‘I know I’ve fulfilled my purpose,’ says Shudufhadzo Musida

As she hands over her crown, the outgoing Miss SA is thrilled she’s been able to help destigmatise mental health issues

17 October 2021 - 06:30 By ALEX PATRICK
Miss SA 2020 Shudufhadzo Musida gave away her crown on Saturday evening — now she's looking at the Miss World title.
Miss SA 2020 Shudufhadzo Musida gave away her crown on Saturday evening — now she's looking at the Miss World title.
Image: Miss SA

Almost a year ago, Shudufhadzo Musida was the newly crowned Miss SA, and still pondering the challenges that Covid-19 would bring to her role.

“I was in disbelief, but as the months went by I knew why I had to be Miss SA during this time. I knew I had to speak about mental health. I became more confident in what I was doing and why, and what my purpose was. So now, as I hand over the crown, I know that I’ve fulfilled my purpose and there’s no better feeling than that.”

Musida, 25, is from Ha-Masia village in Limpopo. She moved to Joburg for part of her high school education and matriculated from Bryanston High School.

Known as Shudu to her friends, she passed her crown to her successor, Lalela Mswane, during the finale of the 2021 Miss SA pageant on Saturday.

She wore a specially designed Gert-Johan Coetzee gown for the occasion. She says the dress is a true representation of her reign and who she is, and is also “the beginning of something great”. 

Musida says that rather than dampen her year, Covid-19 had created more pressure for her as a leader because she “advocates for agency”.

"[That’s] adapting to the situations around us to make the world a better place. So the work should never stop just because we feel like the world has stopped. We all have a responsibility to practise our agency and adapt in the best way we can — as we did with Covid-19.”

During her time as Miss SA, Musida completed her honours in international relations at Wits University — and also wrote a book. Shudu Finds Her Magic is a children’s book about her experience of being bullied as a child.

“My mandate, when I became Miss SA, was mental health. We need to empower the minds of people so they can better themselves and be empowered enough to face the situation we are facing right now,” says Musida. “I think we [team Miss SA] did the necessary work that was needed to to empower people.”

Musida believes the mind is the most important tool for empowerment, and her book is aimed at the mental health of children. It also complements her online “Mindful Mondays” initiative in collaboration with the SA Depression and Anxiety Group.

“It was important to destigmatise mental health from the ground up, which is what the book aimed to do. So we targeted children because it’s time for us to give them a seat at the table [on] important social issues such as mental health.”

She places much value on education because it was important to her grandparents, who weren’t able to get education.

“They wanted to empower us with education because they knew that was the key to our economic empowerment, our physical empowerment and our mental empowerment. I wouldn’t be standing here today without education.”

Musida is now looking towards the upcoming Miss World in December. 

“That is such an important platform to me because the essence of who I am is wanting to lead a life of service. Miss World’s cornerstone is ‘beauty with a purpose’, which is what I believe I stand for. So I’m very excited.”

Her advice to Mswane is to “just be yourself” and work as hard as you can.

“The platform amplifies your voice so while you have the platform, the work that you do is absolutely amazing and will be amplified for the world to see. So while you’re there, be authentic — but also work really hard and create your own seat at the table.”

Reigning Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi inspired Musida to enter the Miss SA pageant “because of her grace and her ability to make a statement without straining her voice”.