Miss SA’s Top 10 finalist and professional model, Ayanda Thabethe, is a firm believer in the untamable force of soft femininity. Being in her final year of study for a Degree in Dietetics & Human Nutrition at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the twenty-two-year-old aims to provide community education on the importance of holistic health through maintaining a healthy diet. The Pietermaritzburg native from Taylor’s Halt recently started a campaign called #Nyakazani, which aims to get community members involved in responding to health crises. “I want to branch into the research sector; so I can play a role in developing nutrition-related guidelines to combat South Africa’s double burden of malnutrition and obesity,” says Ayanda.
Moziak caught up with Ayanda to talk about her journey in the awe-inspiring Miss South Africa pageant.
Congratulations on making it to the top 10. How do you feel about reaching this milestone?
Ayanda: Thank you so much. I honestly feel an unnatural sense of accomplishment. It is safe to say that being a part of the Miss South Africa organisation has been a long-term childhood dream. From an early age, I had a seed planted inside of me, which I have been watering over the years, and seeing my dreams realised has been nothing short of amazing! Especially when this experience has far surpassed my expectations.
What drew you to the world of pageantry?
Ayanda: I love the world of modelling. More than that, though, I love dipping my toes in everything. So, I really just wanted to see a different side of the industry outside of just photography modelling. I love a good challenge, and pageantry is exactly that; I get to be involved in community projects, take the lead on various campaigns, and find out more about myself and my own capabilities. Essentially, I get to step into my power. From afar, pageantry seemed like glitz and glam, which initially is what drew me to the industry; however, the closer I got, the more appreciation I had for this world, and I have not been able to turn back since.
How has your journey in this awe-inspiring competition been thus far?
Ayanda: For lack of a better word: amazing! I have been struggling to find a word that can perfectly describe this journey, but nothing seems to fit. I have grown mentally and spiritually, and I have learned so much about the world of pageantry. I have been pleasantly surprised at every turn in this journey. So much focus has been directed towards improving me, helping me craft my narrative, shaping me into a leader and forming my own personal brand. The amount of growth that comes with being in this competition is mind-blowing. I cannot wait for the world to experience the best version of me!
What has been the most memorable moment of your journey in the pageant?
Ayanda: The most memorable moment to date is undoubtedly the day that the Top 10 was officially announced! Hearing my name get called and stepping onto that stage to get my sash from Lalela is a memory that repeats itself in my head daily. That was the moment that it all became real for me. Seeing the media there, the cameras, and the Bonang, it finally registered that I am Ayanda Thabethe; and I am in the Miss South Africa Top 10 class of 2022.
South Africa has various socio-economic issues. Which of these are you most passionate about tackling?
Ayanda: The issue that is most aligned with me is our flawed healthcare system. It is no secret that a lot of attention has been directed towards the Department of Health since the beginning of 2020 due to COVID-19; however, all that attention was only focused on the new pandemic on-hand. As a result, other sectors started to lag, leaving our country in shambles! I want to tackle finding interventions that will improve and strengthen health system resilience and financing through local, national, and global engagement. After all, a healthy society is a thriving one.
We celebrated Youth Month a few weeks ago. What lessons do you think the youth of today can learn from the resilient youth of 1976?
Ayanda: As someone who is considered to be a part of the youth, I believe that I can speak for the majority of my generation when I say that the biggest lesson that can be learnt from 1976 is that: change is inevitable if you are willing to actively play your part towards seeking it. The students who marched bravely in 1976 knew what they wanted, and they took the necessary measures needed, drastic as they were, to see it through. We need to learn to have that resilience today as well! There are so many social injustices that need to be faced head-on. If we can learn to gather our strength and put on brave faces, we, too, can lead our own revolutions.
The Miss South Africa pageant is set to take place in August. What are your plans from now until then?
Ayanda: My pageant preparation revolves around the online workshops that the organisations presented to us during our Top 30 journey. The workshops emphasised the importance of me knowing myself and embracing my power to reach my full potential, understanding the ins and outs of social media and how to make it work for me, and the importance of a well-presented wardrobe. After all, what you wear should be a reflection of who you are and how to keep yourself updated with the world’s and South Africa’s current affairs. I have been putting all of this into practice by actively searching for self-awareness; reading up on current affairs; thinking of possible questions, which I then answer myself; using social media as a tool to get my message across; using any free time I have to work with my community to find gaps that can be filled.
Ayanda Thabethe aims to use her platform to promote physical, nutritional and mental health. Her fearless take on life is that failure is a stepping stone toward the right path.