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'Not having a thigh gap doesn't mean I can't give back': Miss SA contestant

Outcry as pair of pageant finalists are labelled 'plus size'

21 July 2019 - 00:00 By CHRIZELDA KEKANA
Miss SA finalists Beulah Baduza and Sasha-Lee Olivier had their joy at being named finalists for next month’s pageant dimmed when organisers labelled the two of them ‘plus size’ on Twitter.
Miss SA finalists Beulah Baduza and Sasha-Lee Olivier had their joy at being named finalists for next month’s pageant dimmed when organisers labelled the two of them ‘plus size’ on Twitter.
Image: Alon Skuy

Is a size 34 considered plus size? It is if you’re a Miss SA finalist.

When the top 16 contestants were announced last week, the organisers labelled Sasha-Lee Olivier, 26, and Beulah Baduza, 23, “plus size” on Twitter, sparking heated debate.

Olivier is a size 36 and Baduza a size 34.

Baduza said the label had put a damper on her joy at being named a finalist.

“I was sad, I won’t lie, because the announcement day was supposed to be a glorious one for me. Instead all people focused on was my weight. The biggest problems are these labels people insist on pinning on us,” she said. “The modelling industry sees me as a big woman, because I have hips.”

Said Olivier: “I never once called myself a plus-size person, that’s not what I see when I look at myself.

“I’m a normal, healthy person, but the reality is, in the modelling industry specifically, if you are not ‘sample size’ [the size worn by catwalk models — usually 28 to 32] you are plus size and that is 34 and up.

“I understand why Miss SA also called us plus size. We were already labelled way before they took us on, but at least on this platform they are creating a space for us to challenge it, which I appreciate.

“I have intelligence, substance and every other necessary skill. Not having a thigh gap doesn’t mean I can’t give back to my community.”

The organisers inadvertently sparked a row when the top 16 Miss SA contestants were announced.
The organisers inadvertently sparked a row when the top 16 Miss SA contestants were announced.
Image: Supplied, Miss SA

Baduza and Olivier both dreamt of being models from a young age, but their dreams were shut down by people who said they didn’t “fit” the model mould.

Former Miss SA finalist Marciel Hopkins, who made it to the top 12 in 2016 when she was a size 34, said she never appreciated the term and had a tough time in the competition because of it.

“I never felt good enough as a Miss South Africa finalist because of the shape and size of my body. There were even girls of my year that said I didn’t deserve to be there, although I was giving it my all to try and stay skinny,” said Hopkins.

R3m

The amount of prize money and sponsorships Miss SA 2019 stands to walk away with

Top modelling agency representatives Donné le Grange of ICE Models and Justin Miccoli of 3D Models said the industry had come a long way when it comes to beauty norms, but they agreed that radical change was still necessary.

“Although I am extremely proud of the progress fashion and advertising have made in representing beautiful women of all shapes and sizes, I feel there is a need for inclusion for models and women sized 10 to 14,” said Le Grange.

Miccoli said: “The term has changed a lot over the past 20 years or so. In the early years [plus size] was seen as ‘not necessarily desirable’, but now the curve industry has taken off and it is a lot more admired.”

But what is a healthy size for a South African woman?

Though the plus-size term may be popular in modelling, dietician Thabitha Hume said in her profession size had to do with health, not looks.

“As medical professionals, we don’t really mind what people look like, we are very concerned about their health and risk for disease,” she said.

“Some people use BMI [body mass index — calculated by dividing your weight by your height squared]. However, it is now much more accurate to work on waist circumference to assess disease risk.”

In the modelling industry, if you’re anything other than a sample size or size zero you get labelled a plus-size model
Miss SA CEO Stephanie Weil

Responding to the backlash, Miss SA CEO Stephanie Weil said that in labelling Baduza and Olivier plus size, the pageant organisation had merely followed how the industry describes models.

“In the modelling industry, if you’re anything other than a sample size or size zero you get labelled a plus-size model. Every person in that industry is on a spectrum and profiled as such.

“So it’s not that we dubbed them, it’s how they have been identified in the beauty industry and by no means has anything to do with being overweight or anything like that. It’s a model term.

“The Miss South Africa message for a new generation is clear: the Miss South Africa pageant is … a celebration of the country’s savvy, smart and beautiful young women who are determined to be the best they can be while being true to themselves.”

TWITTER QUOTES

"I feel like Miss SA threw around the words 'plus size' too loosely. The worst part about this picture is I cannot find who is plus size. So, what are they actually advocating, in terms of healthy eating habits for young women who are actually plus size?" - @WhyMwanji

"I really don't know who Miss SA is trying to please. If we wish to take the winner forward to Miss World and Universe, and dare to stand a chance, they need to meet international criteria. Plus size? Sounds populist to our local morons. Let's not BS ourselves." - @Zafferology

"I don't for a moment think, if that plus size Miss SA candidate had taken the ramp without being announced as such, the public would've seen her as being plus size." - Epicurus Hog


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