OUTGOING Miss Universities Zimbabwe, Valerie Gugulethu Chingonzo – a beauty with brains – has developed a new outlook on life following her two-year reign as the beauty queen for tertiary institutions in the country.
BY CALVIN MAHACHI
She said the title, which has been the biggest in her modelling career to date, has been her greatest achievement after having developed the love for modelling in infancy, at the age of five.
“I have contested in many pageants like Miss Bulawayo 2011, where I was first princess, but my greatest achievement thus far, is scooping the Miss Universities Zimbabwe title in 2013,” Chigonzo said reflectively.
“It changed my life. I became a representative for beauty with brains. This meant a lot to me, as I have always been focused on my schoolwork even while I was modelling.”
She said during her two-year reign, she managed to set up a company together with a friend, Cheryl Muvundura, called Kuzvida Image Consultancy.
“This started as a club at Women’s University in Africa and it grew to become a start-up company focusing on grooming and etiquette skills for both men and women. It also looks at the inner self. That is, we believe we need to take a psychological approach when dealing with a person, that is issues to do with self-esteem and so forth,” Chigonzo said.
Under the trade name, Valbeaut Boutique, she has started selling beauty products and hiring out pageant gowns, shoes, hair and make-up kits from her home and car-boot, since she is yet to secure a shop space.
During her reign as Miss Universities Zimbabwe, she also worked with Breakthrough Academy in Hatcliffe, where in December 2014, she was their “Santa Claus”.
“I donated clothes, shoes, stationery, books, food, money and I managed to spend time with the students and encouraged them to persevere despite the fact that they learn in an open area with informal structures,” the striking beauty said.
Chingonzo said during a visit to her sister in the US, she did not just regard the trip as a leisure jaunt but managed to meet up with Miss Massachusetts, Polikseni Manxhari, at Harvard University, with whom she struck a friendship.
Chingonzo said she represented the Miss Universities brand everywhere she went, staying on the straight and narrow.
“I am completing my degree programme in Women and Gender Studies in December and I am looking to fully establishing Kuzvida and empowering other women,” she said.
“I still aspire to represent my country at international levels in terms of modelling. Thus, I look forward to competing in the Miss Zimbabwe pageant next year and I’m confident of taking the crown and making a mark at the Miss World pageant.”
She admitted that models were “very much vulnerable to abuse” and it was for that reason that she decided to go into the business of image consultancy, through which she would empower other models.
“Some pageant organisers take advantage of the position they are in and tend to abuse models. This is a big hindrance that we face as models in pursuing our careers,” she said.
“This will always happen, but the solution is having a strong support system. Parents and families should support their young girls because this greatly reduces abuse cases.”
She said families also needed to support their daughters, who intend to get into modelling financially, so they would not lean heavily on organisers, who promise models the crown if they give in to their sexual advances.
“For the most part, they have no part in the judging criteria and even if they do, there is no guarantee that you will win. It’s better to lose with dignity,” she said.