Watching the Miss SA pageant last night was almost as much fun with my sister’s running commentary, as it was on Twitter. And there’s such a feel-good story in the triumph of Liesl Laurie, last night’s winner. Coming from a female-headed household, raised and inspired by her gran and her mom (who overcame drug addiction) and owning, overcoming and utilising the challenges a less-than-glamourous start to life posed. The darling of Eldorado Park has become a beacon of hope to so many young girls who were also not dealt a fair hand by fate, young ladies who cherish big dreams, facing nearly insurmountable odds with stars in their eyes desperately in search of an idol to identify with.

What I don’t understand, is why so many people have once again joined the chorus of nay-sayers, slagging off brave young women who set themselves goals to be better, to do good and claim a platform to improve not only their own lives but also those of others?

Is it because we can’t bear the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there could be someone out there who is at once beautiful, polished, intelligent, stylish, and -most importantly – a good person? Even if you hate the fact that poppies want to wear pretty dresses, heels, bikini’s and tiaras – how can you hate on the fact that they draw the media spotlight to (otherwise) non-glamourous causes? Causes we’d never have heard about. If it wasn’t for the fact that Rolene Strauss put on some gumboots and planted a few ceremonial beetroot-plants at the Leeuwkop Correctional Facility would you have seen it on newspaper covers? No. This feeding scheme teaches prisoners skills (how to grow vegetables) and it feeds needy school children, also strengthening their chances to excel at school. With money from corporates. Win, win, win and win. I fail to see who loses here?

“This project will not only ‘give’ individuals fish, but teach them how to fish. Health, quality education and energy to work hard and reach your dreams are the fruits of balanced and good nutrition,” says Strauss.

“This project will not only ‘give’ individuals fish, but teach them how to fish. Health, quality education and energy to work hard and reach your dreams are the fruits of balanced and good nutrition,” says Strauss.

 

Oh, but you don’t like pageants since they “objectify” women?

How is being judged on how you look, how you rock a bikini and how well you strut your stuff on a ramp any different to, say, being judged on how fast you run, how well you kick a ball or even how well you perform at mathematics?

All of this relies on both nature, nurture, competition and finally judgement. You need to be born with a certain measure of talent or alternatively a certain IQ. Just like beauty, natural talent isn’t something you deserve. The rest is dedication, preparation, perspiration and even a bit of luck.

And yes, we are creating a celebrity.

It’s just as manufactured as One Direction or the Kardashians. Does that make it evil? Not necessarily. Why? Because it breeds ambition among young ladies to identify and support worthy causes in their local communities, to learn as much as possible about their country, current affairs and other female role models. To equip themselves with knowledge, to learn how to network and in the case of Miss SA this year to develop a mentorship relationship. Attributes which would stand you in good stead professionally, even if you don’t crack the the top 5.

It also requires them to develop “shallow” skills like dressing well (the standard is more Kate Middleton than Hooters, which is #winning), to walk, talk, do their own hair and their make-up well and, most importantly – to be an ambassador.

Yes, we shouldn’t be judged on how well we tame our mane or apply liquid liner, but you know what? We are. Welcome to the real world.

It’s like saying you don’t like being on the receiving end of a late tackle, but you want to win the Rugby World Cup. Get over it, get on with it and get on top of it. My husband needs to shave before he works on camera, I need to sit in a make-up chair for an hour before I go on air.

Does that make it right? No.

Would refusing to do it serve my career? No.

So, in stead, I own it. I use it. It has become my tool, an asset and I wield it as one.

Being a man in a man’s world doesn’t make you some great feminist. Feminism could also mean owning your femininity, whatever that might mean to you. If your standards of femininity differ greatly from the poppie next door – let her be. As long as no harm, shame, fear or distress stems from it, it’s not your job to interfere, judge or shame

Let’s celebrate beauty, let’s celebrate women.

Miss_SA_1

Drugs. Poverty. Service delivery. These are only some of the very real issues facing Eldorado Park. Yet the community grouped together to raise money to give one of their own the opportunity to shine, to lead by example and to make way for more bright young stars.