Miss Zimbabwe leaves for Miss World
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Since being crowned Miss Zimbabwe at a colourful ceremony in April, Bongani has endured weeks of uncertainty as her prizes were only handed over last Wednesday, just a week before departure, leaving her without much time to prepare.
Following a number of false starts, the pageant was finally held in April, four months after the scheduled December date, as the Miss Zimbabwe Trust struggled to find sponsors.
The same dearth of corporate interest in the pageant must have worsened the delay in the hand-over of prizes.
Despite such a gloomy background, Bongani cut a positive figure last week as she promised to do her utmost best at the Miss World finals. In fact, she was oozing optimism throughout the hour-long chat.
"I am delighted that I am going to take part in the Miss World pageant. I promise that despite the stiff competition I am going to face, I will do my best and do my country proud," said Dhlakama.
But winning the global beauty prize takes more than optimism as a number of personal attributes come into play. Some critics even allege that skin colour plays a part as well.
Dhlakama is, however, busy with her preparations for the pageant.
Not only will the Miss World crown be on the table, there will be five other category titles to vie for. These are fitness, talent, beach beauty, top model and beauty with a purpose.
Though her preparation time has been limited, Dhlakama feels she has tried to acquaint herself with the requirements for these categories that she might come close to bringing the prestigious crown home or, at worst, one of the other titles.
"I have been working flat out to prepare myself to finish at the top of each category," explained Dhlakama.
To compete in the fitness category, Dhlakama has been hitting the gym for an hour twice every week since her crowning as Miss Zimbabwe.
In the beach beauty category, the adjudicators have specific attributes that they will be looking for, like who is more appealing in a bikini and the skin tone which must be even.
Bongani said she has since acquired the best beach wear and the donated cosmetics from Mary Kay Cosmetics, part of her prize, will enhance her even skin tone.
Unlike Malaika Mushandu who worked with four designers, Bongani has engaged only one designer, the locally-based Alice Knuth, to tailor garments for her which carry the Zimbabwean flag.
To improve on her catwalk for the top model category, Bongani worked with a modelling coach from Edgars Stores. She is going to perform a Ndebele traditional dance called "isitshikitsha" to be able to qualify for the talent category.
In the "beauty with a purpose" category, the adjudicators will look into the charity work done by the contestants and how relevant they are in their respective communities and the world at large.
Bongani began a cervical cancer campaign when she was crowned Miss Bulawayo and she hopes to take the awareness campaign to a higher level.
"A lot of Zimbabwean women are succumbing to cervical cancer and most of them visit health institutions when their cancers are already at an advanced stage. With the cervical cancer awareness campaign, I am hoping to reach out to a lot of women and help them understand that cervical cancer is treatable and encourage them to go for regular screening for the disease," she said.
"So far I have managed to convince 10 women from remote rural areas to go for cervical cancer screening and luckily none of them has cervical cancer."
For extra points, Bongani has been taking lessons in eating with chopsticks. She is deriving inspiration from her predecessor, Mushandu, who emerged among the top 20 models in last year's finals.
This year's 62nd edition of the Miss World will be held at the Dongsheng Fitness Centre Stadium in Ordos, Mongolia.
The first Miss World beauty pageant was created by Eric Morley in 1951 as part of his promotion of the Festival of Britain, which took place on the south bank of the River Thames.
Bongani will join over 100 contestants who will battle it out for the 2012 Miss World title. They will be staying at the stunning Crowne Plaza Hotel.
The national winners are expected to arrive in Ordos on Wednesday for a packed diary of activities prior to the Miss World 2012 final on August 18.
Meanwhile, the long-awaited prize-giving ceremony for the winners was held last week at Kiki Divaris' residence where a small group of people attended.
The reigning queen walked away with a full wardrobe courtesy of Edgars, US$10 000 courtesy of Miss Zimbabwe Trust and the Ministry of Tourism, and a gift hamper from Athienitis Spar.
The first princess, Petina Nhamburo, received US$5 000 cash prize whilst the second princess Ruvimbo Katiyo got herself US$3 000.
Miss Personality, Plaxedes Gororo walked away US$2 000 richer.
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