Eldorado Park has much to be proud of: the Joburg suburb is the home of 24-year-old Liesl Laurie, who is the newest wearer of the sought-after Miss South Africa crown. Believe in yourself, she tells other young girls. Fulfilling your dreams will make life worth it, she adds.
Liesl Laurie is Miss South Africa 2015. (Image: Kevin Mark Pass, Miss SA Facebook)
Liesl Laurie will remember 29 March forever: it was the night she was handed the Miss South Africa crown.
“I am ready for the responsibility that has been placed on my shoulders,” she said in her acceptance speech. “Taking on the title of Miss South Africa, I look forward to exploring our beautiful country, to seeing its beautiful landscape, but most importantly to connecting with its people. I am proud to stand here as an ambassador of South Africa and my fellow South Africans.”
After Laurie, 24, completed her studies, she took a gap year to concentrate on her modelling career. She also spent time doing community work with a non-profit organisation called Babies Behind Bars. It cares for infants born to mothers in prison. “That experience taught me a lot about myself as a person, and also about not being too worried about what you don’t have but being grateful for what you do have,” she said in her Miss South Africa profile video.
The new Miss South Africa advised women and girls to be themselves at all times. “Don’t ever lose the little girl you are or once were as you grow up,” she said. “Dreaming makes life beautiful and one day fulfilling your dreams will make life worth it. Finally, never forget to thank God for your blessings. Believe in yourself.”
As for inspiration, she named her grandmother as the most influential person in her life and her favourite person in the world. “She has inspired me to be the best possible version of myself by teaching me to believe in myself, to remain humble and to pray.” Her mother, through overcoming her drug addiction, inspired her in a different way.
The swimwear category is always controversial, but is still one of the most popular features of any pageant. This year was no different:
Liesl Laurie wears a cocktail dress by Thula Sindi. “I was inspired by the timeless nature and the changing role of the Miss South Africa pageant so naturally I gravitated to another classic ‘the little black dress,'” said the designer. (Image: Miss SA Facebook)
Three Miss Worlds under one roof
Laurie has big shoes to fill – last year’s Miss South Africa, Rolene Strauss, went on to win the Miss World crown and has become one of the country’s greatest ambassadors. “South Africa, this is for you,” Strauss said in an interview after her win on the global stage in London. “I’m so proud of you and I’m proud to be your representative.”
Watch Strauss being crowned:
Only two other South Africans have worn the Miss World crown: Anneline Kriel in 1974 and Penny Coelen-Rey in 1958. They were all at the 2015 pageant, alongside 12 other former Miss South Africas, who mentored each of this year’s finalists. The national weekly newspaper, the Sunday Times called it the biggest gathering of title holders ever.
“I’m looking forward to being on the other side [and] just watching the girls do their thing,” Strauss said ahead of last weekend’s pageant.
Kriel spoke about the differences between 1974 and 2015. “I think the girls are much more worldy due to social media,” she said in a video interview. “They are educated. It is more than just a beauty pageant today.”
Support and challenges
“We at Sun International are delighted with the crowning of Liesl whom, I am sure, will walk the path with pride and passion,” said Sun International’s public relations executive, Sue Klerck. “She represents the whole of South Africa and will make a meaningful contribution to the lives of many as this country celebrates 21 years of democracy.”
Suzette van der Merwe, a former Miss South Africa and a commercial communications executive at Cell C, added: “We would like to congratulate Liesl, and believe she will leave an indelible mark during her reign. The Cell C Believe manifesto says ‘Believe that if you can dream it, you can achieve it’, which is embodied in the new Miss South Africa and we feel she will make the country proud in whatever she achieves.”
Miss South Africa 2015 Liesl Laurie is flanked by first princess Refilwe Mthimunye and second princess Ntsiki Mkhize. (Image: Miss SA Facebook)
The pageant’s audience voiced support for second princess Ntsiki Mkhize. They believed she was a stronger contender, particularly following the question and answer segment.
— IG: WezaThatGuy (@wezathatguy) March 29, 2015
I still say Mrs SA could’ve been Ntsiki
— nk. (@_hopolangk) March 30, 2015
— Shout Out to Me (@WisemanSedibe) March 30, 2015
First princess is Refilwe Mthimunye.