On the night of May 27, 2012, William Masvinu, a porter at Harare’s popular Mbare Musika, participated in the second edition of Mr Ugly Harare pageant that was held at City Sports Bar in Harare.
By Jairos Saunyama
Masvinu shrugged off stiff competition from 12 other contestants and was crowned the champion.
Visibly drunk that night, and receiving a $100 note as prize money, the newly-crowned Zimbabwe’s most “aesthetically challenged” man did not know that he had turned into a celebrity overnight.
The following days, stories of his bravery were awash in both local and international media, with his pictures circulating on social media platforms especially on Facebook.
He became a hero, role model and even his wife declared in public that she would rally behind her husband in the following competitions.
He automatically became a public figure, grabbed few opportunities as a brand ambassador while at the same time putting the pageant in the limelight.
In an interview on that night, Masvinu jokingly told this paper that being ugly was a “gift from God”. Mr Ugly, a pageant that became popular with many, has died a natural death.
Despite gaining momentum in 2012 when Masvinu won the title, it is quite clear that both the organisers and sponsors have given up on the popular event.
The pageant was missing on the calendar the whole of last year, a sign that showed the contest had fizzled out.
However, the organiser David Machowa popularly known as Apama yesterday told NewsDay that the pageant will be back this year.
“Mr Ugly is not dead. I am currently running around to get it going and something will be done in August. The pageant could not take place last year because I was away and no one took over, but I am back and in August I believe it will happen. Preparations are already underway,” said Apama.
Apama, who fronts a popular dance group, however, admitted that funding for the pageant is indeed a problem.
“Funding is a problem, but this year we have funders and the pageant will continue,” he said.
Arts critic Chamunorwa Mashoko said the once popular pageant died a natural death and will only be revived if sound funding is secured. However, Mashoko said the pageant died because it lacks “developmental cause” apart from lack of funding.
“The pageant died a natural death due to funding challenges and its cause is not developmental. The pageant must be something that has developmental outcomes, it can only be revived to save developmental purpose, and in this day you cannot just do an event that does not develop society. It should not be just an event.
“For example if Miss World was not aligned to charity it was going to be meaningless, and because of that it has been in existence since inception. I think at some point the pageant should be aligned to raise awareness of gender equality not just an event,” said Mashoko.
Having turned into a celebrity, Masvinu remained unchallenged until now for the organisers’ account are now “infertile”.
The last edition was done in October 2013, after a series of postponements as organisers failed to secure money for the popular contest. The pageant, though it took off was saved by Life Investments who provided prize moneys for the winners. Masvinu from Epworth retained the title, but that was the end of it.
Meanwhile, the reigning Mr Ugly has been on record blasting the contest for failing to change his life despite being a celebrity.
Mr Ugly was founded by Apama in 2011. The first winner was Brian Mateyazondo who won $50 as prize money before losing the contest to Masvinu.
If, the pageant has indeed sunk into oblivion, then the local art industry has been dealt a major blow for Mr Ugly has benefited public appreciation and support. Today, Masvinu stands tall as the life holder of the crown, which has been affected by economic crisis thereby depriving off other ugly contestants from competing for the crown.
If this is the case, then the pageant is cursed given its mileage during the time of its inception.