First time, first crown
Miss Blantyre 2017 is Taonga Tabi Gondwe, who assumed office during the grand finale held at Sunbird Mount Soche on October 13.
It was not an easy road for Gondwe as she had to shrug off competition from 14 other contestants.
Gondwe nearly shed tears when she was being asked to take the seat by Miss Blantyre Chairperson, Daniel Ngwira, who was the master of ceremonies, before being crowned Miss Blantyre 2017 by outgoing queen Hannah Mhone.
Before announcing the winner, Gondwe, first princess Grace Banda and second princess Tryness Sikoti were among those who made it to the top five.
And, before the top five were announced, Hilda Billiati was crowned Miss Personality, with Sikoti grabbing the Queen of Digital and later Second Princess.
For Gondwe, who is a TV personality working with Laura Television, it was the first time for her to participate in a beauty pageant and she managed to grab the crown.
It was also the case with her princesses, who were participating in the pageant for the first time.
“I live by faith and, so, being crowned Miss Blantyre 2017 is not strange. I saw it coming. Actually, there was no secret to my winning but all I can say is that I worked very hard to do better,” Gondwe said.
The newly crowned queen said it was high time parents encouraged their children to participate in beauty pageants.
“People have been saying that beauty pageants are for ladies who have loose morals but this is not true. For me, I have seen what outgoing queen Hannah Mhone has done; she has been involved in a lot of things and acted as a role model to girls out there,” she said.
The 23-year-old said, as Miss Blantyre 2017, she was in the office to work and that she is ready to work hand in hand with Blantyre City Council in promoting the city but also working with fellow youths.
“All I can say is that I will continue from where Hannah Mhone left. I will work with fellow youths in different projects. I am ready to visit schools and be a role model to girls and encourage them to work hard in their studies for them to have a better future,” Gondwe said.
“I work for a TV station and I am planning to start a programme in which I will be tackling various issues affecting the youth and girls and looking at solutions.”
She also said that she will work hand in hand with her princesses to do more.
Apart from showing confidence and smiling all the way in the various categories, Gondwe also scored points during question time.
However, other contestants lacked confidence and did not believe in themselves and, for some, their dressing also was not up to scratch.
It seems that those who were grooming the contestants did not do enough in pushing the girls to shine in front of the audience.
The First Princess, Grace Banda, said she was disappointed that she did not make it as Miss Blantyre 2017.
“I will take what is in the plate now but I wanted the Miss Blantyre crown. The way I went about the business, I was sure I would grab the crown. I am disappointed. I am not saying the one who is Miss Blantyre did not deserve it but I feel I did enough,” said the 19-year-ld.
Banda enjoyed support from the audience that included her mother, who cheered her all the way.
“In most cases, when you participate in pageants, parents tend to stop you but my mother was here to give me support and, to her, I say thank you for giving me a chance to show what I am made of,” Banda said.
Banda’s mother said that her daughter deserved the Miss Blantyre crown, adding that she worked very hard.
“My daughter worked very hard. Actually, she didn’t tell me that she was participating in the pageant. I only learnt it later and I felt I should give her support. It’s my appeal to parents out there that we should support our children in such events because they, among other things, build confidence,” she said.
Sikoti said she did not know she would make it as the second princess.
“Let me be frank with you; I didn’t know that I would make it as the second princess. For me, I only banked my hopes on the Queen of Digital because I really worked hard on this and got more likes on Facebook and other platforms,” she said.
The 22-year-old said she would make sure that she works hand in hand with Miss Blantyre 2017 and the first princess in different projects.
The contestants had to be judged in different categories that included evening wear, office wear, professional and traditional as well as talent where each contestant showcased their skills.
It was a long contest that started on October 13 but dragged on until the following day (October 14).
The delay in itself was not good for the audience and the organisers have to do better on this.
The guest of honour — Mayor Wild Ndipo— showed his commitment to the pageant when he stayed on with his deputy until the end of the event around 2am.
There have been times when guests of honour have come to such events and failed to watch all proceedings.
“As Blantyre City Council, we are committed to working with the youth and the Miss Blantyre is one such platform. We use these platforms to engage the youth and get to hear their ideas,” Ndipo said.
Ndipo had everyone smiling in the Njamba room, which was well-decorated, after he announced that he would give K100, 000 to Miss Blantyre 2017 with her first and second princesses pocketing K75,000 and K50,000, respectively.
He called on people to stop attaching beauty pageants to negativity, saying the platform has helped shape a lot of ladies in Blantyre.
And just to show that beauty pageants have really helped in giving ladies a platform, there was a category of hot mums which featured some of the former queens.
The former queens who paraded in the hot mums’ category are Tina Kendricks, who won the now forgotten Miss Malawi News Model of the Year.
The former Miss Malawi Model of the Year showed her beauty in her catwalk but also confidence.
Kendricks is the director of Alpha Agency which recently hosted the Fashion4Change event at HS Winehouse in Blantyre. It attracted an impressive audience.
The platform was aimed at using fashion in fighting deforestation and preserving natural resources.
There was also a parade from another former Malawi News Model winner Gladys Kumbatira.
Former Miss Malawi Samantha Clozier, who was one of the judges, also paraded; just like Bernice Adele – a former Miss Blantyre second princess who is a fashionista.
Ngwira said, since they started, they have seen progress.
“We are not yet there but we, as Miss Blantyre, have grown. We have managed to win the support of people and the corporate world but we want to do more. As we indicated, the focus this year was on unlocking girls’ potential.
“More women are willing to contest for Miss Blantyre because we are now an attractive brand. The outgoing queen, Hannah Mhone, has done well and now she is a customer service officer with FMB Bank,” he said.
The director said next year will be different.
“For instance, this year we introduced the Queen of Digital because this is all about attaching ourselves to technology. We do not want to be left behind. The timing of the event— the month of October – was deliberate. We want Blantyre to be a clean city, a place that attracts visitors and also celebrate the girl child and mothers,” Ngwira said.
Miss Blantyre has done well in giving girls a platform but it has a long way to go to give out the best.
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