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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Miss South Africa 2017 Controversy: Did Demi-Leigh "Cheat" her Way to the Crown?

An Eye For Beauty Blog Opinion Piece
CROWN OF THORNS?!: The new Miss South Africa, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters' victory has been
questioned by some of her fellow competitors in this year's Miss SA Pageant 

A controversy has erupted over the results of the most recent Miss South Africa competition as a group of disgruntled contestants have come forward to claim the pageant was rigged in favour of the winner, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters.

With a R1 million prize package, it was inevitable that the competition would be fierce, but what has transpired over the last few days is a first in the South African pageant industry. Amongst the accusations that were thrown at the Miss South Africa Organisation and Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters is the fact that she had an unfair advantage as she was being trained by pageant trainer, Werner Wessels, and that she had a personal relationship with some of the judges, like former Miss South Africa's Claudia Henkel and Melinda Bam.

As someone with more than 25 years worth of knowledge of the beauty pageant industry, I would like to share my (very strong) opinions about this matter:

Judges' Favourite? 
SNEAKY SIX?: Some of the Miss SA contestants have insinuated that the
judges favored the eventual winner. We feel they should act to find out who
is spreading these rumours and get to prove them in a court of law. 

First of all, I find the claims that the judges would favour Demi-Leigh absolutely RIDICULOUS. As former Miss South Africa's, Claudia Henkel and Melinda Bam would naturally get close to the girls as they would be seen as role models for the girls. Claudia currently works for Sun International as their PR manager and she is actively involved in organising the Miss South Africa Pageant. Of course, she's going to spend a lot of time with the girls and get to know them. She was also probably on hand to see their highs and lows... and of course their nasty sides when the pressure got too much. As for Melinda Bam, she no longer works for Sun International and has no stronger affiliation than any other Miss SA that is part of the Sun International family and Miss SA sisterhood.

These girls are moving into dangerous territory with their claims that the judges favoured Demi-Leigh. The judges who were chosen to pick the next Miss South Africa are all industry professionals. They have careers and it is highly unlikely that they will be willing to sacrifice their careers, integrity and longevity in the industry to boost the career of a 21 year old girl from the middle of nowhere in  South Africa. They have got nothing to gain by that and everything to lose.

When you are asked to judge a pageant, you are asked to do a job. That job is to make a very tough decision. It's part of a competition and in competitions you have winners and losers. I don't understand the big fuss about all of this as beauty is subjective and as judges they were actually asked to have a favourite, which they clearly did. Can someone send a memo to these girls to explain how these things work?
TROUBLE: It seems like there are quite a few trouble makers in this group. It's disappointing that South Africa's twelve most beautiful women might not be that beautiful after all. Their actions are not doing much for the pageant industry. 

Furthermore, I should also mention that it is not uncommon for national and international pageant to let their judges and staff members get to know the girls. Actually, I believe it should be encouraged. The more time judges spend with girls, the better they can see through the ones who should not be representing the brand. Several national pageants encourage rigorous interview processes and a long build-up to the pageant so that they can get to know the girls in order to avoid having to work with trouble makers, divas and drama queens. (Sounds like there were quite a few in the class of 2017.)

I will use the top international pageants as examples to conclude my argument. Miss Universe allows members of the Miss Universe Organization to help as they spend three weeks with the girls. The job can't be left to judges who barely know the girls. The reason and purpose behind this is to try and find the girl who can do this year long job. This is not just true for Miss Universe, but also for Miss USA and Miss Teen USA. They have no time for girls who don't fit their brand's image. Miss World is even more serious about this. Due to some serious diva-ish behaviour by some of their former title holders, which have caused major trouble behind the scenes and tarnished their brand, they no longer ask celebrity judges to choose the winner. The whole pageant serves as a month long interview process and the Miss World Organisation has a huge say in who gets to have the honour of being Miss World.

Still feel unhappy with this? Well, it's time to get over it, because when you put R1 million up for grabs and a further R1 million in other prizes, you have the right to select a representative that will be THE BEST of the best. And just to put it out there: sending girls to Miss World and Miss Universe ain't cheap. In fact, it could cost between R250,000 and R500,000 in franchise fees, preparation fees, wardrobe, tickets and pocket money... and that's a very modest estimation.

Trash her for having a trainer? 
QUEEN MAKER: Venezuela's beauty queen maker, Osmel Sousa, has
produced hundreds of beauty queens over the years. 

