The Sunday News
FOR some Zimbabweans, when the reigning Miss World Zimbabwe, Belinda Potts, made her appeal for votes on social media for the ongoing Miss World pageant last week, it would have been the first time that they saw or heard of her.
After all, they had hardly been any fanfare when she left the country for China, where the finals of the global pageant are set to be held in Sanya on 8 December.
Most of the beauties that will take part in that contest are largely unknown to Zimbabweans, faceless beauties from distant lands that they would not be able to identify even if they meet face to face on Zimbabwean turf.
There’s nothing surprising about that fact, as most of the super models gunning for the crown do not possess any superstar qualities that might make them appealing beyond their country’s own borders.
What is surprising, however, is that most Zimbabweans would not know their own beauty queen if they meet her on the streets of Masvingo, her hometown.
Given the controversy that has accompanied the Miss Zimbabwe crown in the last few years, one might think that Pott’s relative anonymity is not a bad thing.
In the past few years, the Miss Zimbabwe crown has brought a lot of noise and attention for whoever wears it, with scandal and drama making it a crown of thorns that rarely leaves whoever dons it in healthy moral and social standing.
However, one could argue that were it not for the controversy brought by the scandals surrounding the past few winners of the pageant, there would have probably be little known about the beauty from Masvingo.
If they were to be asked, many would probably struggle to name the last representative the country sent to the Miss World pageant let alone the disgraced model that she replaced.
It is perhaps a sign of the crown’s diminishing lustre that Zimbabwe is still holding on steadfastly to its beauty queens of old.
The Brita Maselethulinis and Lorraine Maphalas still roll off the tongue of most Zimbabweans when asked about the beauty queens they love, treasure or remember.
Those women have gone on to explore other avenues in their lives, becoming mothers and businesswomen, but for most Zimbabweans, they will always be the queens that stole their hearts. Their names and faces are engraved in the hearts of Zimbabweans who perhaps have not been given similar coronations to the wearers of the crown that came after them.
One would think that in the age of social media, where good looking people seem to get followers by the bucket loads for merely being beautiful, earning the title of Zimbabwe’s most beautiful would raise the stock of whoever wore the crown. In the last few years, however, this has not been the case, and the past few winners of the crown have sunk into relative obscurity in the months that followed their reign.
So why has Zimbabwe’s new breed of beauty queens failed to capture the public’s eye like their counterparts of old? According to Miss Tourism Zimbabwe licence holder Sarah Mpofu-Sibanda, before one questions the country’s models, they should look at the conditions around their own lives.
“I get why people want to compare models and pageants with those from the heydays in the 80s and 90s. However, you have to look at the whole country in general. Things have gone down in many spheres and nothing is the same as it was in the 80s or 90s. These pageants don’t exist in a vacuum. If various aspects of the country’s life have been affected by certain factors, those same factors are bound to have affected the country’s pageants and models as well,” she said.
Mpofu-Sibanda added that although it was now some people’s favourite pastime to criticise Miss Zimbabwe and the models it produced, the truth was that the country was lucky that the pageant still existed at all.
“Let’s give credit where it’s due. By that I mean we should be thankful to these people that are keeping the dream alive, those people that are making sure that the pageants are still happening every year because in reality a lot more people have given up and thrown in the towel,” she said.