Could this be Africa’s year?

The reward for Africa’s persistence in fielding contestants in the pageant only came 51 years later when 18-year-old Nigerian Agbani Darego was crowned Miss World 2001 in South Africa.

The competition has been heavily dominated by India and Venezuela who have each won five times.

But could this be the year that an African beauty outshines the rest? Is there an African daughter out there that has the credentials to take the award in beauty this year?

Known for its ability to persevere and never give up, this year Africa has sent a bevy of 14 beauties to the Miss World 2006 set for September 30 in Warsaw, Poland.

Five of the contestants are from Southern Africa and all are brimming with confidence.

Zambia’s representative, 25-year-old Katenekwa Matundwelo, knows the importance of the competition and the glory it would bring not only to her but also the continent were she to win it.

“I will do my best in the competition because I consider this an honour not only to represent my country, but also the African continent at this year’s Miss World. Although the competition is stiff, I am confident of a positive outcome and am hoping for the best,” she said in an interview before leaving for Poland.

Katenekwa has every reason to be excited about being Zambia’s ambassador to the Miss World. Despite winning the People’s Choice award, she just lost out on the Miss Zambia 2005 crown.

However, winning the People’s Choice award gave her an automatic entry into the Miss World competition after Zambia failed to hold the local beauty pageant in time for the Miss World contest.

She appears to have recovered sufficiently from the disappointment of failing to land the Miss Zambia title and has managed to craft a name for herself among the top crust of the country’s upcoming models.

Katenekwa, who holds a Bachelor Arts degree in Bible and Theology, has appeared in various magazines and television advertisements. She presently works as a presenter and producer for Muvi-TV.

Another stunning beauty from Southern Africa hoping to achieve the improbable in Poland is Zimbabwe’s Lorraine Maphala.

Her exotic features and dark chocolate complexion is what sets her apart from other contestants. Already a celebrity in her home country, Lorraine aspires to be an international designer and top businesswoman.

Unlike any other contestant from Africa or in the competition for that matter, she has much to prove especially after the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) “successfully begged” the organisers of the Miss World pageant to allow her participate in the competition free of charge.

Reports in the Zimbabwean media are that ZTA, which she works for as a communications and marketing officer, failed to raise the 3 000 pounds required for participation fee.

Perhaps 21-year-old Lorraine is worth the embarrassment ZTA had to endure before she was allowed to take part in the competition for free, she caused quite a stir at the 2004 Miss Malaika contest when the crowd threatened to throw beer cans onto the stage and beat up the judges after she was excluded among the top 10 finalists.

Lorraine is no stranger to international pageants as she has already participated in the Miss Tourism Model of the World and landed the Face of the Net crown in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, in March this year.

Twenty-two year-old Namibian Anna Nashandi, who hopes to juggle psychology and a career in the fashion industry, is another contender hoping to bag the title for Africa.

She, unlike most contestants, can boast of coming from a country that is known to win major beauty contests. Just recently, 18-year-old Vanantia Otto won the 2006 Nokia Face of Africa contest, giving her instant stardom.

In 1992, Michelle McLean was crowned Miss Universe. Perhaps Africa’s pride may just lie in this stunning beauty.

Botswana’s diamond is 21-year-old Lorato Pear Tobago, whose personal motto is “Strive for excellence and not perfection”. Oozing with faith rather than confidence, Lorato had this to say about the competition: “I live each day to fulfil my goals and have no regrets. What is meant to be will be.”

Wise words for Africa to remember if the continent does not clinch the Miss World crown.

Having worked before as a continuity presenter and driven by a dream to own a media house of her own, Lorato is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities at the University of Botswana, with majors in English and Literature.

A drop-dead gorgeous body and a stunning smile makes South Africa’s representative Nokuthula Sithole a definite contender for the Miss World tiara.

In addition to her beauty, Nokuthula, 22, is a compassionate person who is currently involved in helping to gain support from corporate companies on an ongoing project for the Tapologo AIDS Hospice in the North West Province.

She says her father, a surgeon who died last year, taught her the value of perseverance.

Nokuthula exudes wisdom and expressed almost poetically: “The past gives us experience and memories; the present gives us challenges and opportunities; and the future gives us vision and hope. This is how I live my life ‘ learning from the experiences.”

The Southern Afrinan belle, who dreams of pursuing a second degree in Civil Engineering, says she is “certain” she can bring home the crown from Poland. Coming from a country with a well-established beauty and modelling industry, Nokuthula does not lack in experience and has made appearances in various fashion magazines.

The rest of the African beauties heading for Poland are Angola,s Stiviandra Oliveira, Diane Mizumi Mwinga (the Democratic Republic of Congo), Ghana’s Lamisi Mbillah, Ethiopian Emleset Muchie, Liberia’s Patrice Daiemole Juah, Vanesha Seetohul (Mauritius), Nigerian Abiola Bashorun, Tanzania’s Wema Isaac Sepetu and Kenyan Khadijah Shamillar Kiptoo.

September 2006
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