The new Miss Tourism Zimbabwe first princess, Natalie Chido Mangondo, attributes her success to, among other things, her experience at the boot camp during the run-up to the pageant’s grand finale. The 22-year-old University of Cape Town graduate, who studied Finance and Economics, came second to lawyer Primrose Jaricha (23) at the colourful event held recently in Bulawayo.
Sneak Peek: Jairos Saunyama
She said she had always dreamt of presenting her country in a positive light, and this saw her trying to change people’s stereotypes about Zimbabweans while living in South Africa at the height of the xenophobic attacks. She said this made it a natural progression for her to become Zimbabwe’s tourism ambassador.
Mangondo (NM), who is also the reigning Miss Tourism Mashonaland East, told NewsDay (ND) Life & Style’s Jairos Saunyama that given the high level of competition, she did not imagine herself in the top three. Here are excerpts from the interview:
ND: Did you imagine yourself being part of the top three at the Miss Tourism Zimbabwe finals?
NM: I am extremely proud of myself. All the other ladies were intelligent and capable and so the competition was stiff. I had no expectations in terms of crowning. I was grateful to have been crowned Miss Tourism Mashonaland East and be given the opportunity to compete.
ND: So what happened? How did you pull it off?
NM: Rather than having a heart of expectation, I had a heart of gratitude for every experience and learning opportunity I had during boot camp. I know I am an excellent ambassador for Zimbabwe, locally and internationally, and the judges were able to see that.
I believe I was crowned first princess because of my speaking abilities and all-round knowledge, which enables me to engage with local and foreign stakeholders about tourism.
ND: Have you ever participated in a beauty pageant?
NM: I have done commercial modelling before, but this is the first pageant I participated in.
ND: What was your modelling journey like during provincial finals?
NM: During the provincials, it was all about learning. I had no experience in pageantry and pushed myself to learn as much as I could. Luckily, I had the support of Mercy Mushaninga and the rest of the team to help me.
Their support continued all the way to the nationals. While it was challenging to be in a new environment, I have always enjoyed the challenge of learning new things, and I thrive under pressure.
ND: You are one of the few models from Mashonaland East province to make it to the top three at the national finals. How do you feel about that?
NM: It is such an honour. I hope to make my province proud and create opportunities for other young women from Mashonaland East.
I also hope to shine a light on the lesser known tourist attractions in Mashonaland East and across the country.
Thus, while I feel extremely excited and honoured, I also realise it comes with great responsibility.
ND: Besides modelling, what other business are you into?
NM: I am passionate about management and strategic consulting. I am also working on a project that empowers women in agriculture.
ND: How do you plan to spend the $7 000 prize money you won?
NM: I do not have plans to spend it, rather plans to invest it, in myself, my projects and my community.
ND: We are seeing more and more academics taking to beauty pageants. What could be the reason?
NM: I believe it is just another step in women’s emancipation where being academic and beautiful are not mutually exclusive.
Also, beauty pageants are moving in a different direction, where you have to be smart to be an ambassador for whatever pageant you enter.
ND: After beauty pageants, the first and second princesses tend to disappear from the radar. What is your say on that?
NM: I cannot speak for all first princesses. However, I have seen some that have continued to do great work. Speaking for myself, I will not disappear as the passions and projects I had upon entering the pageant are still here.
Not only are my original ideas still here, but I have been given more opportunities since my crowning, so rather than seeing less of me, you will see more.
The team at Miss Tourism Zimbabwe is still supportive of me and wants to see me reach my full potential.