Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
GONE are the days that if a national beauty pageant was on the cards, the whole of Zimbabwe would be gripped with anticipation to see who would take the national crown.
Also, gone are the days when the queen was crowned, she would become a household name.
Who can forget people like Angeline Musasiwa who made the nation proud at the Miss World finals in 1994 or Brita Masalethulini (Miss Malaika 2001), Oslie Muringai (Miss Zimbabwe 2004), Lorraine Maphala (Miss Zimbabwe 2005) and Samantha Tshuma (Miss Tourism Zimbabwe 2010).
These ladies are still household names and command huge respect in the modelling industry after winning at various national pageants. Pageants such as Miss Zimbabwe, Miss Tourism Zimbabwe, Miss Summer and Winter Strides were a must follow, back then, as they got Zimbabweans glued to their screens each time they were beamed live on ZBCtv.
However, the star power of these pageants has significantly dwindled even after being revamped and re-launched. The punch is not there anymore.
It’s so bad that people barely know who the reigning Miss World Zimbabwe (Belinda Potts) or Miss Tourism Zimbabwe (Tafadzwa Primrose Jaricha) is. Better still, they cannot even recognise these beauties when they walk down any street in the country.
But why can’t people recognise these queens? Is it because they are not strikingly beautiful or they generally have no spark? Does the problem lie with pageant organisers for failing to market the events?
Modelling guru, Sipho Mazibuko, who organised Miss Summer and Winter Strides and is behind success stories of Maphala and Muringai, said the queens lack charisma nowadays.
“The beauty queens lack that thing called charisma these days. They just don’t have the same characteristics of people like Lorraine Maphala. It’s impossible to forget Lorraine because when she entered a room, she had this aura around her. Even now, she still has it,” said Mazibuko.
She said although beauty pageantry was not the same, the harsh economic environment has also had a role to play. Mazibuko said most pageants have lost their glitz hence their queens have no star power nowadays.
“It’s not easy to host a beauty pageant anymore because there are so many expenses involved. The companies that usually sponsored us are in limbo and some have closed down.
“So to do a decent beauty pageant, you need at least US$5 000 (or equivalent) and raising this money is very difficult. People can’t even give you US$100,” Mazibuko said.
The modelling guru said the harsh economy does not affect pageant organisers only, but models too as they have to buy quality accessories and beauty products in order to be outstanding.
Back in the day when she ran Strides Modelling Academy — every model’s go to place – Mazibuko provided everything for her models something which she believes made her products a high grade.
“The likes of Lorraine Maphala owe their success to people like me. She never had to look for money to do her hair, nails and clothes as I’d provide everything for her. Even when she needed transport, I’d facilitate it for her.
“That kind of devotion isn’t there nowadays,” said Mazibuko.
Samantha Tshuma, who now runs Open Eye Studio in Bulawayo where she grooms up-and-coming models, said pageantry is now devalued as it is not paying.
“I think pageantry has been devalued. There are models that refuse when I tell them I’m forwarding their names for participation at national pageants, they say it doesn’t pay.
“I’m not saying that the standards have gone down in terms of the quality of models, but the best of them aren’t coming out,” said Tshuma.
She said what has led to the death of beauty pageants is that there are a few success stories of queens.
“As models, what are we doing after we’re crowned? I’m not saying I did the best, but I tried to stay relevant in my industry. What you do after being crowned makes people remember you always.”
The lack of regional pageants also has a role to play in the demise of local pageantry as people in various provinces would support their queens from provincial level. Nowadays, pageants like Miss World Zimbabwe no longer have these provincial pageants as only one audition is conducted for all provinces in Harare. The rest of the country only gets involved on the pageant finale and will not be attached to the models as they will only get to see them on the ramp.
The leaking of nudes and dethronement of models hasn’t done any good to the modelling industry as well as this, like Tshuma said, is deterring the crème de la crème from participating in pageants.
Going forward, if local pageantry is to regain its lost glory, pageant organisers need to stop being too uptight as modelling is just an entertainment activity and should be treated as such. Corporates may also want to chip in in order to ensure that the pageants are well supported.