THE floor of her hotel suite is strewn with pink and gold balloons and in the lounge a large blowup sign proclaims “Congrats”.
It’s the morning after the life-changing event but even though she’s only had about three hours’ sleep, new Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane looks fresh as a daisy and every inch the beauty queen.
To her friends and loved ones it wasn’t much of a surprise that she won and yet Lalela tells us she was stunned when her name was called out.
“The world stood still for a few seconds and I couldn’t even move. I was paralysed with such joy and disbelief,” she says.
The crown that was placed on her head cemented her status as one of the loveliest women in the land – but growing up in Pretoria, Lalela (24) didn’t think of herself as anything special.
Shy and self-conscious, she often caught the attention of bullies who could spot an easy target when they saw one. “I stood out like a sore thumb,” she tells YOU. “I was a lanky, skinny girl who nobody considered beautiful.”
She only felt comfortable in her own skin when she danced on stage. Lalela started ballet lessons when she was nine years old, which helped boost her confidence – but even so, it was only when she was in her final year at university that she was able to look in the mirror and like what she saw.
That epiphany would eventually inspire her to enter the Miss South Africa pageant. “I wanted to prove to myself and other girls like me that anything is possible, but it came from a dark, sad place of being bullied and not having self-esteem,” Lalela says.
But even though she’s won the contest, the implications of her win haven’t sunk in yet: that for the next year she’ll be treated like royalty.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Staying awake late into the night because it’s the only way you can have some me-time? You’re not alone
MAMMA MIA! - ITALY'S GREAT PROPERTY GIVEAWAY
Surely it must be too good to be true: thousands of old Italian houses up for sale at less than R20 each. So what’s the catch?
A DOCTOR WITH DREAMS
Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong has grand ambitions for the treatment of Covid, cancer and more in South Africa
LOVE, HEARTBREAK THEN 65 YEARS LATER MR & MRS
Dirk and Estelle were starstruck teenagers – then life got in the way. Now they’ve found each other again and they’re smitten
PARIS, THE PRINCESS BRIDE
The hotel heiress finally found her Prince Charming and their wedding was every bit as extravagant as you’d imagine
NEW LIFE, NEW HOPE
He thought he’d never feel joy again after the devastating loss of two children in the space of two years, but Mike Vosloo has found happiness with wife Danieta and their baby son
The Real Deal
Sometimes it takes a close call to make you realise what you have is real
The write stuff
Bestselling author Liane Moriarty talks to us about her writing habits and her new book
THERE WAS BLOOD ALL OVER
A fun family day turned to horror when a pit bull attacked three siblings, severely injuring the youngest. Their parents speak of their ordeal
YES, I KILLED HIM: SURETHA'S LETTER FROM PRISON
The Pofadder killer has openly admitted to murdering her husband but says it came after years of abuse
Deneys Reitz: soldier, lawyer, politician, ambassador, and author
Deneys Reitz is known to generations of South Africans for Commando, his thrilling first-hand account of action during the Anglo-Boer War. But his achievements went far beyond his books, explains Graham Jooste.
‘A tour de force': Damon Galgut's apartheid-era saga wins Booker prize
Damon Galgut has won the Booker prize for his portrait of a white South African family navigating the end of apartheid.
Eugène Marais: a life of tragedy and triumph
A pioneering naturalist, a remarkable poet and author, and a torchbearer of Afrikaans, Eugène Marais nonetheless lived a life wreathed in sadness.
The Man Who Found Peace In A Busy Restaurant In The Heart Of Africa
Philip Opperman lives and works in a picture postcard. On the banks of a tranquil lake east of Rwanda, this South African farmer runs a popular restaurant bar and sells fresh fish. He came looking for peace but found so much more.
Ask the experts
Keen to turn your bathroom into a sanctuary on a budget? Just ask – we’ll find the answers.
Starting An Essential Oils Enterprise From Scratch
After attending a farmers’ day in 2018, Oniccah and Naledi Nkoe decided to start farming herbal plants to produce essential oils. They have since expanded plantings and launched their own essential oils business. They spoke to Salome Modiselle and Sandile Mahlangu, researchers at the Agricultural Research Council.
The pride of PRETORIA
THIS MONUMENTAL HOME MAKES AN EFFORTLESS STATEMENT
The curious case of the US elections
I AM FOND OF ROASTED RACK OF LAMB — CHRIS MORRIS
UP & CLOSE PERSONAL
The Cloete family have turned adventure into a lifestyle. Two years ago Pieter, Rut and their children, Declan and Charma, left their home in Pretoria to embrace a more nomadic lifestyle. Why work from home when you can work from anywhere in the country?