Sowetan editor tells 19 their dreams are valid

Iconic beauty queen Augustine Masilela-Chuene, who started her journey in the public eye as Miss Soweto in 1987, joined this year’s finalists as they made their first media appearance in Parktown, Johannesburg.

Masilela-Chuene, who went on to compete at Miss SA and Miss Universe, was joined by Sowetan editor Nwabisa Makunga, former Miss SA Liesl Laurie-Mthombeni, songbird Azana and flutist Khanyisile Mthetwa at the event. Miss Soweto 2021 Ludina Ngwenya and current title-holder Tsakane Sono were also in attendance.

Also on the panel were Dr Ntsiki Molefe-Osman, a holistic wellness expert and Nomusa Mlambo, a financial expert.

Hosted by Miss Soweto’s headline sponsor White Star in collaboration with Sowetan Women’s Club, the function was an empowerment experience for the top 19 finalists, where the all-female panel discussed issues of finance, mental health and identity.

“I had tried 1985 and 1986. But going back in 1987 I knew then what I was supposed to do. I knew there was a bigger picture to this. Go there prepared, ready to tackle anything and the world with a purpose,” Masilela-Chuene said.

She joked that she was saddened that she still remained the only contestant from Senaoane, in Soweto, to have won in the pageant’s 44-year history.

“Know why you are entering the pageant. If your purpose is to help children, be sure what it is that you want to do and which programme you will apply to help the children,” Masilela-Chuene said .

“When you do this, you will go higher and higher, and people will be attracted to you and will begin to love you because they will see that you are about your word. The sky is no longer the limit, reach for the stars because your star is there.”

Before winning Miss SA in 2015, Laurie-Mthombeni from Eldorado Park was placed first princess at Miss Soweto in 2010 when she was 19 years old.

“I didn’t win that night, but what I took from that looking back now is that, yes, it was a destiny delayed not denied… so, the spaces that you are in right now, take those opportunities,” Laurie-Mthombeni said .

“There is only going to be one winner, but you need to make sure that the rest of you take this opportunity and run with it.”

Reflecting on her career as an unpaid reporter working for a newspaper in Gqeberha, Eastern Cape, Makunga urged the finalists to never give up on their dreams.

“When I left that building, I was editor-in-chief of the newspaper, and the point that I want to make is that people look at you and your dreams and may question whether these dreams are valid. Remember that your dreams are valid,” Makunga said.

“Even in moments where you are planning and working and nothing seems to be a breakthrough, understand that they are still valid. Not a single thing that blossoms into a mighty big thing starts big. Everything that we do that is meaningful starts small. When you have an idea, the important thing to ensure is that you work on it.”

This year’s Miss Soweto top 19 finalists are Reshoketsoe Monare, Boikobo Mogobeng, Bonolo Motsukunyane, Diana Ndavani, Gugu Masango, Kamogelo Mokone, Katlego Nyama, Khutso Maladzhi, Kwanele Grace Mabunda, Lebogang Mtshali, Lethaukuthula Ayanda Maseko, Lungile Hlubi, Nhlakanipho Amandla Mkongi, Nomfundo Zungu, Nomthandazo Charmaine Madigo, Ofentse Pitso, Ofentse Zamokuhle Radebe, Olerato Sekgothudi and Paige Lynique Harvey