|by Diana Mavunduse
pageants are no longer about modelling half-naked in catwalk styles, but a life-time
opportunity for young women to become ambassadors for their own countries. To be such an
ambassador, a woman is chosen on the basis of her beauty, deportment and intelligence, and
not political ideology or affiliation.
Modelling is no longer considered just as a hobby, it is a
profession. It is a stage for young women to show their talents and for designers to show
how professional they are, says Marvellous Nyahuye, communications manager for M-Net/Multi-Choice
Former Miss Botswana, Mpule Kwelagobe (19) was this year crowned Miss Universe. The pageant is American-owned and
was previously dominated by western contestants. Over the years it has spread to Africa,
allowing more and more African beauty queens to take part in the competition.
The question of motherhood concerned the pageant. Miss Guam,
Trisha Helfin, from the Marian Island in the South Pacific, was sent home because of her
indelicate condition. Pageant officials contended Trisha was pregnant, a
condition outlawed by the competition owners.
The question of whether Miss Universe should step down if she
became pregnant was answered Mpules victory. I think pregnancy should not in
anyway interrupt her duties, she should celebrate her femininity. Having children is a
celebration of womanhood for all females, including beauty queens, she told the
The question to some seemed so provocative in the sense that
it [infringes on] a human right to have babies, Maleta Mogwe-Lock, the organiser for
Miss Universe Botswana, said.
With her intelligence and composure, she came out as a
personification of the ideal southern African woman, one who is forward-looking, educated,
ambitious, and assertive. It was as if she was speaking for an entire generation,
The pageants have long been derided by some, especially gender
rights groups, as shallow affairs that demean women by promoting style over substance as a
feminine role model. But that perception has been eroded over the years.
|To all young Batswana
women we say: the sky is the limit, Mpule has set the pace. She has proved that women can
take Batswana to greater heights, especially in the next millennium. Cast your vote for a
woman in the coming general elections.
the advertisement, Alice Kwaramba of Women in
Development Southern Africa Awareness (WIDSAA) Project said, The sky is the
limit for all women in southern Africa. Mpule proved that for women to make it in this
competitive world, there is need for self-confidence, determination and education.
The increasing number of entrants from southern African countries
in international beauty pageants shows that attitudes have changed over the years. People
are now appreciating the event.
I think pregnancy should not in anyway
interrupt her duties, she should celebrate her feminity...
Parents are encouraging their children to participate
in these pageants. Misconceptions have been erased by the success of other beauty queens.
Who wouldnt want to see her daughter to be an ambassador? says Nyahuye in an
She adds that the introduction of Face of Africa may help foster a
positive image of the continent by creating valuable and exciting new opportunities for
many of its talented models, both male and female.
Young as she is, Mpule is not only representing her country or
southern Africa, but Africa as a whole. Faced with many duties, the most challenging one
is to portray a positive image of Africa and to counter the negative aspects reported
about the continent.
Like her predecessor, Wendy Fritzgerald of Trinidad and Tobago,
Mpule wants to highlight the AIDS issues from a southern African point of view. Her
country, Botswana, and other southern African nations such as South Africa and Zimbabwe
are among the worst affected by the deadly pandemic.
|Most models know that being
a beauty queen brings many opportunities in the business world. Those who come back after
their one year stint in Europe often start their own modelling agencies, some become
designers, others complete their studies there and come back to work in their own
The exposure they get enriches their minds to
start up businesses and it is also an opportunity for African designers to show their
professionalism, as happened to designer Angelo John of Savannah Creations, Botswana. He
designed the dress that helped Mpule win the crown.
Like Mpule, Angelo instantly got international acclaim and since
then his life has changed over night, he has been asked to design clothes for other
The western media is notorious for highlighting only negative events in Africa. Recent
inroads by Africas beauties into the fashion and beauty business are helping change
Mpules win has opened a golden marketing opportunity for
southern Africa. Most Americans have never heard of Botswana, let alone have a clue
where it is, southern African tourist organisations have been presented with a golden
opportunity which should be seized upon, writes Milan Vesely in African Business
The producer of Face of Africa, Jan Malan says, there is
need for conscientisation in schools and in the society to try and change the perception
of beauty, especially with the parents.
Mpule, the first African to win the prestigious title, has proved
that old prejudices and misconceptions no longer apply. Her win signifies the African
womans coming of age and opens the door for other contenders.
The will-power, courage and positiveness combined with
dazzling beauty and brains will get Mpule wherever she wants to go in life. Could there be
a fitter celebration of femininity? writes Victoria Massimo of The Voice, a Botswana
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