‘Pageants are not only for women’

Mpumezo Mgandela (23) from Qaqawuli, New Brighton in Gqeberha who is a model. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

Most people assume that pageants are just for women and that men who participate in them are frequently judged. Mpumezo Mgandela, 23, of Qaqawuli, New Brighton in Gqeberha says that his grandmother and people of his township thought he was gay as they exclusively associated pageants with women.

Mgandela says he had to present videos as proof that guys, too, compete in pageants. This young man has never been discouraged from competing in pageants, despite the misconceptions he encounters. In the most recent Face of Devotion Eastern Cape modelling competition held in Gqeberha, he was crowned First Prince (second place), which was a reward for his diligence and perseverance.

“Last year, I began competing in pageants. When I first entered, I was Mr and Miss Cultural Eastern Cape’s First Prince for 2022. I enjoy modelling for a variety of reasons, including the opportunity to express my personality and my pride in my appearance and identity. I make friends, learn from other contestants, and make good memories,” Mgandela explained.

Mgandela says one of the reasons he became a model was to set a good example for his peers. As a result, he founded the “Man’s Talk” group, where members discuss and give one another ideas on how to make their communities better. The group also assists young men in abstaining from crime and drug use.

Mpumezo Mgandela (23) from Qaqawuli, New Brighton in Gqeberha who is a model. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

They meet in New Brighton on Saturdays, he says. “We do more than just converse; we also perform drama, dance, and music. We also offer assistance to those looking to launch a business.

“In the area where I live, there is a high rate of crime and drug use that affects young people; as a result, there is a “Man’s Talk” where we warn them about the risks of crime and drug use. We also collaborate with social workers when someone requires professional help. For example, when someone wants to go to a rehabilitation facility,” Mgandela added.

He says that growing up with a father who was a good role model for him helped him become the person he is now. “My father Bathembise Bhuqwana is the main reason I am who I am today. He made sure his family had everything they needed, and he taught me a lesson I’ll never forget: He said a girl or woman should not be beaten because if you do, you are not a man. “A man protects and does not destroy; he builds and does not destroy; he is a man by his actions,” he emphasised.

Mpumezo Mgandela (23) from Qaqawuli, New Brighton in Gqeberha who is a model. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

Male pageants are not as well-known as female pageants, according to Mgandela. He wants male pageants to be more visible so that more people may engage with them.

He advises boys and men who want to compete in pageants but are terrified of public scrutiny, “First and foremost, people will never stop talking. You will never get far if you do things because of people. It’s time to do you, be you for you, and let them judge you.

“Hold your head high and do your thing. Everyone can model; just keep in mind that effort always pays off and never give up. Even if people judge you, keep going. Just keep moving forward and God will open doors for you.”

Mgandela works for Social Development as a child and youth care worker. To be able to study zoology the following year, he is currently upgrading his Physical Science and Life Science marks. Additionally, he hopes to win Mr SA and then Mr Universe in the upcoming years.

Apart from his current win, he has won Mr Photogenic runner up 2022 and Mr Cultural Eastern Cape First Prince 2022 in just one year as a model. He will represent Gqeberha at the Face of Devotion nationals on December 9, 2023.