Shudufhadzo Musida is a model and beauty pageant titleholder who was crowned Miss South  Africa 2020 at The Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town on October 24. In her acceptance speech,  Musida said: “It took an entire village to get me here and I would like to thank all of you for being  my village. I stand here today as your Miss South Africa with immense pride and joy to be  representing such a beautiful nation – one of the first Venda women, but certainly not the last – to  become Miss South Africa. I stand here as an advocate for educational and economic  empowerment of women and children and mental health awareness – honoured to be an  ambassador of this beautiful nation.”  

In this exclusive interview Shudu, talks about her life in the spotlight. 

A-CHOICES: Shudu can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and educational background? 

Shudu: I have a Bachelor of Social Sciences in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the  University of Pretoria. I continued with my studies during my Miss South Africa journey and  graduated in December with a BA Honours in International Relations from the University of  Witwatersrand.  

A-CHOICES: Previous beauty competitions? 

Shudu: Before entering Miss SA 2020, I had never taken part in a beauty pageant before. 

A-CHOICES: Why did you enter the competition? How does it feel to be crowned Miss SA? 

Shudu: I was inspired to enter after seeing Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi wear the crown in 2019.  When I saw Zozibini on the Miss South Africa and Miss Universe stages and she said ‘see your face reflected in mine’, I saw my face. I saw myself being represented. The door was opened and I just walked in. To win was an absolute dream. 

A-CHOICES: What do you think set you apart from the other contestants? 

Shudu: You would have to ask the judges that! All I can say is that throughout the competition I  was true to myself and my beliefs. My philosophy was to give it my all but also to realise that what would be, would be. 

A-CHOICES: What qualities do you believe a Miss South Africa should possess? 

Shudu: Miss South Africa should be compassionate and inspirational. She has to be able to  converse with all people in South Africa and she must be fearless when using her voice for the  charitable cause of her choosing. Most important of all, she must remain true to herself. 

A-CHOICES: Who is a previous Miss South Africa who has inspired you and why? 

Shudu: Reigning Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi because of her grace and her ability to make a  statement without straining her voice.

A-CHOICES: Who are your role models/who has inspired you and why? 

Shudu: My role models include Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Toni Morrison, Dr. Phumzile Mlambo Gcuka and Amina J. Mohammed. They are such strong women with so much grace. They inspire  me to be better versions of myself.  

A-CHOICES: As an advocate for mental health awareness and empowering women and children, would you describe yourself as a feminist? 

Shudu: I would describe myself as a feminist because we need to advocate for the equality of all  sexes in order to have an equal society. 

A-CHOICES: Which women inspire you most? 

Shudu: Beyoncé and Amina J. Mohammed. They encompass both my potential beings, the  powerful singer and the powerful advocate. With Amina, I see myself in her and she inspires me to work harder and to find my voice in my journey towards my dream of working for or with the  United Nations. 

A-CHOICES: In 2018 the World Bank declared that South Africa is the most unequal society in the world. What is to blame for that? 

Shudu: South Africa has its historical apartheid past that has led to so many things in society  being run with an apartheid narrative such as the lack of educational opportunities or inequality in  education. It’s possible for society to change if government provide equal opportunities. It requires a collective responsibility to move forward and break free from our past.  

A-CHOICES: Are there any projects that you are working on at the moment? Any community service activities or other business ventures? 

Shudu: I am working on projects that are aimed at destigmatising mental health issues and  educating people around the topic. I can’t share all details yet but my focus is communities who  currently don’t have access to mental health care.  

A-CHOICES: Is it true that you were bullied because of your (Venda) background? 

Shudu: Unfortunately, it is. I endured five years of bullying after I moved primary schools in  Grade 3 from Limpopo to Secunda in Mpumalanga. Mostly it was verbal, making sure to break me  down with words. It could have been because they grew up with one another and I was this girl  from Venda, an outsider who barely spoke any of the languages there or English. 

A-CHOICES: What has been a challenge you’ve experienced in life, and how did you overcome it? 

Shudu: For years the bullying destroyed my self-esteem. When I moved to Bryanston High, I was  terrified that the same thing would happen again. It didn’t and I made some of my best friends  there. They helped me rebuild my confidence. I realised that I had to use my experiences to help  others. It has made me a stronger person. 

A-CHOICES: How did you handle the lock down due to the COVID-19 19? 

Shudu: I took the time to prioritise my mental health and myself. It wasn’t always easy but you  learn to be kind to yourself and remember that we are all living in unusual circumstances and it’s  okay not to be okay sometimes. But I have been blessed to find peace in these tough times. What helped was my faith. There is a peace that surpasses all understanding that I have received  through my faith.  

A-CHOICES: What has this time taught you? 

Shudu: It has reminded that I did not need big victories during this pandemic, but rather small  ones. Through this kindness towards myself and the situation we are all in, the big victories had  room to come into my life, because I chose positivity even it felt like there was none.  

A-CHOICES: What is the one thing people would be surprised to know about you? Shudu: I can sing! 

A-CHOICES: 2020 has been a tough year globally. Do you see any positives in 2021? 

Shudu: Absolutely. This time has taught us to be kind to one another. We survived 2020 and we  will survive 2021. These are still tough times but there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

A-CHOICES: What do you love about South Africa? What would like to change about South Africa? 

Shudu: I love the people in this country and their innate optimism. I would like to change the  stigma against mental health and the disregard towards gender-based violence. 

A-CHOICES: What do you do in your spare time? 

Shudu: When I can, I sing, practice the keyboard and read. 

A-CHOICES: What music are you listening to? Your favourite TV shows? Your favourite meal? 

Shudu: Music – Usher, disco, and gospel in the mornings. TV – re-runs of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and favourite meal is sushi. 

A-CHOICES: Final question, is there anything you’d like to see change regarding beauty standards in South Africa?

 Shudu: Regarding beauty standards in general and all over the world – not just in South Africa – I hope for more inclusivity where everyone is accepted for who they are and not everything is based on the outward appearance but also on the inward appearance. We need to focus on the interior  as much as the exterior.

Author: Gbenga Teejay Okunlola

London, UK