I am actually glad that it came out that Demi-Leigh was so motivated to win the title that she not only prepared for this for the last 5 years, but also that she was smart enough to hire herself a trainer. If you know anything about pageants, you will know that they mean serious business in a lot of countries. In these countries, pageant are taken very seriously and the girls who compete in them do not take the preparation process lightly. A national title can be a huge stepping stone for a girl and if you make it that far, why wouldn't you want to give it your all to win a huge international title?!
FROM WINNERS TO TRAINERS: These two former
Miss USA winners have a successful pageant training business 

Would anyone in South Africa criticize their favourite sports teams like the Springboks, Bafana Bafana or the Proteas for having a coach? Most famous athletes and other sports stars who compete in professional events have trainers. Heck, even professional chess players, gamers and debate teams have coaches. Maybe to South Africans that seem strange, but speak to Latin Americans and they will find it absurd that there's even a raised eyebrow about having a pageant coach. Venezuela's most famous beauty queen maker, Osmel Souza, even started a beauty queen school in the 80s and has produced more than 20 major international titles for his country. There was a reason why Miss Venezuela was always in the top 5 and top 3. In the Philippines (one of the most pageant crazy countries in the world), they have pageant groups called camps. Girls train for about a year or more before they even attempt to enter their national competition. They have whole teams of experts behind them who take care of everything from their wardrobes to diet to answering the most difficult questions in order to avoid onstage embarrassment. Two of the most famous pageant trainers in the USA are former Miss USA's Shandi Finnesey and Susie Castillo (2004 and 2003). Every year, they train up to twenty of the girls who compete at the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA finals. Pageant rules do not state that girls should have trainers - some girls can do it all by themselves. There is, however, NOTHING that stops a girl from having someone prepare her to win a national title. These South African princesses must be sour because they didn't think of it, but I would like to put it out there. Even if they did, they probably STILL would not have won. A trainer can train a girl as hard as they want, but it is up to the girl to compete... and many girls fade under the pressure no matter how hard she has trained. DEMI-LEIGH, KEEP YOUR CHIN UP. You trained hard and you thrived under the pressure. You have nothing to be ashamed about - in fact, I believe you will do really well internationally. There's a reason why the international fans are raving about you!!!

Beauty Queen Training in South Africa Unheard of???!!! 
CIRCA 1995: This article from an Afrikaans newspaper in 1995 talks about how Carl Heunis from the G3 model agency produced 5 Miss South Africas in 7 years. Pageant training is not just something that just started happening in South Africa.

Hold on to your seats, divas of the class of 2017!!! You think having a trainer is unethical and unheard of. Well, you just also slapped at least five other iconic Miss South Africas in the face. Training of beauty queens in SA dates back to the 90s. No, in fact 1989. Carl Heunis of the G3 model Agency produced 5 Miss South Africas in 7 years. His first was Michelle Bruce in 1989 followed by Suzette van der Merwe in 1990. His entry in 1991, Amy Kleinhans, placed 2nd in 1991. She returned the following year to become his third Miss South Africa in 1992. It didn't stop there. Jacqui Mofokeng was his fourth Miss SA in 1993. After not having an entry in 1994, he did it again with Bernelee Daniel in 1995.

How did he do it? Well, he had an "eye for beauty" and it also took good old hard work and preparation by the girls and his team. The team included a choreographer and an actress who showed the girls how walk, act and speak to an audience.

In the 1990s, when Doreen Morris was in charge, workshops were held to empower the girls. In the 00s Sun International actually had scouts and they were encouraged to find girls who they thought would do well and they were free to guide and advise the girls. In fact, I even believe winning scouts were rewarded for their efforts. Some of the most well-known pageant fans in SA like Louis Fourie, Adrian Skelly and Wayne Stafford acted as mentors to some very familiar names of the past.
MISS WORLD AND HER MENTOR: It takes hard work and
dedication to win a pageant title...and sometimes that includes
someone to guide you along the way. It's not cheating, girls, it's
called giving it your all. It's done all over the world! 

As for Werner Wessels, the South African pageant industry owes him some serious gratitude. It's not a fluke that he has produced 5 Miss South Africa's. It's also not a fluke that the first one he trained (Melinda Bam) went on to become the number 1 favourite at Miss Universe. To this day, many fans still argue that she should have won Miss Universe 2012. It also did not just happen that he helped Rolene Strauss to win South Africa's first Miss World title in 4 decades. You have to be good to make this happen (and yes I find him annoyingly good because he has my dream job and is much better at it than I could ever have been), but most importantly you must have a passion for it and work for very little recognition and rewards... or even praise.

