Zimbabwe: Who will be Miss Zimbabwe 1999?

Harare — It's that time of the year again for women. The time for competing for the most prestigious award-the Miss Zimbabwe title. Already, some girls have been chosen to represent various cities and towns, and in areas where this has not yet happened, young girls are busy jostling for positions.

For those who tried but failed to make it to the finals, it is a trying time for them as they attempt to come to grips with the shattering realities of life. They must now feel that they are not beautiful or intelligent enough to be Miss Zimbabwe. There are many beauty contests in Zimbabwe, but some of them have failed to match the glamour and glitz of the Miss Zimbabwe pageant. Some have resulted in participants going without their prizes or being given less than promised.

"It hurts to be used in that way. Contestants spend their money on hairdos and everything associated with such competitions, only to be told by the organisers at the end that the promised prizes are not available. I was at one time promised $1 500, but it never materialised," recalls Gamuchirai

Austin, one of the contestants after one such competition. Given this scenario, everyone is looking forward to the Miss Zimbabwe pageant, whose organisers and sponsors are known to always deliver on their promises and whose winner automatically qualifies to represent Zimbabwe at the Miss World contest.

The regional contests for the national competition have already been held in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Kwekwe, Masvingo and other towns and cities. Although these do not carry much prestige in themselves, they are generally regarded as a yardstick for determining which girls have what it takes to jostle for the ultimate prize-that all-important "beauty and the brains" crown.

Bulawayo has already chosen Theresa Chikarakara, Angeline Munyeriwa, and Nozipo Ndebele as its representatives for the national title. These will obviously be going flat out to emulate the achievements of Nomsa Ndiweni-the first ever Miss Zimbabwe winner from Bulawayo. Mutare is yet to choose someone to equal the success of Annette Kambarami, who made history by becoming Manicaland's first winner of the Miss Zimbabwe title. The success of Ndiweni and Kambarami has obviously given hope to the many beautiful girls from outside Harare. As for Harare, with the title having gone to Bulawayo and Mutare in the last two years, the task now lies with Brita Musaletilini, Tennille Jacob and Precious Chawatama-this year's finalists-to bring the title back to the city.

The competition is likely to be stiff as each girl bids to join the likes of Caroline Murinda, Una Patel, Dion ne Best, Angeline Musasiwa, Annette Kambarami, Nomsa Ndiweni, Shirley Nyanyiwa and Karen Stally as Zimbabwe's flag bearers at the global contest. Says Precious Chawatama, who was the second princess in the Miss Harare competition held on 24 July.

"Just qualifying for the final boosts your confidence, and gives you the feeling that you can become the country's beauty queen. I think everyone in my position is feeling the same." She adds: "The competition is tough, really tough. But everything depends on whether you have fully prepared for the event. With enough preparation and the required confidence, you cannot go wrong." Does she think she can win the Miss Zimbabwe competition? "I cannot say I will win the competition. Everyone who has qualified is hoping to win and the competition will obviously not be easy. Just like everyone else, I am going there hoping to win," said Chawatama.

There has, however, been debate on what exactly the judges should look for. Beauty on its own, it has been argued, is secondary. The real qualities that judges should be looking for are confidence and intelligence, especially when the contestants have to answer tricky questions on the night. Others, though, claim that the judges should also consider height, which seems to be a very important criteria for recruitment to a modelling agency anywhere in the world.

When asked whether any one of the Miss Harare finalists stood the chance of winning the Miss Zimbabwe crown, Desiree Joule, the organiser of the just ended pageant said: "Well, height could be their disadvantage, but that aside I think they have very good chances, especially Brita." Brita was the winner of the Miss Harare crown.

However, the trend of considering height as important appears to be changing somewhat, if one looks at the fact that Dionne Best, who is of average height, was the 1996 winner. The pageants have definitely grown in popularity, and the venues at which they are staged are always packed to capacity despite the live screening of some of them on local television. If the Miss Harare competition was anything to go by, then the Miss Zimbabwe pageant, due to be staged in September, will probably not have enough seating space for the multitudes who will want to attend.

Says Desiree of the Miss Harare pageant: "The contest was very successful. We got far more people than we expected." It still remains to be seen, however, whether there shall emerge a Miss Zimbabwe winner who will emulate or better the achievements of Angeline Musasiwa, who in 1995 brought glory to Zimbabwe by securing the fourth position at the Miss World Competition. At the moment, however, all focus is on preparations for the up-coming Miss Zimbabwe contest.

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