Miss SA Lalela Mswane had a turbulent road to the just completed Miss Universe competition in Israel. First, when the Miss South Africa Organisation announced that she would be attending the contest, she was dragged mercilessly for her stand. Fans felt like she had no right to be attending a pageant in a country that is so pro-apartheid, especially when she knows firsthand the legacy of apartheid right here at home.
Read more: Miss SA Lalela Mswane Gets Dragged
As the backlash mounted, the beauty queen firmly stood her ground, backed by the organisation. It wasn’t long before the cards fell and the government, led by the ANC, publicly denounced her via an official statement. They said they did not support her decision to go to Israel, and withdrew their support, so that her attendance was a personal decision rather than a representation of the country.
As she stood her ground and went to Israel anyway, the hate mounted, and people started hoping she would fail. But she finally shocked the country when she was crowned Second Runner Up at the pageant.
As she was crowned, the model congratulated herself for how far she had come, and for sticking it out when nobody thought she should or would. She used her platform to encourage other young women facing adversity. “Choose courage over comfort”, she said, and her words still echo across the country.
Her momentous victory elicited mixed reactions from fans and haters alike. Her fans are very proud of her, and have been congratulating her for sticking to her guns regardless of the backlash.
Some have taken it as a political statement, as she is getting hailed as a political hero. They think she is officially a representative for all those who have had their governments turn their backs on them, because of sticking to their convictions.
On the other hand, haters have taken it as vindication that she wasn’t crowned Miss Universe, conveniently forgetting how many contestants there were, and that it’s a huge deal to come in top three.
Read also: Miss SA Lalela's Dreams Cut Short Again
Others think her decision was selfish, and should not be applauded that much. They, like the government, believe her attendance at the pageant was a personal choice, so her win is personal as well, and shouldn’t be treated as some kind of moral or political victory for the whole country.
Whichever side of the fence you fall on, one thing we cannot deny is that this was a victory that should not be minimized. She competed against 79 other beauty queens, all the creme de la creme of their home countries, and came in third. It doesn’t matter how much hate she still receives, she has every right to be very proud of what she has accomplished.