OPINION | Zozi’s short hair, Shudu’s bald head — Mzansi is loving Miss SA's new pace

The beauty pageant is giving the people what they want

04 January 2021 - 15:00 By chrizelda kekana
Shudufhadzo Musida was crowned Miss SA 2020 at a glitzy ceremony.
Shudufhadzo Musida was crowned Miss SA 2020 at a glitzy ceremony.
Image: Ashley Marie Photography

The year 2020 gave the young black girl another win when Limpopo-born Shudufhadzo Musida took the Miss SA crown won by the gorgeous Zozibini Tunzi in 2019.

A different but still beautiful black woman won the coveted crown, and the black girl magic movement rejoiced at having another woman represent them.

However, her win was also questioned by the negative Nancys of the country who felt Miss SA was sending a “divisive” message by giving the crown back to back to black women.

On the TL, the pageant was suddenly too “pro-black” for some people, and there were folk who said the most uncalled for things trying to discredit black beauty or Shudu’s worthiness to wear the crown.

This opinion piece was written to remind the reader that representation is important to all of us, and that particularly black people deserve to have all shades, shapes and unique-to-them hairstyles recognised and celebrated.

It was written as a reminder that black people can have more than one seat at the table, and that the varied beauty within the black nation can also be marvelled at.

This was to say to “Sour Karen” that if Shudu isn’t your cup of tea, wait for the next one. Maybe she may be the kind of latte you prefer.

And, finally to say to Miss SA, we love the direction you are taking with boldness, and whether Miss 2021 is a black woman with a big Afro or a white woman with a pixie haircut, we love that you are celebrating South African beauty.

Read the opinion piece below:

I began watching beauty pageants long before “buzz words” such as representation were an actual thing, but now that I'm watching representation in action in a South African beauty pageant, it feels good. It's about damn time, and I want more!

The change of pace in the Miss SA beauty pageant has been welcomed by most South Africans, and rightfully so because a lot of us have been thirsty for our kind of beauty to be “seen” and celebrated.

It's not to say Miss SA has a bad track record since Basetsana Kumalo in a post-democratic SA setting. In fact they have done pretty well to represent the diversified beauty available in this country.

However, what has happened in the past few years has been a bold statement from the Miss SA organisation to the country, Africa and the world, and I am here for all of it.

My truth is, though SA is a diverse country it is also — and perhaps even more importantly — a black-dominated country.

And black, as recent debates about colourism and even tribalism have shown, is not the same. For far too long, black people have been happy with having one of us at the table. It didn't matter what kind of black was there as long as one of us was there.

I think our logic has always been “let's just get one of us in there and we'll see the rest later”.

The change of pace in the Miss SA beauty pageant has been welcomed by most South Africans, and rightfully so because a lot of us have been thirsty for our kind of beauty to be 'seen' and celebrated.

I'm happy to say I think “later” is finally here, at least as far as the Miss SA pageant is concerned.

For the first time in a while, Miss SA gave us two beautiful, strong, statement-making, intelligent, bold, authentic black queens back to back. That hasn't happened since 1993 and 1994 when Jacqui Mofokeng and Bassie won the title!

Having watched Zozibini and her bold, black girl magic plus her sleek haircut take the crown in 2019, and recently watching Limpopo's Shudufhadzo and her extraordinary beauty in its natural form take the crown in 2020, was amazing to witness.

The two women are the same but different. Each represents all of us and only a group of us at a time.

Black girls all over Mzansi deserve this moment because it's time we celebrate black in all its shades, shapes and unique-to-us hairstyles.

Long before I knew the effects beauty pageants had on my then- developing definition of beauty and beauty standards, I was always a huge fan of pageants. My mother recorded most pageants on VHS tapes for me, starting from the 1997 event.

Just like we took it like champs when women who looked nothing like us won the crown, if Shudu or Zozi don't represent you and what you see as beauty,  refer to the past winners, find your fighter and hold onto them until another winner pops up who represents your kind of beauty.

The first Miss SA I fell in love with was Kerishnie Naiker, a beautiful Indian woman. I'll admit that seven-year-old me was inherently rooting for Jessica Motaung the first time I watched that tape. I was too young to know why, but it was probably because she looked the most like me. She took the first princess title, which I wasn't too mad about.

Since then I've had other favourite winners, and they weren't always black.

As I grew up I understood the competition aspect of pageants enough to know it isn't only physical appearance that is considered for one to claim the prize.

To this day, the image of Miss SA 2004 Claudia Henkel in that flowing yellow dress is etched in my memory. She looked breathtaking as she was crowned.

Bokang Tshabalala (née Montjane), Liesl Laurie and Demi-Leigh Tebow (née del-Peters) are also among my personal faves.

In each pageant, I had a fave for whom I rooted. Some won and some lost, but whoever had the crown also had my support at the end of the day. No matter their skin, race or province, each represented someone like them in this very diverse country. Needless to say, most of the time that woman looked nothing like me.

Just like we took it like champs when women who looked nothing like us won the crown, if Shudu or Zozi don't represent you and what you see as beauty, just refer to the past winners, find your fighter and hold onto them until another winner pops up who represents your kind of beauty. In the meantime, don't be sour. Celebrate the fact that another black woman has found someone who represents them.

To all the people I saw on the socials asking questions like “is this how it's going to be from now on?” and “what's next, a Miss SA with a big Afro in 2021?”, with the intention to dim our shine and insult black beauty, my answer is: I certainly hope so, but unlike you, I won't be sour if they skip a year to celebrate a woman who might look nothing like me.

The thing is, representation is important to all of us. Don't be sour, Karen.


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