MASERU - Upper Thamae beauty queen Thabelo Ngatana, 18, says racism is one of the biggest challenges facing international pageants. Ngatana represented Lesotho at the recent Face of Beauty International hosted in New Delhi, India between September 7 and 17 where she alleges race played a huge role over who would win the pageant with make-up artistes clearly favouring white models over blacks.
Ngatana went to India after she scooped the Miss Face of Lesotho crown hosted in Leribe, a platform for the queen to proceed to represent the Mountain Kingdom at the Face of Beauty International. The Face of Beauty International pageant, whose aim was to develop young female leaders from around the world, comprised up to 50 contestants from different countries.
Upon arrival in India, Ngatana says she was nervous, as she did not know what kind of people she was going to meet from different walks of life. She, however, easily connected with them as time went by. Before interviews and prejudging could take place, things were still smooth until the time for the real contest came, she says. “There was tension amongst the queens and that is when I saw their weaknesses. They also had strengths from which I learnt but the journey grew tougher and tougher each day,” Ngatana says.
While in India, Ngatana says there were people who made sure she felt discriminated against because she was black emphasising that during make-up sessions, make-up artists would make black models step aside so they could attend to white models first. “I am not ashamed of the fact that I am black and I will never be but I did not understand why people had to make a fuss about it,” she states.
Face of Beauty International was Ngatana’s first international pageant and the first contest where she failed to get a prize but she says she has learnt to always expect the unexpected and accept any situation. She highlights that beauty queens enter a pageant fully aware of their capabilities and later get shocked when things do not go according to their expectations.
Ngatana adds that while in the pageant she had to go with her natural hair plaited essence after she was hindered from participating in the talent show for contemporary dance with a weave. “Surprisingly, the minute I took it off people were amazed and found my hairstyle unique because theirs could not be plaited that way due to the texture of their hair. Some even went as far as asking me to do their hair like mine,” Ngatana laughs.
The compliments she received for her natural hair made her learn to be comfortable in her natural look and she wanted to be exceptional and unique at the same time, she notes. She states that the founder of the Face of Beauty International urged her not to put the weave on for the grant finale, which convinced Ngatana that Africa is very beautiful. She insists she gave the pageant her all and did everything required.
“At the end of the day, it was all in the hands of judges and it takes me back to the racism point because, maybe, just maybe, if I was white we would be talking a different story,” she adds with a chuckle. “I am proud of my race and nothing will ever change that. Yes, I did not win but I gave it my all and I believe in myself just as Basotho do. I am happy for the opportunity I got to represent my country. The pageant taught me different things and, above all, the enjoyment was beyond measure.
“I would therefore like to thank Basotho for believing in me, my sponsors for making the trip possible and God for the opportunity. I was constantly looking at the votes and I realised that Basotho were very supportive and I am grateful for that.”
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