The 2019 Miss South Africa pageant is scheduled to take place this Thursday, 9 August 2019 as the country celebrates Women’s Day and as the contestants are preparing for the grand event, the organization has announced the five women who will be judging this year’s prestigious pageant.

Reigning Miss Universe Catriona Gray will join her predecessor Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, the queen of SA talk and radio jock, Anele Mdoda; actress and businesswoman Connie Ferguson and SA model, activist and lawyer Thando Hopa, who was the first woman with albinism to grace the cover of Vogue, will serve as the pageants official judges this year.

Nel-Peters – one of SA’s national treasures – is delighted to be on the other side of the Miss South Africa stage for the first time: “This is a responsibility I don’t take lightly. What better way to celebrate Women’s Day than on home soil! I have been in these ladies’ shoes, so I understand what they are experiencing and I can relate to them in every aspect of the competition. I also know how much effort I put in as a competitor and how much dedication it takes to win, not only a national title, but the most sought-after international title. Being an international model and having the experience of judging multiple national titles I believe my knowledge and experience will be valuable.”

So, what will she be looking for in a potential Miss South Africa? “Most importantly an excellent representative of our rainbow nation who truly loves her country and will be able to fly our flag high on the international stage. Secondly, I will be looking for a strong, independent, well-groomed, well-spoken lady who is gracious, genuine and kind. Miss South Africa doesn’t have to fit any mould or be perfect or give the right answer, instead I am looking for a lady who knows what her mould is, is proud of it and embraces and owns her flaws.

Says Gray: “Having been through the pageant system by competing nationally, earning the right to represent my country at Miss Universe and then going on to win the title, I feel that I have first-hand experience of what’s required of a candidate to compete on a national and international level, as well as understanding what the role and platform represents. I will be looking for authenticity, confidence and purpose, to find the woman who will continue SA’s amazing success in the Miss Universe pageant.”

Mdoda – who is a Miss South Africa veteran, having been part of the judging team that sent Rolene Strauss to Miss World, which she won – is back for her third time as a judge. She recalls the moment in 2013 when Strauss first walked into the room: “(All the judges) went boom, we have found her. She was effortless, gracious and had the look of a ‘50s bombshell and she was not thin but healthy.” Will she approach her judging duties differently to what she did in 2013? “Definitely because I have grown as well with the world. I have become a mom so that also not only makes me be more nurturing, but also more focused for the task at hand. Don’t be under any illusions, being Miss South Africa is a massive undertaking for the person wearing the crown.

Says Connie Ferguson: “I’m not familiar with any of the entrants so I will definitely be impartial. I also understand the extreme pressure the girls will be under, so my approach would be not to intimidate them, but rather give them the opportunity to represent themselves in the best way possible. As to what I will be looking for in a potential Miss South Africa: Someone who is beautiful from the inside out, doesn’t take themselves too seriously, is personable, healthy and loves life! A great communicator, seeing as should they win they would not only represent themselves but South Africa as a whole. Someone who understands the history of South Africa, and appreciates and understands the diversity of our nation.”

Thando Hopa also has sage advice for the Top 16: “Appreciate the strength of your personal journey and have the courage to be authentic and show up with your truth emanating from your core. Because this competition measures many things, but one thing it will never dare measure is your self-worth. So whatever your truth is, never be afraid of thinking it out loud.”

This year members of the public can vote for their favourite contestant on the Miss South Africa website – www.misssa.co.za. The winner of the People’s Choice will automatically make it to the Top 10 on pageant night. There is close to R3 million in prize money and sponsorships for this year’s glittering pageant, with the winner walking away with R1 million in cash as well as other fabulous prizes. The runner-up takes home R250 000 in cash and all 16 finalists will receive R25 000.

The Miss South Africa pageant spectacular takes place on Women’s Day, Friday, August 9 at Sun International’s flagship venue, the Sun Arena at Time Square, Pretoria. It will be televised live and simulcast on M-Net (DStv Channel 101) and Mzansi Magic (DStv Channel 161).

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