With 5 excellent Miss South Africas and even a Miss World under his belt, you would think it would be pure logic that girls would flock to him for advice. Anyone who followed Rolene's Miss World reign would know that she looked flawless every single time she appeared at an event. They would also know that she credits him for that and that she even mentioned that he was available 24/7 just in case she needed him.

So, I will say it here. I will gladly be a character witness for him. He has been nothing but kind, humble and gracious every time I have contacted him. And I have even had the honour of meeting him in real life when I was on holiday in South Africa. He has integrity in abundance and I would never ever even contemplate questioning his motives or honesty. Does he have a 100% success rate? No, he could not help Marilyn Ramos advance at Miss World or Miss Universe. He helped Reabetswe Sechoaro last year and she was the biggest fan favorite to win the title as she was clearly the most gorgeous and glamorous of the goup, but the judges did not agree and crowned his other girl, Ntandoyenkosi Kunene. So, with regard to this matter:  if making your clients feel beautiful, confident, glamorous, special and most of all LOVED is a crime, then go ahead and lock him up!!!

My feelings about Miss SA 2017 
THE EYE ROLLING PRINCESS: Miss SA (right) is pictured
here with her runner-up who has to learn how to lose with grace
before she will learn how to win with humility. 

I rarely say terrible things about beauty contestants, because I have realised that there's so much more to this than we see at home. This time, I am feeling really annoyed by the behaviour of the Class of 2017 and I feel that perhaps seeing that there's already so much nastiness out there, it won't hurt to share my honest feelings.

Demi-Leigh was by far the most beautiful girl in this year's competition. When I recently watched the actual pageant on YouTube, I just came to the realisation that the competition was not even as close as I thought it was. She was just in a league of her own. The international fans who voted in my blog's leaderboard clearly agreed.

Now, admittedly, I was annoyed with the judges. Some of the most beautiful girls were eliminated and did not make the top 12. I felt there were actually too many personality queens in this year's group. The runners-up would not even make a minor impact internationally. They are just not strong enough. Priyeshka Lutchman should probably have been named the runner-up. I also feel four of the most beautiful girls were eliminated when the top 12 were cut to the top 8. There was clearly way too much emphasis on personality, but that's an issue I have. I respect the judges' decision, even though I find the runner-up, Ade's reaction with all that eye rolling and head shaking disgusting. I respect that the judges found her second best (just based on that I would have placed her dead last) but I am glad that she was second as she is clearly not cut out to be a role model and ambassador for South Africa. I think we have enough people in those positions who do not deserve it as it is. The greatest champions win with humility and lose with grace. (Not lose with disgrace!) (Actually, I have so much more to say, but I really don't want to be a horrible person. It's just not worth it.)
TOP CLASS BEAUTY: Finding a beauty of this calibre to wear the Miss SA crown is rare. Keep your head held high, Demi. You could win an international title without a shadow of a doubt. Don't let a bunch of nasties ruin your reign. 

My advice to Demi-Leigh would be: don't let this get to you. To all the people who know and understand this industry, you were the clear winner and you still remain the clear winner. Enjoy your reign. You go higher as they go lower... and your revenge can be to bring home another international title. As for the Miss South Africa Organisation, perhaps it's time to rethink your judging process... perhaps it's time to reveal your score sheets to shut this controversy down once and for all... and perhaps it's time to get a good set of lawyers and do what Donald Trump did to Miss Pennsylvania USA back in 2013. Make it an expensive lesson for some of them. (http://heavy.com/news/2012/12/donald-trump-wins-lawsuit-settlement-miss-usa-sheena-monnin/)

16 comments:

  1. Agree 100%. Thank you for this article

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  2. I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU. DEMI DESERVED HER WIN AND YES I WAS DISAPPOINTED THAT PRIYESHKA WAS NOT PLACED AS THE 1ST PRINCESS AND THAT SOME OF THE CONTESTANTS WERE CHOPPED AFTER THE TOP 12.I DON'T BELIEVE ADE DESERVED A PLACE AT ALL ,BUT THAT IS JUST MY OPINION .kYLA WAS ALSO ONE OF MY FAVOURITES FROM A BEAUTY POINT OF VIEW ,BUT WHEN SHE WAS INTERVIEWED SHE LACKED CONFIDENCE AND NEEDS TO HAVE ELOCUTION LESSONS.THE GIRLS ALL NEED TO KNOW THAT THEY ARE WATCHED THROUGHOUT THEIR STAY AT THE SUN CITY ON HOW THEY TALK,WALK, DRESS AND CONDUCT THEMSELVES . THEY MUST ALSO LEARN THAT EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM THINKS THAT THEY MAY BE CROWNED AS THE WINNER ,BUT THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE QUEEN WHO WILL WEAR THAT CROWN. THIS YEAR IT IS DEMI ,A TRUE AMBASSADOR FOR SOUTH AFRICA.

