MISS MALAIKA BACKS “mocked” MISS ZIM | Former Miss Zimbabwe, Malaika Mushandu, has urged Zimbabweans to appreciate African beauty.
The Zimbabwean model, who rose to fame when she became one of the youngest winners of the Miss Zimbabwe pageant in 2011, has proved to be a force to reckon with.
She finished 9th at the Miss World Pageant in 2011 and became the second model from Zimbabwe to have made it into the Top 10 at Miss World after the exploits of Angeline Musasiwa in 1994.
In an exclusive interview with H-Metro, the model opened up on modeling, social and pageantry industry as a whole and backed the recently crowned Miss Zimbabwe Chiedza Mhosva, 22, who has been abused on social media.
Malaika opened up on her social life and said she is still yet to find a Mr Right.
“No, no wedding bells, I am just trying to be somebody before I can need somebody.”
Malaika sympathises with the recently crowned Miss Zimbabwe.
“I don’t think we are missing anything in Zimbabwe, it’s just a matter of polishing up here and there and we have everything that we need to make it internationally. I think we have the (rough) diamonds so it’s a matter of polishing them up. We are not lacking anything, but rallying behind what we have and knowing what we have.
“The recently crowned Miss Zimbabwe has received a lot comments some so which were hurtful and disturbing and such comments that she is not beautiful and all. I asked myself why they are saying she is not beautiful. What is beauty and who can define beauty?
“She is not beautiful according to whose standards? Is it according to Western standards or African standards, because to be honest, there is nothing that girl is lacking, all she needs is to be polished, well-groomed and she is ready to take on the world.
“I will give you an example Alek Wek from South Sudan, a lot of people consider her not to be beautiful, but a lot of international designers are paying handsome money to have her on their billboards and other promotional campaigns.
“So at the end of the day, we have Westerners appreciating ethnic features and yet us as Africans, we can’t completely accept it, but we instead, condone it and turn around and say she is not beautiful.
“I will give another example of how people from outside Africa and how they culturally appropriate the stuff that we have here, and us as Africans are not embracing things we have.
“Another celebrity, Kylie Jenner has enhancements and surgery to make herself look different before that people used to consider her ugly, but the moment she got her hip, lip enhancements and boob job, people started considering her beautiful.
“And these Westerners are tapping into cultures or into the looks that we have here in Africa and make themselves look that way, but here in African we can’t appreciate that beauty, when are we as individuals open our eyes to what we have here, is it only when it’s taken and put on television that we are going to acknowledge it and say we are beautiful.”
She however, urged Zimbabweans to support each other if pageantry is to go far.
“For me, I found it to be very disturbing considering that we can’t appreciate what we have up until it is taken by other people.
“It’s something that affected me, it’s high time we stop judging each other based on Western or Eastern standards, but accept who we are, what we have.
“It’s all about knowing what you have and working with it because at the end of the day no one is ugly.
“So all am saying as individuals we need to know what we have, appreciate it not look to other people to appreciate it first before we can hold it and see what we have on our hands.”
Malaika explained why models disappear from the radar soon after being crowned.
“I can’t not answer for every single model but for me and my instinct, I got crowded when I was 17 and I was pretty young.
“And usually at that age as girls you will be trying to figure out where you are going in life and it’s that process of getting out of High School or possibly into University.
“And I just felt after I was crowned Miss Zimbabwe I had fulfilled my duties, I needed a break to discover myself away from the spotlight.
“So during that process that’s when I discovered the passion that I had at a young age which is film and from that I realised modeling was never a dream but I just stumbled upon it and Mercy Mushaninga discovered me and set a certain direction showing me another side of myself I didn’t know I had.
“So during that break, I went to New York and I saw how the modeling industry was and it really needed a tough skin. At that time I didn’t know about the modeling industry so I came back to Zim, and it was just a process of rediscovering myself and getting into a programme that would help me.
“In short, I needed a break away from the spot light into the woman that I am today without judgments along those lines.”
“The art industry in Zimbabwe hasn’t really established a strong foundation, it’s starting to do that now where we are seeing musicians going international, a turn in the pageantry industry and in films.
“For the longest time Zimbabwe hasn’t really focused on the arts industry and you could really making a living out of the arts, I feel that’s the reason why a lot of models appear, make a big bang and all of sudden disappear.
“Zimbabwe hasn’t set that foundation as opposed to South Africa where you can make a living out of modeling, I have a lot of friends who do that and I model on a part time basis because I go to school but even that little time I can make enough money to sustain me on a good life style.
“It’s not always a case about models but it’s that the industry hasn’t established a platform for them to make a living out of that.”
