I am here for fellow abuse survivors, says Miss SA Sasha-Lee Olivier
Sasha-Lee Olivier sets her priorities as she takes over from Zozibini Tunzi as Miss SA
When Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe in December, she wasn't the only beauty queen whose life was turned upside-down.
Sasha-Lee Olivier, 26, who was her first princess and represented SA at Miss World, took over from Tunzi as Miss SA this week, and told the Sunday Times it felt like a role she had been preparing for all her life.
"Sometimes it's a case of destiny delayed and not destiny denied," she said. "I think I've come out of this process a lot stronger, and through Miss World I'm definitely in a position where I am ready to step into the role as Miss SA."
Olivier has the support of Tunzi, who has moved to New York City for her reign as Miss Universe. "I cannot think of anyone who is more suitable to be Miss SA," Tunzi said.
"Sasha has it all: beauty, brains and, above all, a commitment to help others. I have no doubt that she will use her reign to help improve the lot of those in need."
Olivier, who has a 34-inch (86cm) waist, had the "plus-size" label attached to her by critics at the time of the Miss SA pageant.
She shrugged it off this week and said her priority was helping victims of sexual abuse through her #ItsNotYourFault campaign.
"My presence on this platform represents so much more than my sexual-abuse past or the term plus-size - it represents hope.
"I need to get the people who have survived this [sexual abuse] to understand that it is not their fault. The reason for breaking the chains of silence, shame and fear is because a large part of the healing process is hindered by the shame.
"Healing starts by speaking up. So I know that in speaking up, not only for myself, I took that step for millions that have gone through what I have gone through, both men and women alike."
The Alberton-born model has previously opened up about the sexual abuse she endured as a child and said her journey of healing was still continuing.
"There were days I had to recommit to my story, even after speaking about it on the platform, even after releasing my Beauty With a Purpose project ... because we are human and that's how it is. There's no medicine that just makes it [the pain] go away, it's a continual process."
Olivier said she also hoped to use her reign to spark conversations about the way victims were portrayed and treated by the justice system, as well as how language was used when dealing with sexual abuse.
"It's about speaking about the role that media and language play within this because we always speak about women who have been raped. We don't speak about men who rape.
"We are very perpetrator-centric in our approach, not only in the media but also in terms of the justice system. We have people who have survived this who have to prove beyond reasonable doubt, and all the onus is on them to prove that all of this happened."
Though she has chosen to use her platform to fight every injustice she has endured, for herself and others, being Miss SA is still a dream come true for Olivier.
"This is about me living up to the meaning of my name: Sasha - the defender of mankind. That is what wakes me up every morning."
4 FUN FACTS ABOUT MISS SA
• Her favourite foods are cheese and pizza
• She is the eldest of three sisters
• She is a double major in marketing and psychology at Wits
• She loves vintage video games
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