Matsepo Sithole (21), an LLB student from the University of Pretoria, is one of the semi-finalists for Miss South Africa 2020. Regarding her journey to entering pageantry, Sithole says she had never been signed to an agency. She posted her pictures for fun and never missed an opportunity to squeeze in for a selfie. “When I was born, my father said I am Miss SA,” says Matsepo. She was not aware of this until years later when she started taking interest in modelling and watching the Miss SA pageant. She mentions that the pivotal point was in 2019 when she had an urge to enter the Miss SA pageant in 2020. “It was a feeling I couldn’t ignore and so I went for it,” she says. Sithole has held titles such as 2nd Princess at her high school pageant (Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School) in 2016, and in 2019 she was crowned Miss TuksVillage.
Apart from pageants, she is passionate about transformation within the creative industry. PDBY spoke to Sithole about her Miss SA journey and her passions for transformation and the arts.
In your introduction video for Miss South Africa 2020, you mentioned that you are an advocate for redefining the word ‘diversity’ and that the word diversity has had the connotation of race attached to it for years, and you believe that it should be expanded. What inspired this thought?
Albert Einstein wrote ‘Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid’. This quote is the epitome of the current reality of many South Africans. A lot of people have passions within the creative industry that they are not pursuing, and even those that are pursuing these passions, these individuals face a lot of adversity. I want the creative industry to be valued, celebrated, and protected. I dream of a South Africa where each career path is celebrated as much as the other because the truth is that we all do not have the same talents, and not everyone wants to be a doctor, lawyer or accountant. How amazing would it be to have each individual playing to their strengths and living their life purpose? Participating in Miss SA is part of my plans to expand on the word ‘diversity’. Moreover, working with the relevant structures/organisations that have the same core values as I do, is definitely [in] the pipelines.
Are there any other issues or causes that you champion?
Issues of Gender-Based Violence and the empowerment of the youth are very close to my heart.
What inspired you to be a catalyst for change within the arts?
My inspiration is twofold. Firstly, the creative industry is not something that I randomly thought about, it is something that I grew up with from the time I was four years old – meaning, I ‘live and breathe’ the creative industry. My stepfather is a musician and I have always had an interest in the arts; his struggles have enabled me to see the creative industry for what it really is and not the façade it puts up. Secondly, my main objective is to afford individuals the opportunity to play to their strengths – strengths within the creative industry. I feel like all the other mainstream careers already have enough spokespersons – but who speaks for the creative industry? The arts are often looked down upon and wrongly perceived to be a waste of time and not sustainable. I believe that people should follow their passions because when you do what you love, you will never have to work a day in your life. COVID-19 has highlighted how much the creative industry is undervalued and unprotected. I want to expose and address the exploitation within the industry. Furthermore, I would love to see people realising and cultivating their talents, making a living out of their talents and, most importantly, their talents being celebrated, protected and valued.
The arts are growing each day and it is becoming a societal pillar on its own. How important do you think it is to find yourself through the arts?
It is important to find yourself within this industry as an artist in order for you to have your own unique identity. This would definitely contribute to diversifying the industry and also adding to South Africa’s rich culture. Moreover, I believe individuals within the creative industry need to find their voice and use it. The creative industry is not only a universal language but is a way of speaking for those who don’t have a voice in our society.
What made you choose the year 2020 to enter Miss South Africa out of all the years?
I felt that I was ready. Moreover, in 2019 I had a feeling that I could not ignore and I had to go for it.
Why did you choose the platform of being Miss South Africa 2020 in order to be a catalyst for change within the arts, among all other platforms you could have chosen?
Miss South Africa is a selfless platform that affords young women the opportunity to make a change in this country. I chose this platform because it is in line with my core values and since the organisation has rebranded based on the following pillars: beauty, empowerment, duty and championship – all women are welcome. The inclusive nature of this platform is the best thing that a pageant organisation can offer to young women.
Who is your role model and why?
My high school music teacher Mr van Rooijen. He taught me that it’s always better to make a glorious mistake, which basically means that we should be present within our failures and be confident in ourselves enough to celebrate them. We shouldn’t fear failure because failure is not detrimental but rather a learning curve. This is something I’ve carried with me ever since. Another role model of mine is Thuli Madonsela for her ability to stand for what is right.
What are the biggest challenges that you have faced in your life? And how did you grow from them? Finding myself. Finding what my purpose on this earth is. For a large portion of my life, I wasn’t sure – I was confused. I didn’t know what Matsepo liked and what Matsepo didn’t like – I didn’t know what my driving force was. But as I grew older, I found my purpose and I am still in the process of moulding and shaping it.
How do you balance your academics at the University of Pretoria with your pageant responsibilities? It involves a lot of planning, late nights and sacrifices. But also, having a great support system has really been important to me.
Is there any advice that you would like to give to ladies who aspire to enter Miss South Africa?
Always believe in yourself. Do not listen to naysayers and be prepared to congratulate yourself before anybody does because you will be doing a lot of work in the background, and so you alone need to validate yourself first.
What would you like to say to the public before the Miss South Africa pageant day?
Life has been moulding and shaping me into the woman I am meant to be and that I am now. This is the best version of Matsepo right now. In addition, I am only 21 years old and so this goes without saying – I have a lot to learn. I ask for the public’s support throughout my entire journey.
Please take us through the voting process.
If you are using a credit card, you may vote on the Miss SA website where you will vote for number eight. If you’re using cash, then you can go to Checkers, Checkers hyper or USave where you can cast your vote at their money market centre and ask to vote for number eight.
You can follow Matsepo on social media platforms
Facebook: Matsepo Tseppy Sithole, Instagram: @tseppy_sithole, Twitter: @SitholeMatsepo
Image by Mashudu Madzhiga