Beauty is always queen

    Miss South Africa, Shudufhadzo Musida, reigns in strange times. Susan Symondson chatted to her to find out how she’s making the most of her time in the spotlight despite the challenges of lockdown.

    “I am a woman. I am powerful. I am change”  – Shudu Musida

    Humble beginnings

    Could anything be more fun than hanging out with royalty? Spending some one-on-one time with the charming Miss South Africa 2020, Shudufhadzo Musida, is certainly a blast. Musida goes by many names Our Queen, Shudufhadzo, Shudu and Abigail (her Twitter handle is @abigailmusida ). Some fans even refer to her as Shudu The Body, which reflects her lithe, athletic frame (she’s an impressive 1.74 metres tall!). Her strong physique is a reflection of her commitment to Pilates workouts.

    The 24-Year-old has been modelling since she was 17, and her career includes a feature in the prestigious Vogue Italia (bellissimo!) as well as major campaigns for Woolworths. Not bad for a girl from the village of Ha-Masia in Limpopo with humble beginnings. Establishing a modelling career and working on academic pursuits at the same time is no easy task. Yet, backed by the unconditional love and support of her family, Shudu had already earned a Bachelor of Social Sciences in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Pretoria and was working towards a BA Honours in International Relations at the University of Witwatersrand (she recently graduated) when the pandemic hit. Covid19 turned everyone’s world topsy turvy, but it made Shudu decide to enter the Miss South Africa pageant. She’d never entered a beauty competition, but she was undeterred.

    Courageously rising above

    “I was inspired to enter after seeing Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi (Miss South Africa 2019) wear the crown last year. She launched herself into a notoriously competitive environment where crowns are not made of rhinestones alone, but discipline, determination and a rare ingredient called courage,” she explains.

    It seems that there’s not much that Shudu’s afraid of attempting… She attributes this gutsy nature to her childhood, where she endured intense bullying for seven years. She says “As a child, I was victimised because I was Venda. It’s not okay to look down on others. Where you come from does not determine where you are going to go.” Her ability to rise above those mean girls (and boys) held her in good stead, and she walked away with the crown and over R 3 000 000 in prizes and sponsorships. This attitude will serve her well when she represents South Africa in the Miss World pageant 2021—the date is yet to be confirmed.

    On winning, Shudu posted to her IG: I still have to pinch myself sometimes 🥺❤️ One thing I’ve learnt is that – we’re all born great, it just needs to be unlocked.”

    Kindness and compassion

    Apart from spending this year looking gorgeous, and wearing fabulous outfits, she’ll be shining light on her social activism initiatives. During the pandemic, people are overwhelmed and reports show that anxiety and depression have increased. A staunch advocate for mental health, Shudu wants to highlight the importance of emotional, psychological, and social well-being.

    “It’s important to concentrate on small victories. At the start of the pandemic when we went into lockdown, I focussed on getting out of bed and completing small tasks. I walked daily, cooked healthy meals and put in at least an hour of study. This gave me a springboard to work towards bigger victories,” she says. For her, the stigma associated with mental health issues is often the heaviest burden, and speaking out is a powerful weapon against shame.

    Shudu believes that we have a collective responsibility as a society to show kindness and rebuild our communities by practising compassion. She affirms, “One good deed can change someone’s mental wellbeing, especially now during Covid19 when isolation creates additional anxiety. I encourage reaching out and asking someone how they feel. Talking is a powerful antidote to negative feelings and helps people feel less alone. It is a privilege when someone confides in you.”

    High achiever

    Chameleon-like Shudu considers herself an introvert who can adapt to extrovert situations. With that mindset, sheltering-at-home wasn’t a huge challenge for her, and she used the time to focus on immediate family, study and prepare for her goal of becoming Miss South Africa. She says, “The pandemic allowed me to spend more time with loved ones. Weirdly, this time has been a blessing and allowed me to rediscover my discipline, which I tapped into to get on with my Honours degree without the usual external motivators like lectures and peer-group support. I had to motivate myself and take personal responsibility.”

    Being a high-achiever, during lockdown she also bought a keyboard, downloaded an app and tried to teach herself how to play. One of her favourite hobbies is reading. She says, “I’m a fan of Tony Morrison, Jodi Picoult as well as Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’m drawn to the themes around moral responsibility, the end of colonialism, ethnic allegiances, class and race—and about how love can complicate everything. Americanah is a very funny love story that examines society. Perfect lockdown reading!”

    However, knowing that the pandemic was creating stress, anxiety and worry for so many, and recognising challenges like homelessness and hunger in her community, she stepped up and got involved. “I was privileged to assist with the packing and distribution of food parcels. I’m committed to using my voice to campaign for vulnerable women and children as well as working towards ending period poverty, an important, yet often ignored, public health crisis”.

    Gorgeous, honest, intelligent and extremely compassionate, this stunning beauty queen not only wears the coveted crown, but continues to conquer hearts.

    Photos by Indirect Media 7