The Top 30 Miss South Africa contestants vying to make the cut for the grand finale include one woman who has been in the spotlight particularly because of her history-making feat and what her presence in the competition means for other people like her.
Her name is Lehlogonolo Machaba. And the 24-year-old wrote her name in the history books when she became the first openly transgender contestant in Miss South Africa. Though transgender women have been allowed to enter the prestigious national beauty pageant since 2019, the competition’s organizers confirmed to TimesLIVE that Machaba is the first openly transgender woman to make the Top 30 cut. It is also not compulsory for women who wish to enter the competition to indicate if they’re transgender.
Speaking about her reason behind entering the pageant after the Top 30 contestants were announced on July 6, Machaba said she wants to inspire other women like her and also let them know there’s still hope.
“Everything I do as a dark-skinned, transgender woman is a statement. My mere existence in society is threatening and there’s a lot of closet transgender women who are afraid to come out in fear of receiving hate and even worse, being killed,” she said.
“By doing this I am helping all those women to know that there’s still hope and the world is changing for good, slowly but surely.”
The show’s organizers also told the news outlet Machaba and the other contestants made the Top 30 list because they “were authentic and true to themselves.”
A native of South Africa’s North West province, Machaba said she’ll campaign for LGBTQIA+ rights if she ultimately wins the crown. “Having recently lost a very close friend from a tragic incident that is believed to be a homophobic attack, it makes me fight even harder to get the Hate Crimes Bill passed,” she said.
Machaba also told News24 she’ll love to meet transgender actress and activist Laverne Cox if she wins the ultimate prize. “I see myself in her and love what she stands for as a transgender woman, and I’m highly inspired by her ongoing advocacy for women and transgender people,” she said.
“She was the first transgender woman to win an Emmy and the first on the cover of Time magazine and continues to break the mold and be an inspiration to all women out there.”
Machaba works as a model booker at Invade Models and is also the founder of the DeMollies fashion brand. She has a diploma in fashion design technology from the Tshwane University of Technology.