Not many gave this Harare girl a chance to wrestle for global accolades when she graced the winners’ podium to lift the 2011 Miss Zimbabwe title.
Despite assertions by critics who described her as “that other model” who was not really a cut above the rest at Zimbabwe’s crème de la crème beauty contest, Malaika Mushandu went all the way and did her nation proud. Yes, on grand stages!
To be voted the 9th most beautiful lady with brains at the Miss World contest last year was a great feat in itself. Simply put, she was number nine out of 122 contestants.
And over the weekend, two weeks before her reign came to an end, Mushandu capped her fine tenure with a historic achievement — Number Two at the Top World Model of the Year competition held in Dortmund, Germany.
Representatives from 45 countries from across the globe battled for the crown and our own catwalk queen came second.
For many Zimbabwean Internet browsers, it felt great to see one of our own in the midst of a bevy of world-class international models, claiming her place among the best of them all.
Mushandu returns on Friday carrying a winner’s medal, albeit silver.
In comparison, in the history of Zimbabwe, Mushandu’s record can only be challenged by Miss Zimbabwe 1994 winner, Angeline Musasiwa, who came 4th at the Miss World contest the following year.
Brita Masalethulini, the vivacious Miss Malaika — whose triumphant crowning in 2001 in South Africa remains the most memorable modelling event of all time for ardent followers of the industry — was another star.
Last year, Vanessa Sibanda took the 2nd princess title at the Top Model of the Year contest, a feat Mushandu has surpassed and added another feather to her cap by making it into the top 10 of the Miss World contest.
And now come Friday night of March 23, when Mushandu hands over her crown to whoever wins, the 2011 winner is certain to leave with her head high, having fulfilled her ambassadorial mandate.
She came, she conquered and departs having represented her country with distinction.
Deemed a dark horse by critics when she entered the fray, dark-skinned Malaika Mushandu has possibly proved that punters’ choices of an underrated contestant may be the best after all.