Behind the crown: Lalela Mswane, a model citizen with big dreams
Reigning Miss Supranational Lalela Mswane is no ordinary girl. Poise, eloquence and level headed are words that come to mind to describe her, an observation I was privy to when the beauty queen (with brains) sat down for this month’s PREVIDAR cover shoot.
The stunner commanded the room. Not so much in her words as she was not as talkative during the shoot, as one would expect except for those odd moments, but her presence was enough to let you know she had arrived. That she was there.
But when you looked closely, it was in those observant moments that she assessed the room to find her comfort that led her to open up more. Something she also admits she doesn’t do easily due to how private she is.
“I am generally someone who observes my environment so that I assume the correct personality for it.” Tactful, another word that best suits Miss Mswane.
But it is within those calculated moments while growing up, a trait she cultivated over time, that Lalela sharpened her discipline that led her to walk away with the Miss South Africa 2021 title, as well as being crowned the first black Miss Supernational queen the following year. Shall we add focus to the list of words?
“I never do anything without the aim of winning or being the best,” she said laughing. “But that has cultivated this fear of failing and not knowing how to deal with failure. But over time, coupled with a lot of crying, I have slowly learnt how to deal with that phobia, especially when things don’t go your way. Failure has been a great teacher to me,” she said.
As a young girl, Lalela has had to be her own best friend. Choosing herself.
“I’ve always been really good on my own. I didn’t really need to be around a lot of people to be happy, and I think I am still that way. Any little space that I found while growing up, I’d be dancing or doing some form of physical activity. My mother used to tell me how when I was in her tummy, she’d be so afraid because of how active I was and she’d seek medical attention. But of course there was nothing,” she said.
The last born of three siblings was born in KwaZulu Natal’s Richards Bay before relocating to Pretoria. Growing up, Lalela shares that she was always interested in the performing arts but it was in the eighth grade that modeling found her.
“We were approached by an agent one Sunday afternoon who explained how the modeling world works and while it was never an immediate dream of mine, I thought ‘why not’.”
Between changing stylish outfits and posing like a real queen for the camera, the private Lalela lets us in a little more.
Her modeling journey started off with commercial and runway modeling, and that all led to her winning two coveted crowns.
“This win has opened up a range of new dreams for me. How I entered I want to serve my country and the world as much as I can, while I also achieve aspirational goals that are centered on entrepreneurship, which I think I took after my dad and my maternal grandfather.”
With her father passing on at age 12, she grew a really close relationship with her mother and made her the family orientated lady that she is now. She also dreams of being a mother of two, preferably a boy and a girl, she shares.
But even when being armed with focus, diligence and immense confidence in one’s abilities, being thrusted into the spotlight brought about a lot of surprises. A rude awakening, if you may.
“I’ve always known that we are all different but overall how negative people are and how toxic social media can get. I think I underestimated that and was probably a little naive. I could never have the balls to just go type something harmful to someone else. But I’ve had to accept that not everyone is nice,” she says.
“But I hope my journey and story teaches the next person that you never need validation from external forces or anyone really. You need to know who you are so that you don’t find yourself in this constant quest of seeking approval. I had to go through a process of self-discovery and really knowing myself, so that if anyone says anything about me, I am able to stand on my truth. And that is what I want for the next young lady.
But for now, the journey of inspiring through fashion and deeds continues.
“Winning Miss Supranational, I remember that moment so vividly, when they shouted out ‘South Africa’. That moment was so important to me because it meant the 13 year cycle of not having a black queen had been broken, but also I felt that I had a lot of pressure because it wasn’t for me or South Africa, it is for every black girl to feel seen, represented and heard,” she said.
About her style, she is very particular about it.
“I literally plan my outfits the night before because I believe in looking and feeling good. I am in a very beautiful place in my life right now and I can’t wait to uncover all that is awaiting me,” she said.