Sea Point resident Jeanni Mulder, who is among the top 10 finalists of the 2021 Miss South Africa pageant, hopes to use the platform to raise awareness about bullying and mental health.
Ms Mulder, 24, who was bullied as a child, says bullying is commonplace on social media and among her fellow models.
“I was teased because of my lips, kids used to say I have lips like a fish, and I’m quite pale so that would be a point of ridicule as well and it happened so often that I just used to wear long pants to cover my legs,” said the former Humansdorp resident.
“Bullying leaves a scar that no one can see and it starts at a young age, and we all deal with it in different ways. Girls used to exclude me from their social circles and while I’m not little anymore you still have these insecurities from time to time.”
Ms Mulder has been a model for nearly six years and while she is used to criticism, she doesn’t condone the trolling that happens on social media.
“In the modelling industry you get criticised, judged and rejected which is not always a bad thing as you are forced to develop a thick skin. It makes you stronger, but mental health issues are real and I have anxiety. I had to learn that I’m not the only one going through this and by speaking up I learnt that people can help you and it can turn out to be something beautiful instead of being sad and alone,” she says.
“People are so comfortable with judging you from behind a screen and they say the most horrible things. I don’t understand why people say such horrible things to people they don’t know, the bad comments can really drain you and cyber bullying is major problem; I’ve seen how it harms people.”
The full-time model does not have formal qualifications but believes that education is critical to unlocking the potential of future leaders.
“I know that there are many kids that don’t have the opportunity to study after school and I think they don’t allow themselves to dream because they feel stuck.
“I mean I was in that position too and you don’t have to be bound to your circumstances, you can still make a future. I know people get stuck because of their circumstances and in that way we lose potential.
“I mean you could be the person to cure cancer but because of your circumstances you don’t believe in yourself. I feel it’s unfair and that more should be done when it comes to education, I’d love to work with the government in improving this sector,” said Ms Mulder who is doing a TEFL course to teach English to foreign language speakers.
Ms Mulder was hesitant to enter Miss SA because she was intimidated by the beauty queens who all had degrees or were studying for one. She was eventually inspired by models Chantelle Pretorius and Jordan Van der Vyver who made the Top 15 last year.
“I’m a small town girl so in 2017 when Demi(-Leigh Nel-Peters) won Miss Universe I thought maybe I could enter it.
“I have friends that made it to the top 10 as well but I thought I can’t do this, I’ll be up against these ladies with degrees. I thought I don’t stand a chance, I was really not confident but then I saw how my friends grew in this competition.”
Miss South Africa will be crowned at the Grand Arena at GrandWest on Saturday October 16.