Melissa, congratulations on being crowned Mrs Kwa-Zulu Natal 2019. It is not your first walk down pageant lane, winning Mrs photogenic in the Mrs South Africa 2015 pageant. How did you get into beauty competitions?

Being a creative person, I have always enjoyed ‘the art’ of dressing up. To be honest I never thought modelling would be something I could pursue. I am short and had a lack of confidence when I was younger, which stopped me from pursuing modelling. In 2013, a very dear friend who has had years of experience in the modelling and pageantry industry told me that there are no height restrictions in pageantry. She encouraged me to enter a beauty pageant as I had nothing to lose and everything to gain from the experience.

You are also the mom of two children and run a brand and image consultancy. That sounds busy. How do you manage to honour all those responsibilities?

It’s a challenge. Honestly, I have my very stressful days and moments when the kids are all sick, and I have deadlines to meet. My image consulting is my passion, they say do what you love, and you will never work another day in your life. For me, my work motivates me and gives me deep satisfaction. My family always takes priority over work. It will continually be a juggling act, and sometimes I have to say ‘no’ to certain things to maintain a peaceful mindset.

What do you believe are the key challenges facing woman in South Africa today?

I feel that there is such an attack on the identity of women today. Women are bombarded daily through media, primarily social media. So many of them are left feeling worthless because they don’t feel beautiful and accepted.  The message that they are receiving is that their value is measured by their physical appearance or by how many followers they have on Instagram.

A woman will always be unsatisfied with herself as long as she keeps comparing herself to what she thinks she should look like. Young women need to feel validated and affirmed to succeed in life. I got my identity from who my Father in heaven says I am. When I hate my physical appearance, I’m in disagreement with God’s Word that says I am a beautiful and precious creation. If women don’t receive the affirmation they need, they will look for it in other places, and sadly conform to the notion that their beauty defines their worth. We naturally compare ourselves, which is something that can be incredibly harmful to our identity.

I have a teenage daughter, and like most teens, her appearance matters to her. What are your top 3 beauty tips for teenagers?

My number one beauty tip is stand in front of the mirror and learn to love every inch of your body. There is no one like you, and there will never be another like you. God created you with intention and purpose. You were born this way for a reason. Ask God the Father to show you how he sees you; it will rock your world as it rocked mine. You have to learn to love the way God created you. For example, I hated my freckles, and now I absolutely love them.

My second beauty tip is don’t try to change your appearance to be beautiful and learn how to accept and enhance your natural beauty. I believe that less is more. Learn about what colours suit you and buy the clothing with the colours that will make you sparkle.

My last beauty tip is don’t plaster on the make-up, use it lightly.

Notwithstanding the importance of looking after your appearance, how do you believe we can help young people to understand their inner value and worth?

Young people need to learn how to be secure in their own identity so that they can confidently fulfil their unique purpose in life. Their light will shine bright when they know who they are. They also need to understand that beauty is not just a pretty face; it’s far more than that. Beauty is an act of kindness or a smile to a stranger. For me, a person becomes more beautiful when they can put others before themselves.

What three things would you say if you could address the youth of South Africa?

If I had the privilege of addressing the entire youth of South Africa, I would say this:

You all know the story of the ugly duckling. He felt rejected and alone because he wasn’t yellow and fluffy like his brothers and sisters. Only when he came of age did he realise his true identity and potential. He wasn’t an ugly duckling but a beautiful majestic swan. How many of you have measured yourselves up against your brothers and sisters and felt inadequate? Stop measuring yourself up against others and what you perceive. Learn to love and accept the way you were created to be. Everyone has their own unique set of gifts and talents. Work on mastering your talents, dream big dreams and believe that you were created for greatness because you have been according to the Word of God. The sky is the limit.

Melissa, a last few quick-fire questions.

A book you recommend everyone should read.

The Supernatural ways of Royalty’ by Kris Vallotton and Bill Johnson.

One of your favourite movies.

My favourite movie is The Good Dinosaur. I am totally unashamed of the fact that I watch kiddies’ movies.

A favourite or significant Scripture.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).