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‘The first person I thought about was my late dad’ — Lalela Mswane humbled by Miss SA win

19 October 2021 - 12:30
Miss SA Lalela Mswane says she broke down in tears when thinking about her dad.
Miss SA Lalela Mswane says she broke down in tears when thinking about her dad.
Image: Supplied

Beauty queen Lalela Mswane broke down in tears after her name was announced as the new Miss SA, wishing her late father was there to see the moment her “dream came true”.

Mswane beat nine other beauty queens for the crown at a glitzy ceremony in the GrandWest Casino in Cape Town on Saturday evening.

Speaking to the Sunday Times after her win, Mswane said she was overcome with emotion when she realised she had won the pageant.

“The world went still. For a few seconds it seemed like reality was suspended in motion. The first person I thought about was my dad. He passed away in 2010. When I finally came back down to earth, I thought of him. I thought of what he would think and say. That is why I became so emotional on stage,” she said.

He was my favourite person in the world. To say he would have been proud of me would be an understatement.”

The 24-year-old from KwaZulu-Natal is a model and dancer who holds a law degree. She said her father had not been convinced she could juggle law and modelling, but she had no doubt he would have been proud of her for proving it could be done.

After the adrenaline rush of winning and whirlwind of interviews and flashing lights, Mswane was whisked off stage and led to a quiet room where her mother and other family members were waiting.

She said her mother “just cried".

"She didn’t say a word. She had no words. Everyone in the room was crying. it was just a moment where nothing you say can do it justice.” 

Mswane’s name trended on social media after the win as the country congratulated her. Among those was President Cyril Ramaphosa, who said he was impressed with her pledge to fight for the youth and women in SA.

Mswane knows social media users can turn on public figures in a heartbeat, and said she will take any criticism she gets online in her stride.

“I have grown a thick skin. I had to. I knew my life was changing forever and I can’t afford to fall apart whenever Twitter decides to have a go at me. I want to learn and grow from constructive criticism but baseless claims are a waste of time.” 

Instead she will focus on her #BeReady campaign to empower the youth and address unemployment.

“It is a programme at school level that provides entrepreneurial skills for young kids. I think entrepreneurship is a concept that is so foreign and can be scary, but if we arm people with the knowledge and skills, we can show them it is practical and a way to empower themselves and the community.”

She will contribute 10% of her winnings to the campaign and hopes to speak to Ramaphosa to get his support.


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