Basetsana ‘Bassie’ Makgalemele, now Kumalo, was crowned Miss SA in 1994. The event is memorable as it coincided with the first democratic elections. Briefly.co.za looks back at the historic win.
Established in 1956 in Apartheid South Africa, the first official Miss South Africa pageant was only open to white women. That year Norma Vorster was crowned Miss South Africa.
It was not until 1977 that all persons of all races were allowed to compete in the Miss SA competition.
Prior to that, people of colour competed in the Miss Africa South pageant, which was renamed Miss Black South Africa in 1977.
Bassie was the second Black woman to win the official Miss South Africa title after Jacqui Mofokeng paved way for black beauty queens in the country.
Kumalo was born in Soweto and went to Thabiseng Primary School in Orlando West. When Soweto was engulfed by student unrest in 1986 she was sent to school in Lenasia.
During 1990 and 1991, Kumalo was crowned Miss Soweto at the age of 16.
It was while she was a student at the University of Venda that her mother entered her for the Miss South Africa pageant.
Bassie's father always encouraged his children to read. He gave her a book called The Power of Positive Thinking.
From that book, she learnt that being optimistic is the key to making your dreams a reality. She had dreamt of winning Miss South Africa. Not only did that dream come true, she was even crowned First Princess in the Miss World competition.
Bassie recently relived the experience and took to Instagram to share the beautiful moment:
"I forever remain indebted for this chapter of my life. On this day exactly 24 years ago gorgeous @basetsanakumalo competed against 86 other women for the 44th Miss World title at the Sun City Superbowl, South Africa."
"From the moment the pageant started and the contestants started arriving in SA Basetsana impressed with her undeniable beauty and charm. She almost snatched the crown, but ultimately placed as 1st Runner-up to another crowd favourite - beautiful @aishwaryaraibachchan_arb of India, who became her country’s 2nd Miss World. Irene Ferreira of Venezuela placed 3rd."
"This has to be one of my all-time favourite editions of Miss World! I loved everything from the contestant introductions, judges, presenters and the beautiful stage. And don’t get me started on the Top 10 finalists - they were magnificent! It included a diverse group of beauties from Croatia, Zimbabwe, UK, Malaysia, Belgium, Philippines and Greece. Sweet Rahima Orchient Yayah (Miss Malaysia) even ended her speech with ‘Baie dankie!’ (Afrikaans for thank you). Any one of these women would have made a remarkable titleholder."
"What I miss most about the old days is the absolute glamour and spectacle of the final show and this edition had it in spades! It was a global event that attracted the who’s who of the world. It had stature, class and will be remembered by many as one of the finest."
The title, Miss South Africa, created many opportunities for Kumalo. Before she was crowned she was already romantically involved with World Lightweight Boxing champion Dingaan Thobela.
The relationship with Thobela was riddled with allegations of abuse. She later confirmed it in her memoir.
“This is the first time I’m talking about the abuse I suffered at the hands of my first boyfriend Dingaan. I was celebrated publicly but privately I had an abusive boyfriend who physically assaulted me more than once. But I was ashamed of coming out because the society would judge me. It was a very hard time in my life. Sometimes I was living a lie, pretending that my relationship was perfect. But I knew it was far from being perfect,” she said.
Kumalo had a good relationship with the late former president Nelson Mandela, and he even offered her an opportunity to study overseas free of charge.
Kumalo became a presenter of Top Billing, a TV magazine programme on SABC 3. During her time with Top Billing, the ambitious beauty queen developed a relationship with Patience Stevens, the show’s producer. This resulted in the pair forming a company called Tswelopele Productions.
In 1999 Tswelopele Productions merged with Union Alliance Media (UIM) and listed on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE). This made Kumalo one of the youngest black women directors in the country’s entertainment industry.
Shortly afterwards, Bassie became the face of Revlon’s Realistic Hair Care range, serving as spokesperson for five years.
At the peak of her business career, she dated Romeo Kumalo, former SABC broadcaster and Vodacom executive.
The two had met in her time as Miss Soweto and started dating in 1997. Romeo and Basetsana were married in 2000.
Meanwhile Briefly.co.za previously reported that Basetsana Kumalo is celebrating her 47th birthday this month. The gorgeous media mogul took to Instagram on Monday, 1 March to share her excitement at her birthday month finally arriving.
The stunner shared a cute snap of herself on the photo-sharing app along with her post. She captioned her post:
"Birthday month has fully loaded!!!"
The former Miss SA told her 1 million followers that she enjoys growing older and to openly reveal her age. Bassie said:
"Believe it or not, I enjoy growing older with each year. People are often taken aback when I openly say how old I am without flinching. I guess society has decided to frown upon aging, and has prescribed what the ideal standards of beauty is."
The star advised women to embrace their age and to stop comparing themselves.
"The sooner you can embrace your age, the more content you will be. There is something about coming into your own, being comfortable in your own skin, not seeking validation from anyone and being true to you. Now that is beautiful."
Instagram users took to her comment section to share their thoughts on her lengthy post.
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