Reigning Miss Universe Andrea Meza flies into Cape Town this month to take her place on the selection panel for the spectacular Miss South Africa 2021 finale.
The all-women line-up includes a number of respected and influential personalities with Meza joined by Miss Universe 2015, TV personality, model and actress Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach; former Miss South Africa title holders Basetsana Kumalo (1994) and Tamaryn Green (2018); actress Sharron Esra (The Queen); vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town Mamokgethi Phakeng and radio and TV presenter Dineo Ranaka.
Miss South Africa 2021 will be crowned on Saturday, October 16, at the Grand Arena, GrandWest in Cape Town. The event will be screened live from 17h00 on M-Net (DStv Channel 101) and Mzansi Magic (DStv Channel 161) and streamed online for an international audience on MissSA.live with extra highlights and exclusive content.
Andrea Meza, a model who is also a software engineer, became the third Mexican woman to hold the Miss Universe title when she took the crown in May this year. She had previously been crowned Mexicana Universal 2020 and Miss Mexico 2017 and placed first runner-up at Miss World 2017. This is her first visit to this country.
“I am thrilled to be visiting South Africa – I want to try traditional food (and see if there are vegan variants of it) and hope to visit Robben Island! I am as delighted to be on the Miss South Africa selection panel. I want to see the contestants’ personalities and their presence. I know that an international pageant such as Miss Universe looks for someone who is confident about herself and who is unafraid to break the mould. My advice to them is to live in the moment because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Do what feels right for you, don’t change who you are because you want to fit in. Embrace your uniqueness!”
Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach is also delighted to be making her first visit to South Africa: “There is just so much I am looking forward to. Aside from Miss South Africa itself, I’m really hoping I get the chance to explore. It’s always been one of my dream destinations.”
She is also thrilled to be on the selection panel: “I think more than the crown, something I wish people would remember about me is that it took me three tries to get to Miss Universe. In ‘pageant time’, that’s considerably long. My journey taught me a lot and I think I can bring a unique take having been in these ladies’ position three consecutive times.
“My advice for the finalists is as cliched as it sounds – you are you and that is your superpower. I know it’s easier said than done, but I think it’s so important to remind yourself to let the real you shine, instead of trying to portray someone on stage who you think the people and the selection panel want to see. You are part of the Top 10 for a reason. Embrace that. Having been in pageantry for quite a while made me realise that what’s inside of you matters just as much as what the audience is seeing on the stage.”
Says Basetsana Kumalo: “Having being Miss South Africa in 1994, I have first-hand experience on what it takes to be a contestant who has to be put through her paces and be exposed to a different environment that challenges her to be able to hold her own. I think my experience as a broadcaster and a television producer has exposed me to spot and nurture talent.”
She reveals what she will be looking for in the winner: “A young woman who has a clear vision of her life path, understands the world we live in and has an opinion of key issues impacting society and the world at large. A woman who has a sense of community and is not afraid to challenge the status quo. Someone who is uniquely and authentically themselves.”
Does she believe that beauty pageants have done enough to diversify and be inclusive? “In life, everybody has a right to seek opportunities and platforms for their realisation of their own dreams. Beauty pageants and Miss South Africa are a very important platform for any young woman who chooses to walk that path, to use it as a stepping stone, to use it to catapult themselves into whatever they want to do or become in life. And pageants today are just not about a pretty face. Many pageant winners have become women of significance, game changers, women who have taken on different causes that have changed the lives of people.
“I also think pageants have a role in changing our perceived standards of beauty. The fact that so many titles are now held by women of African descent has sent a very clear message about representation. Things are changing in the world, and I am glad to see the pageant organisers have embraced diversity.”
Mamokgethi Phakengsays she will bring an inclusive perspective to the selection panel that recognises that beauty and intellectual depth are not mutually exclusive.
“I will be looking for a smart young woman with a memorable presence, magnetic personality and clear vision for how they will take advantage of the opportunity to use the Miss South Africa platform to make a sustainable societal impact. This is a lifetime opportunity for the finalists to connect and network with smart, ambitious women from all over the country. Irrespective of the outcome, each of the Top 10’s story is one of victory, and to the winner, remember that the crown does not define you, you define it.”
Sharron Esra is delighted to be on the selection panel for the first time: “As an actor, I believe a large part of my job is knowing people; identifying what motivates us to behave the way we do and what makes us tick. My eye is keenly trained to focus on the subtleties of people, and I believe that puts me in a very profound position to see these finalists in a way that many might not do.”
She explains what she will be looking for: “As an ambassador for South Africa, Miss South Africa will need to know herself – truly understand who she is, what she stands for, what she believes in and what she has to offer. I will look for things like self-awareness, compassion, emotional intelligence. Will she be able to hold her own, walk into the centre of a bustling room, filled with people, and be able to capture people’s attention through her power and her self-confidence? She will need to be able to captivate a room the moment she opens her mouth to speak, because words hold tremendous power, and she will be in a position of great responsibility.”
Tamaryn Green is looking forward to returning to the top table: “Having experienced the journey myself has given me the knowledge to know what to look for in a Miss South Africa. I’m talking about looking at the finer detail and characteristics of each woman that might not always be obvious to the public. As a selection panel member I’ll reflect on responsibilities I had in my year of reign and identify whether our contestants are able to tackle these responsibilities. Miss South Africa is a job and it’s about finding the best women to perform that job with grace and consistency.”
Dineo Ranaka believes she will offer a fresh energy as well as an honest, sincere critique on the selection of the new Miss South Africa: “I will be looking for authenticity, compassion and a young woman who stands for something greater than herself; someone who has wholesome insights and opinions in regard to social issues.”
Miss South Africa 2021 will take home a package of prizes and sponsorships worth more than R4 million. The Top 10 competing for the crown are Bianca Bezuidenhout, Catherine Groenewald, Cheneil Hartzenberg, Jeanni Mulder, Kaylan Matthews, Kgothatso Dithebe, Lalela Mswane, Moratwe Masima, Tiffany Francis and Zimi Mabunzi.