance but do not self-sabotage, you deserve all you have imagined for yourself so focus!”
Says Connie Ferguson: “I’m not familiar with any of the entrants so I will definitely be impartial. I also understand the extreme pressure the girls will be under, so my approach would be not to intimidate them, but rather give them the opportunity to represent themselves in the best way possible. As to what I will be looking for in a potential Miss South Africa: Someone who is beautiful from the inside out, doesn’t take themselves too seriously, is personable, healthy and loves life! A great communicator, seeing as should they win they would not only represent themselves but South Africa as a whole. Someone who understands the history of South Africa, and appreciates and understands the diversity of our nation.”
Thando Hopa also has sage advice for the Top 16: “Appreciate the strength of your personal journey and have the courage to be authentic and show up with your truth emanating from your core. Because this competition measures many things, but one thing it will never dare measure is your self-worth. So whatever your truth is, never be afraid of thinking it out loud.
For Hopa, Miss South Africa embodies many people along with her, and she is looking for a woman who appreciates the responsibility and power that the platform affords her: “I hope to find a woman who chooses courage over conformity. Her presence and perspective build her platforms in a way that achieves more inclusion, transformation and future proof change. My adjudication process would like to seek and find the authenticity that each woman holds, and also seek to adjudicate in a manner that aims to achieve an inclusive process as we discover the uniqueness of each woman.”
This year members of the public can vote for their favourite contestant on the Miss South Africa website - www.misssa.co.za. The winner of the People’s Choice will automatically make it to the Top 10 on pageant night.
There is close to R3 million in prize money and sponsorships for this year’s glittering pageant, with the winner walking away with R1 million in cash as well as other fabulous prizes. The runner-up takes home R250 000 in cash and all 16 finalists will receive R25 000.
Tickets for this year’s pageant are on sale at Computicket Miss South Africa