They came to the Bay Hotel in Camps Bay dressed in their glittering finery. Overlooking the beautiful sunset, they enjoyed copious amounts of fine wine and delectable snacks. The guests were expecting to be treated to a glittering evening as twenty handsome men vied for the crown to represent the country.

The announcement of these finalists had the local media and Twitter all hot and bothered, if for all the wrong reasons. The photographs of the finalists were not of the greatest quality and did not flatter the competitors. In fact, it caused such an outcry that the post announcing the finalists was removed by the organisers.

One could therefore not blame the well-dressed audience to be curious exactly who these men are and what their campaigns were. Unfortunately not much was revealed on the night. When the show did eventually start, the finalists confidently strutted their well-choreographed runway walks. There were no interviews or top ten/top five announcements, it was straight to the winners. Pageant owner and MC for the evening JP Robberts, himself a former Mr South Africa 2nd prince and Mr. Photogenic, introduced two performers who helped lift the evening’s show.

It was interesting to meet and chat with the winners afterwards. I was curious to find out what they did all week and what challenges they had to compete in. I also wanted to know more about the guys and what they wanted to achieve no that all the attention was focused on them. Mr South Africa 2019 is Heinrich Gabler who spoke passionately about his campaign to get second-hand sporting gear for disadvantaged young people. He also told me about how having entered this competition before has given him the edge so as to walk away with the title this year. He is going to represent South Africa in two upcoming international pageants and he should do well.

Speaking to the other winners, it was clear they valued the experience and wanted to make a difference in their community. Based on the recent Mr Gay World which is doing its best to be more than a pageant, Mr South Africa seeks more than models, but role models. Certainly, the winners I spoke with reflected this. While it is easy to criticise events like this, they seem to have taken some criticism to heart and are trying to be more relevant by not crowning just another pretty face with a six-pack. For that at least we need to give them credit and support.

With more experience, a better-produced show and the help of their photographer Rudi du Toit, they have a wonderful opportunity to reinvent the pageant for the 2020 and deliver a spectacle worthy of the price of admission.

You can listen to the interviews during the week of 17 June 2019 every day at 11h30 on The Workday Jive.