Miss South Africa 2023 and the Changing Face of Beauty Pageants

Miss South Africa 2023 and the Changing Face of Beauty Pageants

The Importance of Miss South Africa and its Role in Re-Shaping Beauty Standards

Miss South Africa: Bridging Pageant Tradition and Modernity 

By Buhle Mbonambi

The tension was palpable as the final two contestants still in the running for Miss South Africa 2023 waited for one of them to be announced the winner. As host Bonang Matheba held on for dramatic effect, the audience at the Sun Bet Arena in Pretoria, South Africa, was on the edge of their seat. 

And then came the deafening roar as Natasha Joubert was announced as Miss South Africa 2023. The arena literally shook as people screamed their approval. Within seconds, Natasha Joubert’s life changed forever. 

While the fashion designer’s win has left many divided on social media, thanks to being a previous participant at Miss Universe 2021, those who watched the Zozibini Tunzi (Miss South Africa 2019) hosted Crown Chasers reality show, were satisfied.  

She now joins a list of women who have won the crown. Will she make as big an impact as her predecessors? 

The History of Beauty Pageants 

To truly appreciate the significance of Miss South Africa's evolution, it's essential to explore the historical context of beauty pageants. These events trace their roots back to the early 20th century when they were primarily focused on physical attributes. As society progressed, so did the pageants, becoming platforms that highlight women's achievements, intellect, and societal contributions. 

While Miss South Africa's history is not rosy, especially in apartheid-era South Africa, today it holds a special place not only as a national competition but also as a reflection of the evolving standards and values of society. 

Few can deny the significance of Miss South Africa, its role in the world of fashion and beauty, and the transformative journey it has undergone over the years. From its inception, Miss South Africa, like many pageants, has captivated hearts and minds, acting as a powerful lens through which societal standards of beauty and elegance are refracted.

In recent years, the competition not only celebrates the aesthetic allure of its contestants but also emphasises the contestants' intelligence, passion, and commitment to various social causes. 

Winners like eventual Miss Universe 2019 Zozibini Tunzi, Shudufhadzo Musida (2020) and Miss Supranational 2022, Lalela Mswane, who was crowned Miss South Africa in 2021, have bucked the trend of pageantry, making a measurable impact that has made them beloved, globally.  

Celebrating the Evolution of Beauty and Empowerment 

It’s partly due to the impact of Miss South Africa’s judging process over the years, that has led to the global changes of what beauty pageants are today. Initially rooted in the presentation of physical beauty, they have now expanded to encompass diverse qualities, including social awareness, advocacy, and philanthropy. Miss South Africa, in particular, has transformed into a platform for young women to amplify their voices, champion social change, and redefine beauty standards.

As seen on Crown Chasers, participating in Miss South Africa is a transformative experience for contestants. Beyond the glittering gowns and radiant smiles, participants gain lifelong friendships, networking opportunities, and a deeper understanding of social issues. The skills acquired during the journey empower them to make a positive impact on society, leading the charge for change in various spheres.  

Contrary to some criticisms, beauty pageants have proven to be influential avenues for promoting self-esteem and empowerment among participants. Engaging in rigorous preparation, including training, public speaking, and talent showcasing, not only bolsters contestants' confidence but also equips them with skills that transcend the pageant stage.

It’s after winning their cohort, that has seen Zozibini Tunzi, Sasha Lee Laurel (2019) and Shudufhadzo Musida, contributing to the AFI Masterclass, sharing their stories on the impact they have had in changing beauty standards and championing diversity.  

Modern beauty pageants are now champions of diversity. They challenge traditional beauty standards by showcasing contestants from various ethnic backgrounds, body types, and cultural identities.

These platforms redefine beauty, emphasising individuality, personality, and the ability to make a positive impact on society.  And we hope that Natasha Joubert will do just that. 

IMAGE: Miss South African Organisation 2023/Scott Hurly
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