The New Times (Kigali)

5 December 2012

Rwanda: If You Thought Size Matters in Beauty Pageants, Think Again!

Ariane Umurerwa, the second runner up in Miss Rwanda 2012, is currently in her second year pursuing a degree in Political Science at the National University of Rwanda (NUR). The beauty queen, born to Eduord Rutikanga and Theophila Nyirahonora, has three sisters.

She attended primary at ESCAF, went to Notre Dame de Citeau and later St Andre, Nyamirambo, before joining university.

"When I heard about the pageant contest, I had numerous thoughts of doubt on whether to participate. I decided to seek more guidance and I recall well that one of my best friends (who wished me well) advised me to go on a diet, cut down on my weight and partake in next year's competition when I'd be truly ready, I thanked her for her advice although I wasn't happy with it at all."

"I was not happy with some of the advice I got from friends, but then I was reminded of the time people called me 'Miss' at home, and I was very young then. This gave me the courage to sign up for the pageant contest. When I asked my parents for permission to participate, my dad didn't hesitate although their facial expressions portrayed shock. They literally only believed I had made it when the news about being crowned Miss Rwanda second runner-up reached home."

"Save for my parents and friends not believing in me, my fellow contestants seemed unbothered by my presence until they realised that my size was a threat," says the beauty queen.

Apparently during camp, one contestant approached Umurerwa to find out what inspired her into participating because she was the only 'curvaceous' person in the camp. She confidently told them that size isn't the issue. What mattered was health and other complications brought about by excess weight.

"I realised many of the contestants felt sorry for me, probably asking why I wasted my time but I proved them wrong by emerging second runner-up," she recalls.

From experience, Umurerwa says children need support from their parents - not just granting consent but also standing by them in whatever they choose to do, because they can do it - they just need guidance, especially from their parents.

Umurerwa does not regret any second gone during the contest because through it, she gained skills in public talking, she is better acquainted with various aspects connected to Rwanda and she can control her emotions amidst people much better. Because of Miss Rwanda, promising doors have opened and continue to do so for the soon to be Political Science graduate.

"Today, more and more women are afraid to venture into things they believe are only meant for some people. I like to believe I am now a role model for those women. Many of them approach me when they see me or contact me through different channels thanking me - admitting that I inspired them."

If there is still even the slightest doubt that plus size women are not fit for beauty pageants then it is time to change that. Let it be certain that what truly matters (or should matter) is how an individual will wear her crown, what she will do for her country and pretty much the poise she will bring to it.

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