BEAUTY, BRAINS AND BEREAVEMENT
Following a turbulent build-up overshadowed by confusion, criticism and contradiction, Miss Botswana 2018 went ahead on Friday night.
In a drastically scaled-down version of the national pageant, in which only three women took part, 24-year-old Moitshepi Elias was crowned the fairest in the land – or at least the fairest of the three – with Neelo Ntobatsang her first princess (the same position she achieved last year) and Modioki Gaborone second princess.
For the newly crowned Queen it was a bittersweet moment, her tears of ecstasy mixed with terrible grief as the pageant took place on the same day her brother was buried.
In this moving interview with Voice reporter SHARON MATHALA, the vivacious Maun native – a Finance graduate who proves she has the brains to match her obvious beauty – opens up on her heartache and dissects her Miss Botswana journey to date.
Q. Massive congratulations on your win. Sadly I understand condolences are also in order as you lost your brother through the week. Indeed, he was buried the same day of the pageant – it must have been extremely difficult to focus on the pageant?
A. You knew about that? My brother and I were very close and on the day he passed he had called me and asked to see me.
I however could not see him on that day because I was held up with preparations for Miss Botswana.
I was crushed when I heard the news and it was extremely difficult that I could not be there for his funeral but I know he knows I would have loved to be there for him.
I know he was with me as I competed.
I knew he would have wanted me to go ahead with the competition even on his burial day.
Q. After finishing in the Top 12 last year you were ultimately crowned Miss Botswana 2018. What do you think you did differently?
A. I was more than anything else able to focus on the competition.
I was able to control my thoughts and throughout the journey to the final day I told myself I needed to do better.
I really tried to divert all my attention to the competition and not let anything else cloud my thoughts.
Q. Why did you decide to participate again when so many others pulled out?
A. I knew I wanted to participate from the moment it was announced that this year only the Top 12 would compete.
I knew I wanted to participate from the word go, I mean during meetings when others gave their reasons for not participating I understood some of their points but I knew this was an opportunity I could not let go.
Q. In the end only three, including yourself, took part. Did you not find that a bit strange?
A. I was shocked when only two of us were eventually left!
It was an interesting twist to the pageant but I knew then that if I pulled out it would be even more controversial so I went ahead.
It was truly something different and when the other girl eventually joined I knew I had to work even harder.
But to me having only three people compete meant that the other girls for their own personal reasons did not want to participate – it didn’t have anything to do with the pageant itself; well that’s what I thought anyway!
Q. When it emerged that only three ladies would compete, it’s fair to say the public were less than impressed. How did the criticism affect you?
A. For the most part I felt that Batswana did not really understand the criteria and how we ended up with only three ladies.
The few who actually had a conversation with me ended up understanding the whole situation afterwards.
I mean even my own mother called me and asked me what was going on after she heard the news that it would only be the two of us.
So yes I did see the comments, both the negative and positive comments, but I just think people needed to read and understand before they could actually downplay the pageant.
Q. Can you paint a picture of Friday morning, the day of the pageant?
A. Oh my gosh, it was really stressful! We had to do interviews that morning. From there we had to do final rehearsals, dress fittings; having so many people trying to put a show together was not an easy thing.
I remember there was a point my bags were missing and I was stressed out because I did not have my dress!
There is really so much going on behind the scenes but I kept a positive mind.
I told myself that I had to get through this and I did.
Q. When your name was called out as the winner, what was the first thing that came into your mind?
A. The first thing I thought of was my mother.
You see my mother was a pageant girl herself so she had always been pushing me to join pageantry.
I don’t really remember what happened afterwards but I remember I was full of emotion; I started crying – it really was a humbling moment!
Q. I would imagine one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the pageant is when you answer the judges’ questions? Were you confident with your answer?
A. You know that was the only point during my journey where I feared I may have ruined my chances.
When the judges asked the question my mind froze and I fumbled.
I had done my research, I had practiced but when the time came I panicked!
I remember going backstage and thinking to myself that I had failed.
One of the ladies who was taking care of us backstage came to me and tried to motivate me not to give in because I think she could see I was disappointed in myself and how I answered the question.
When we were called out for the final parade, I gave out the biggest smile.
I am sure the crowd was wondering what had happened, but sometimes when you fumble it is how you get up that matters!
Q. What does winning the Miss Botswana crown mean to you?
A. It means that I now have the opportunity to sell Botswana to the outside world.
It will also prove how strong my character is because as you know winning the crown comes with a lot of pressure – I’ll have to see how I will be able to handle the pressure.
Q. What would you say to critics who believe the pageant’s integrity and prestige has greatly diminished over the years?
A. I will not lie to you and say all is well or that there have not been challenges.
We all know there is one controversy after the other every year, but looking at the support and following the pageant still has, I believe Batswana still rally behind Miss Botswana.
There is, however, room for growth and improvement.
If I can tell you I have received thousands of messages from well-wishers since Friday, it goes to show that people still support the Miss Botswana brand.
Q. Have you decided what project you will focus on?
A. It will be around the beauty industry because that is where my passion lies.
You know although I am a Finance graduate my passion really is with the beauty industry.
I do not have all the details yet but we will be looking into improving the beauty industry.
Q. So tell us, when you are not at work, what keeps you busy?
A. I’m such a bum, I am usually at home.
If I am not home I am volunteering with pageantries.
I have been involved in Miss RADP Maun, Mma Bojanala and other pageants – I help them with their choreography and judging.
Q. Is our Queen taken?
A. Yes (laughs). I am in a relationship, a very serious one for that matter!
Q. Are you a pet person?
A. Yes, very much so. I own a dog called Surge.
We join dog competitions and everything!
I go with him everywhere.
Q. Do you have any hidden skeletons you fear may come back to haunt you during your reign?
A. No, not that I know of anyway.
I have never had a public scandal, unless it’s something I am not aware of!
Q. TGIF, what will you be up to this weekend?
A. Mostly meeting with stakeholders.
My diary is entirely dependent on Miss Botswana crown now, so I am not sure – but I will definitely be reading The Voice Newspaper!