From the braai fork to the catwalk
Johannesburg - She loves The Blue Bulls. She admires Mamelodi Sundowns. She is a child of Pretoria – the Jacaranda City.
Oh, and she thinks Bafana Bafana and Kaizer Chiefs’ midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala is awesome.
Phew! She also has a soft spot for Moroka Swallows. Very strange for a down-to-earth Afrikaner meisie from Blue Bulls country.
And she swears she’s just as slick with the braai fork as she is on the catwalk.
She loves to run, but admits she would stand no chance against SA 800m sensation Caster Semenya.
Some people express surprise when they see her tall slim frame, because her surname is common among Xhosa people. She is Melinda Bam, 22. And she is not Xhosa.
Until last Sunday night, she was an unknown, simple girl who went to campus in flip-flops.
But now she is Miss South Africa. And everyone wants a piece of her. All this becomes apparent when she breezes into the offices of Sun International in Sandton on a Thursday afternoon.
Staff walk over to shake hands and offer their congratulations. Some ask for pictures.
Ag, she doesn’t mind. She obliges them with a smile.
She offers polite words of appreciation too. She is a 1.7m bundle of elegance, brightness and sweetness, a down-to-earth soul who likes to laugh. And she can talk too.
But it’s not just hot air that comes out of this Pretorian’s mouth.
You can tell she’s familiar with the lecture hall. She’s just completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Pretoria.
She blushes with embarrassment when I note that beauty queens have become the butt of all sorts of jokes after some downright dumb answers offered by contestants in the pageants.
“I think stress contributes to it a lot,” she says, hastily adding: “Not that I think that is really an excuse because there are certain things you need to know if you want to be an ambassador for your country.”
She says she’s never had a blonde moment during a pageant, but says it happened a few times during exams!
She learnt a bit of Mandarin during a stint of modelling in China. But during her stay there, she kept as far away from meat dishes as possible, just in case a frog or snake was whipped up for a meal.
She’s a dreamer too. One of her aims is to embark on a project that will see young people working closer with golden oldies to instill an ethos of hard work and perseverance.
“Not the Lotto mentality,” she says.
Everything in moderation
She has been a Christian for as long as she can remember and when she wants to get in touch with the one above, she joins her family and friends at the Christian Revival Church.
She enjoys a glass of good red wine. But hey, not too much. “Everything in moderation,” she says.
A bottle of whisky a week would be considered moderate, then?
She laughs. “If that’s your moderation...”
“I just drank lots of water,” she says when asked if perhaps she sought solace in a few tots before last week’s pageant at the Sun City Superbowl.
“I thought it was going to be absolutely nerve-racking but it was quite fine.”
She loves her oupa, Morris van Heerden, who lives in the Limpopo town of Modimolle.
“He’s one of my role models, an incredible man.
One of the best lessons he taught me was that you are not a product of your circumstances, but a product of choice,” she says admiringly of the old man she went to visit a day after her Sun City triumph.
Her next goal is to polish up on her Northern Sotho, which she took as a subject in primary school.
And when she takes a break from the back-to-back interviews and public engagements, she likes nothing more than walking her two dogs in the park, and the activity she says helps her keep a healthy mind in a healthy body: running.
You go, girl!