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  3. when a person looks back at Miss America and Miss USA, a great trainer can deliver results. At the Miss America competition the representatives from New York won three years in a row. At Miss USA, GUYREX groomed 5 Miss USA's from Texas along with 2 Miss World USAs from 1982-1989. Look at Miss Minbining Pilpinas placing in the Top 10 from 2010 to 2016 consecutively with 5 Top 5 placements with one Miss Universe winner. It shows how a proper and experienced trainer can get a young lady to go very far and win!!!

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  4. I ALSO BLAME THE MEDIA FOR SENSATIONALIZING THE STORY AND ADDING INNUENDO JUST TO GET TRAFIC ON THEIR SITES AND PAGES. DEMI WAS THE OBVIOUS CHOICE.

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    1. I am not going to say that Demi was the obvious choice because there was at least 3 more beauties that was up there with her, but Demi was the right choice!!!

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  5. Many great and valid points made... BUT we were not present behind the scenes...I trust that all will move on with their lives and become successful in whatever they choose to do. Our Miss SA must please focus on her task and hopefully conquer internationally. I disagree with the point that our runners up won't impact internationally... I think they would. We could very well see yet another scenario of a Miss World SA and Miss Universe SA if dates clash.

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  6. Only one worthy winner Demi-Leigh - the rest of the girls had nothing special and all this just makes them look really ugly, nasty and mean.

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    1. Not all of the Finalists were a part of the news. Thank you. I was not a part of the scandals and I stood up against those girls.

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  7. Demi deserves this. This is just another example of people not appreciating somebody else's hard work.

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  8. Kelebogile SechoaroApril 15, 2017 at 1:04 AM

    I believe what you said about Werner 100% He is excellent in what he does and has a very humble spirit with great personality. Keep up the good work Werner do not let this kill your spirit. I also believe Demi deserved to win she is beautiful . People forget that it was a beauty competition. Demi do not let this kill your morale. There can only be one winner. It is your time and no one can take it from you. Good luck in all your endeavours.

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  9. I disagree with the lot of you! I feel all of the girls were beautiful! First off demi might be a pretty face but i do feel that miss South Africa is not just a "beauty pageant" she is very young an inexperienced for the job! (This is after all my own opinion) I would never of guessed she had a trainer because it didn't really help, and I don't think the other girls are being nasty now because is there any chance it could be rigged? Yes, all these pageants are! I feel everyone should have an equal chance in the pageant and it is as clear as day light that Demi had an advantage! Thus I would rather have all the secrets of this drama queen world come out now than have many more beautiful south african girls go through this unfair money making scheme!

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    1. Wow, what an awful ugly unhinged existence - no 'beauty' here ... happiness and success comes from within. Jealousy makes you ugly no matter how pretty your face!

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    2. I totally disagree with your opinion "she is very young an inexperienced for the job!" Cast your memory back to 1974, that was the year when at 19 years old Anneline Kriel became Miss South Africa and Miss World.

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  10. If one looks at some of the contestants who are questioning the results of the pageant, it is clear that parenting played a big role in their attitudes, they have never been taught by their parents that if you want to achieve you have to work for it.

    Daddy's money always gets them out of trouble or gave them what ever their heart's desire was, a child like that grows up with no inner beauty to complement her outer beauty as is the case here.

    It is plain mean nasty bitchiness, because of jealousy and the media is exploiting the so called controversy to their own advantage to gain viewer / reader points to promote themselves.

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  11. She was the best!!! All those girls that say all those nasty things about her, instead of waisting their time trying to put her down should work harder and make themselves better!

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  12. The cause for these girls' behaviour could be summarised in three words:
    Special Snowflake "Syndrome".

    So they say that the girl who left absolutely no stone unturned in her preparation had "an unfair advantage"... What a "genius" observation ;-)

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