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Lehlogonolo Machaba becomes first trans woman to compete in Miss SA

Machaba breaks new ground in beauty competition

Emmanuel Tjiya S Mag Editor-in-chief
Miss SA finalist Lehlogonolo Machaba
Miss SA finalist Lehlogonolo Machaba

Lehlogonolo Machaba has made history by becoming the first transgender woman to enter Miss SA, while 2019 top 5 finalist Kgothatso Dithebe will once again vie for the coveted title.

Dithebe and Machaba have made it to this year’s top 30 semifinalists  who include an attorney, Kgatlhiso Modisane, and two medical doctors, Ferini Dayal and Moratwe Masima.

The list also includes commercial pilot Cheneil Hartzenberg and environmental specialist Jamie Cloete.

Machaba is from Oskraal in the North West and works as a model booker at Invade Models. She is also the founder and owner of the DeMollies fashion brand. The 24-year-old has a diploma in fashion design technology from Tshwane University of Technology.

Her role model is her mother Caroline, who is a gender-based violence survivor and works as a supervisor of service aid at a public hospital.

“Transgender women are almost always ostracised from such opportunities which is why I never thought I’d see anyone like myself on such a platform. I believe that being chosen would raise hope in a lot of little girls like myself,” Machaba said.

“It has always been a dream of mine to represent my community at such a high level. The daily murder of queer and trans-identifying people in our country is devastating.

“Through the Miss SA platform, I'd be able to advocate for the LGBTQIA community and more specifically queer-identifying women. I would use this opportunity to empower every marginalised person and become a beacon of hope for young girls…”

Miss SA finalist Kgothatso Dithebe
Miss SA finalist Kgothatso Dithebe

Dithebe, 26, from Centurion, made it to the top five the year Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss SA. She is studying towards her LLB law degree with the University of SA.

“My biggest disappointment was not winning Miss South Africa in 2019. But seeing a woman deserving of the title and how she pushed boundaries and changed the narrative, made me work harder on myself,” Dithebe said.

“I bounced back by blocking out negativity and worked on myself, my growth, my mental health. I became positive and attracted positivity. I booked campaigns and television commercials. I am even on billboards and in magazines.”

Dithebe is not the only one who is reentering Miss SA. Olin Shae de la Cruz, 27, from Bryanston, is entering for a third time – she made the top 15 last year and top 26 in 2017. Catherine Groenewald, 23, hailing from Constantia, in Cape Town, was placed in the top 30 in 2019.

Gauteng leads the pack this year with 12 contenders, then Western Cape with seven and KZN with four. Eastern Cape is represented by three contestants and Free State by two, while North West and Limpopo each have one entrant.

This year’s top 30 and top 10 judges are former Miss SA title holders Bokang Montjane-Tshabalala (2010) and Liesl Laurie (2015), Melinda Bam (2011) and Tamaryn Green (2018).

The public has until July 21 to select the top 10 by voting on the official Miss SA website.