MISS Zimbabwe Bongani Dhlakama has told of her Miss World hell after arriving in China ill-prepared for the planet’s biggest beauty pageant.
The 23-year-old had a forgettable experience and admits she deserved nothing at the August 18 finals of the pageant held in Ordos after getting no support from sponsors and the government.
She said: “The competition was intense and there was no way that I could have done well.
“I’m not giving an excuse for my failure, but people have to know that what we do in the name of preparation for such a stage is nothing close to what is required.
“I had just two months to prepare in which there was no significant grooming that was done.”
After waiting for months to receive the US$10,000 winning prize from the Miss Zimbabwe Trust, when the money finally arrived Dhlakama found herself paying her way around – from travel to accommodation costs.
She told the Standard: “I had to buy my own dress for the final because a designer engaged by the Miss Zimbabwe Trust told me just two days before I left for China that she had not been paid and had not made the dress.
“I bought the dress for about US$1,500 in South Africa and I spent US$500 on portraits of the Victoria Falls and the flame lily national flower that I had to take to the final for my national identity.
“After landing at Beijing Airport, I had five suitcases and no-one was there to welcome me and show me where I was to put up for the night. I struggled to communicate because I can’t speak Chinese.
“I then realised that the country coordinators had not arranged for my accommodation and was forced to use my own money.
“Upon arrival in Ordos, the Miss World organisers were so demanding each day I was forced to buy something – the make-up kits, the country flag among other things, and all this time I was digging deeper into my own pocket.
“On my return, I had to pay over US$800 for luggage and I think my total expenditure could exceed US$5,000 which is half the prize money I got for being crowned Miss Zimbabwe.”
Added to the financial stress, Dlakama said she felt very low in camp as she realised the higher level of preparedness of other models compared to her.
She told the Bulawayo Chronicle: “The Trust did not give me a camera or professional help to put together a video for the Beauty with a Purpose project which carried 50 percent of the marks.
“My footage, I believe, was the worst because it comprised of a voice over and a few pictures for my cervical cancer project.”
After returning to Zimbabwe on Tuesday last week, she discovered her challenges were not over.
“For the trip home to Bulawayo, the Trust could not afford a mere bus ticket and that should say a lot,” said Dlakama.
Best effort ... Bongani Dhlakama representing Zimbabwe at Miss World finals in China
Kiki Divaris, patron of Miss Zimbabwe Trust, said: “There is a lot that has been happening, everyone knows that. We were lucky to manage the holding of the pageant in the first place and she was lucky she travelled, that she failed to impress in China should not be an issue.”
Despite the setbacks, Dhlakama says it was not all gloom in China.
“I had a wonderful time meeting 115 girls from different countries staying together, touring China and above all the food was really great.
“I made contacts with most girls and my roommate from South Sudan was a great person.”
The Miss Zimbabwe pageant was twice postponed over funding problems after the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority ended its association with the contest.
Dhlakama’s three immediate predecessors enjoyed financial backing from the ZTA and the support told in November last year when Malaika Mushandu’s Beauty with a Purpose video of her crusade to provide clean drinking water to areas worst affected by cholera earned her a top 15 finish in the finals held in London.
China’s Yu Wenxia was crowned the 2012 Miss World, succeeding Ivian Sarcos of Venezuela. Miss Wales Sophie Moulds was runner up while third place went to Miss Australia, Jessica Kahawaty.