Asked if modeling and pageantry fades with time Malaika said:
“There are different types of modeling, there is pageantry which has age limit, high fashion which has age limit unless you can make it big and become one of the stars like Naomi, Iman, Kate Moss, among others unless you become that big, there is age limit.
“With modeling a lot of doors open be it beauty, fashion, film so it does have different time span, because it’s a matter of looks, you can make money based on what you look like and modeling is not only about age it’s about trends.
“If you look at the modeling categories or seasons you will find out that in 2015, it was all about skin, coloured looking girls with striking eyes, it was trending but right now it’s about embracing your ethnicity, pushing for black people, but if you look at years before you would find the whole blonde, very pretty girls.
“So modeling is about age and trends, it comes and goes…”
Despite her exploits, Malaika does not have tangible, material things from her modeling career.
“I don’t really have anything tangible I guess because all the assets that I have depreciate like a car and for me it becomes a liability at the end of the day.
“But something that I have, which is important is the fact that through the modeling industry I have managed to pursue education and something that I love and passionate about so it’s through modeling that I am doing part time here in SA.
“I can afford a lifestyle and school at the same time so it’s a combination of humbling myself for now for a bigger and great picture.
“And besides that through modeling I have discovered my horizon or perspective towards life, people and ethnicities. I have gained more knowledge and I feel is important than tangible things, and God willing I will get more assets.”
Malaika said modelling has elevated her to be what she is today.
“Modeling has made me discover whom I am as a person and made me embrace myself as a woman, my feminist because I grew up in household where I was the only girl and my mom had to travel to greener pastures to fend for us as family. So I grew up with my father and my brothers.
“Through modeling I discovered the girly side of myself that I never saw because all people I looked up to were men. It has given me recognition and it’s something that you can bank on these days and can sell for example Kim Kardashian on Instagram estimate gets US$20 000 for each post she make so if I am to work on my brand which has already started I will gain a status that could allow me to make money.
“It has given me a starting point and a foundation for me to build on.”
As a woman, Malaika said challenges which face ladies in this industry need self-determination.
“I think universally modeling is actually a very hard industry. You go to 10 castings and you only nail one job, so nine times you are told you are not the right person they are looking for and sometimes it can affect mentally. But it’s a matter of trying to develop a thick skin and knowing that you not the one they were looking for at that point in time.”
On the issue of preying men, Malaika said:
“I think it’s not always something that comes with modeling industry but it’s something that comes with whole glitz and the glamour, how people love this lavish lifestyle and models are associated with, fame money etc but it’s a matter of knowing who you are and setting your priorities and you can essentially overcome that.”
Modeling has been used as a platform to help the girl child.
“I think girl child benefits mostly because the pageantry gives you a platform to advocate for things that you are passionate about, to come out to the world and say I am very comfortable in the body that I am and here I am.
“A lot of times people think that modeling industry objectifies the woman in a shameful way but I beg to differ, It’s a platform where an individual comes forward and acknowledges the fact that I am whom I am and comfortable regardless of what size, complexion, religion or race.
“Through Miss Zimbabwe I was able to advocate for water and sanitation project to benefit the girl child in Epworth because the lack of adequate provision of sanitation facilities at schools prohibits girls from going to school.
“If it was not for the modeling industry or Miss Zimbabwe pageant I couldn’t never had dug the boreholes, toilets we built the toilets in Epworth, so modeling is essentially the right way and beneficial to the girl child.”
However, Malaika urged girls in the industry to be content with what they are.
“It’s a matter of knowing who are you and what your objectives are because the modeling industry is very focal, it changes in trends with time as they come in and go, so get into it knowing that it’s a second life span and get the most you can get out of it.”
The modeling industry has made an impact in Zimbabwe.
“I think it has because the fact that we have people trying to invest into the industry shows there is potential and they see something in it.
“It’s a matter of Zimbabweans rallying behind each other and not shunning each other down because for the longest of time women have been taught to compete against each other rather than embracing and uplifting each other.
“It’s that moment Zimbabwe has to shift its perspectives towards what the pageant is and what it can do to the girl child, nation.
“If Zimbabwe is to bid to host Miss Zimbabwe it will boost GDP hence creating jobs in Zimbabwe.”
On whether there is a retirement age, Malaika said:
“I think it depends with individuals. A lot of models only get married or retire, for example international ones they start considering having children at the age of 35.
“At the age of 40 Naomi Campbell never got married and never really retired so it just depends on how big your career span is, but usually for pageants at the age of 26 you can’t compete unless you go to such targeted groups. So for pageantry I think the age is 26, for international models.
“As long you and you keep your facial features youthful you can go up to the age of 34 I guess, but 34 is a good age for ladies in the modeling industry to throw in their towels. If you are single, you can get to 40s.