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Miss SA is more diverse than ever with first plus size and openly queer finalist: Bonang on breaking pageant stereotypes

2019-07-12 07:27
Bonang Matheba
Bonang Matheba with Miss SA 2019 Finalists (Photo: Gallo)

Johannesburg – The 61st Miss South Africa pageant takes place on 9 August, and this year Bonang Matheba returns as the host

Speaking to Channel24, the TV personality says she is grateful to have been chosen once again, after first hosting the pageant in 2018. "I don't take it for granted, they could have gone to anyone else. For me to have it, I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to do a brilliant job."

In the last few years pageants have grown in popularity, with more people taking an interest in these competitions. So much so that the 2019 edition of Miss SA saw a record number of over 900 entries. To compare, the previous year garnered just short of 500 applications. 

The importance of pageants, Bonang says, lies in their ability to give women a voice. "Women who are passionate about certain things, yet don't have a platform to talk about them – whether you're a sound engineer or whether you're into education – whatever it is, a platform like this gives you an opportunity to spread the word."

This year the Miss South Africa organisation did their best to make sure that the top 16 are a diverse group of hopefuls; celebrating women from different backgrounds with different body types – something that is not always seen in the pageant industry. Also, for the first time, the pageant includes a contestant who identifies as queer.

"I love this particular pageant because for the first time in a long time, women who look like that (the contestants) are actually going to feel like, 'I'm included', it's going to break down a lot of stereotypes," Bonang tells us. 

The presenter recently spoke at the UN Women's Summit in Mumbai. She recalls conversations surrounding the effect the media has on girls and their self-image.

"The hashtag (at the Summit) was #UnstoppableGirls, and one of the factors that affect the girl child is how the media portrays a beautiful girl. That was one of the factors that prevent the girl child from being her full self," she explains, adding that the Miss SA pageant is helping to change that narrative. 

"These are things we speak about at the UN all the time, about changing the narrative. The world is changing, we see diversity everywhere you go, so in order for pageants to be relevant, I think they realise that we need to join in the message and join in the trend. Being inclusive of everybody is actually in fashion."

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