Liesl Laurie, the reigning Miss South Africa 2015, will be handing over her crown on March 19, 2016, however she will then be adorning another crown, that of Miss World Africa.
Her responsibilities for 2016 include travel around Africa representing Miss World. Instead of PE, Durban and Cape Town she will be travelling to Uganda, Mali and Chad.
Below Laurie takes us on a trip down memory lane, recounting her best and worst moments during what she calls her glorious, glamorous year.
IN THE BEGINNING:
For those first heady weeks, I was on autopilot, winging my way through it all. It was jam-packed with interviews; there were television appearances and radio interviews and visiting charities. Everyone wanted a piece of me, and all the while I had to be groomed, smile and be charming. It all went by in a blur. I can barely remember anything I said or did. Then, six weeks in, I came back down to earth. My body said: Enough. You need to slow down. And so I went home to Eldorado Park to my mum and my family and spent a week in bed.
After that I made a decision. Everything was happening so fast, but I needed to start taking it in, to enjoy the moment. I made a promise to myself, to not just get through to the next event, but to relish every minute of this magical time.
After the first two months I began to notice a change in myself. Change is always uncomfortable, but I resolved to start enjoying the growth and the experience I was getting.
We spent Christmas Eve, which was my birthday, treating ourselves at a spa. It’s always wonderful to spend time with my family.
On Christmas Day, at the family lunch, I was asked to say a prayer. I also gave thanks for the year that we’d all had. My mother said she didn’t recognise her daughter any more, but in a good way. She said I was so much stronger, and self-assured. My gran had me in tears when she said that at 25 I was the most successful person in the room. It was a very emotional moment.
BEST EVENT OF HER REIGN:
I will never forget my homecoming parade after I won the Miss South Africa title. Two weeks after the crowning, I was driven from Sun City to Eldorado Park and was amazed by what I saw. There was a red carpet, and the area was cordoned off, and there was a guard of honour and a parade. My entire community had come out to see me, to wish me well. Eldos was shut down for the day. It was amazing… people were screaming and shouting and falling over themselves to see me. People were telling me how proud of me they were. It was quite overwhelming. One man came to the window of the car and said thank you for doing it for us, all of us. Your victory is our victory. He said that in future, when people say Eldorado Park, people will know it and say Miss South Africa lived there. That I had, in some way, helped my community was more important to me than all the flowers and the parade.
WORST MOMENT OF 2015
I’ve been blessed in that I’ve had a disaster free year. But you must remember that horrible moment when, as a finalist being asked a question on the Miss South Africa stage, I froze. I could not answer the question I was asked – worse, I literally could not move. I think the universe said, that’s enough for one girl, and so the rest of my reign has been trouble free.
MY BEST CHARITY EVENTS
I think one of the most special things I did in my Miss South Africa year was to visit Reach for a Dream. It was amazing to spend a day with children aged from four to 12, all with a terminal illness. The resilience of the Reach for a Dream children reminded me to be grateful for what I have. It puts life into perspective. What does it matter that you have to get up at 4am to get ready for a photo shoot when those sick children have spent the night being poked and prodded. It was very humbling.
Then of course there is my charity, The Pearl Project, which aims to motivate young girls through educational workshops. I visited many schools, taking to the girls. In August where I was giving a talk at Riverlea High school in Randburg, the boys insisted on sitting in on my talk. It was a little daunting – my motivational talk is aimed at girls so I was not prepared for this. It was then that I realised that you can plan a picnic but the rain might come. I learnt how to think on my feet. At the end, a boy walked up to me and said “I’m going to be just like you. You made me realise that dreams can come true.” It was a very special moment. If my success can inspire one life, that is an achievement.
I’ve been very lucky in that I was born and bred in Jo’burg so my family are a 40 minute ride away from my Miss South Africa allocated apartment. I see them every weekend that I’m free. They come to me and we take a mattress from the spare room and put it in the lounge where we play board games and binge watch TV series. It’s a wonderful way to relax – with the people I love. They have been so supportive of me. I could not have asked for more.
I have always loved very high heels. I couldn’t wait for Sundays in Eldos. I could put on my best dress, and my stilettos to go to church and wear them all day and not have people ask why is she wearing those shoes in the dusty streets of Eldorado Park. During the year of my reign, I have always had to look my best, to be groomed at all times. Mostly, it’s been wonderful; but there are days when I’ve been exhausted. Still, it was a pleasure to take selfies with members of the public who recognised me, to shake dozens of hands in shopping centres…
WHAT I’VE ACHIEVED:
I am very proud that I managed to pull off the rediscovery of myself. Before the crowning there were hard times with my family and I forgot who Liesl was. During the year of my reign, I remembered that I liked country music; that I enjoyed laughing with my family. I used to be self doubting and unconfident. I’ve realised that I’m a bit off beat, and that that is my charm, the thing that makes me, me. I’ve learnt to embrace it. If I take one thing away from this, it will be that I’ve learnt to love myself.
At the very start, I said I wanted to be the Miss South Africa for all South Africans. And I think I’ve achieved that. People have come up to me and told me that I am so myself, so natural, so humble and down to earth… I said I want to be accessible and to have goals that are attainable to that ordinary people can identify with me. I have fulfilled my promise made at the start of all this.
WHERE TO NEXT:
On December 19 at the Miss World pageant in China, I was crowned Miss World Africa. So my job for 2016 is to travel around Africa representing Miss World. Instead of PE, Durban and Cape Town I’ll be travelling to Uganda, Mali and Chad. I am looking forward to the next challenge, the next growth point for me. I have had a wonderful year as Miss South Africa. I hope that my reign as Miss World Africa will be as good as my year as Miss South Africa was.