Lalela Mswane is the 24-year-old LLB graduate who has just been crowned Miss South Africa.
Just one look at her images and you can see why she managed to snatch the highly contested crown. She has a charming and determined personality.
However, her journey wasn’t always an easy one. On her road to shining as brightly as she is now, she battled with bullying and isolation. She was picked on for being too “tall, gangly, and thin,” making her high school years somewhat of an unpleasant time.
Fortunately, a change of environment began to change her perception too. New surroundings and new peers helped her to build up self-confidence.
“I now identify strongly with the quotation that says, ‘since the beginning of time you have had everything within you to achieve anything you want to. It was the world that convinced you that you did not.’, ” she says.
“As I have found, it is what is within you that dictates your future, not the people or events around you.”
This belief of being able to rise above difficult circumstances also extends to others, and she wants fellow South Africans to hold the same optimism and determination.
“Knowing your worth and knowing what you deserve in life sometimes means adapting and building something new. Being an unemployed graduate does not mean that you have to wait for an opportunity to knock. Sitting and believing that you are entitled to better because you have struggled and achieved will lead nowhere. Harnessing your talents and finding new life paths and opportunities could, however, provide a solution.”
Through her Miss South Africa engagements, she hopes to carry this message across and instill a renewed sense of hope and bravery amongst people.
“I approach these events hoping that something about the lessons I have learned, my conversations or actions will make a long-lasting impression with at least one person,” she says.
“My ideal is to be involved in ongoing projects rather than once-off visits so that I can build relationships and help where I can.”
When asked about her involvement in the Miss SA pageant, and the possibility of being crowned the next Miss South Africa, she says: “Now more than ever, the competition is about more than being just a beauty pageant. It is a platform for women. My competitors are phenomenal women from all walks of life who are aspiring to be heard.
Most importantly however, she believes that pageant is a platform for her to fulfill her passion for youth upliftment and social development.
Through Miss SA she aims to align herself with causes that tackle South Africa’s high unemployment rate and the plight of young people caught in this net.
She is currently acting through the development of the #BeReady campaign – to help empower youth development. Her vision is a site that will focus on developing practical alternatives to tertiary education with the help of the Department of Education.
These alternatives would be introduced in schools and focus on subjects such as agriculture, trades, manufacturing and other areas to prepare learners for careers in these fields.
“Not every learner qualifies to enter university. I believe that if you identify something that can become a passion before you leave school, you can identify opportunities and empower yourself in fields that normally would not have been considered,” she concludes.