Life’s journey and dreams about futures often do not run according to expectations, but whether life takes you to a national stage or you are left struggling to cope, it is self-belief and self-love that can restore the balance.
When this advice comes from a Top 10 finalist in the current Miss South Africa pageant, it is easy to be sceptical. However, when the finalist is Lalela Mswane, and she reveals that her journey involved being bullied and isolated during her school years because she was ‘ gangly, tall and thin,’ perceptions begin to change.
Lalela acknowledges that treatment meted out to her during her school years left their mark. It took a change of environment to the campus of the University of Pretoria, new surroundings, and new peers to change things.
“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.
I wish I had heard it earlier but believe that anyone with doubts about their future and ability to cope should take it to heart. As I have found, it is what is within you that dictates your future, not the people or events around you.”
The merging of her belief in peoples’ abilities with a legal background- she already has her LLB and has articles to complete- has her convinced that people can rise above personal slumps when unemployment and other socio-economic ills strike.
“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.”
“It is about learning to present the best version of yourself that is important when you face challenges and using your talents in other ways that are needed. If there is a will, there is a way, and everything is achievable.”
“As young South Africans, we need to move away from the belief that our wishes must be instantly gratified. Instead, we should understand that anything worth having is worth fighting for,” says Lalela
As a prospective Miss South Africa, and after nearly five months of gruelling engagements, Lalela carries her beliefs across to the appearances linked to charity events that are part of the Miss SA schedule.
“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.
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.”
And what about the Miss South Africa pageant? How does it reconcile with being a 24-year-old professional woman with strong views that has overcome significant personal barriers?“
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.
They are intelligent, worthy people who are gaining opportunities through their participation.”
“The pageant is also a potential launchpad for many things. You gain exposure, meet people you never would normally have met, and create networks that can result in opportunities that could otherwise never have arisen. The focus, therefore, is on building women and tasking their lives to new levels.”
For Lalela, the path forward from Miss SA involves identifying with the high unemployment rate across the country and the plight of young people caught in the net.
She is 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 involvement of the Department of Education.
These alternatives would be introduced at schools and focus on agriculture, trades, manufacturing and other areas to prepare learners for careers in these fields after completing schooling.
“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.