“It’s more than a beauty pageant, it’s a women’s empowerment program.”
These were the words used to welcome and encourage the recently announced Mrs. South Africa 2016 Top 100 semi-finalists, as they eagerly embark on a journey that will see one of them crowned as Mrs. South Africa 2017. Married women in a beauty pageant? Sounds a little ridiculous and yet, based on the success of Candice Abrahams, Mrs. SA 2016, now Mrs. World, it’s evident that it’s not. As I sat listening to a nervous, yet equally excited, Christy Haefele, one of the Top 100 semi-finalists, talk about the unbelievably amazing opportunity she has been given, I started to gain a little perspective into what the pageant was really about.
What were your feelings when you first found out that you had been chosen as one of the Top 100 semi-finalists for the Mrs. South Africa 2016 pageant?
It felt incredible. Mrs. South Africa is a once in a lifetime opportunity and as a women’s empowerment program it allows us the opportunity for self-discovery and the platform to affect real change. It was a little daunting, particularly during the Top 100 Conference, but I’m excited to see what my Schwartzkopf Professional Mrs. South Africa Journey will look like.
You’re a mom of 3 boys (5 years old and younger) and you’re always looking really good… How do you get that right?
Gosh, as every mom knows, every woman and every pregnancy is different and your body goes through so many changes. I had to work really hard to lose a lot of weight after my second son and while my eating habits and motivation for the gym has its rollercoaster moments. After achieving my goals it seemed a lot easier to maintain. The boys do certainly keep me busy and that helps, but I’ve realized in the last year or so that my confidence in myself, and its effect on my appearance has only been enhanced by me doing the things I’m passionate about and being around the people I love. It wasn’t always this way and I, now more than ever, am so grateful for this and many more truths that have been revealed to me.
So, what motivated you to enter the pageant?
I’ve known about the Mrs. South Africa pageant for a couple years now, and while I’ve always been fascinated by the ‘pageant’ process, it just never felt like the right time, until this year, when things just seemed to fall into place. There was no doubt that this would be a glamorous and fun experience but more importantly, I felt like I was at a crossroads and was ready to tackle a new challenge; in particular growing my charity and getting enough exposure to keep it sustainable and helping as many people as possible.
Pageants are generally a breeding ground for unhealthy competitive comparison and self-centeredness. As a woman, a wife, and a mother, what are you hoping to communicate through your participation in Mrs. South Africa?
The amazing thing about Mrs. South Africa and its management team is that you are made aware from the start that this a not just a pageant but rather a women’s empowerment program. You are encouraged to check your motives at the door and embrace the journey, which in large part, includes the dynamic bonds and respect that is formed amongst fellow contestants. The message is sent through loud and clear, ‘girls compete and women, empower other women’. I believe that life is precious and the sanctity of human life a non-negotiable. So I choose to align myself with projects that support this. It is my greatest wish to communicate through my participation in Mrs South Africa, that we all have a part to play and can affect and inspire change by simply having courage and being kind.
Despite being a very busy stay at home mom, your life revolves around encouraging and uplifting the lives of those less fortunate and vulnerable, and it is evident with the launch of the NPO Beating Heart, tell us a little about that.
Beating Heart aims to provide support and encouragement to the most vulnerable in our communities… our children, through some practical gifts that meet at least some of the essential needs of new born babies and their brave moms in the form of a Beating Heart care bag. We are currently supplying two Community Day Hospitals, Elsies Rivier and the Kraaifontein Labor and Obstetrics Wards; and have to date, delivered 606 care bags. Our goal is to ensure that every woman who gives birth at one of these facilities receives a care bag. We’ve also recently collaborated with Lara Designs and their Classroom in a Box, to provide what we call the Edubox, a teaching resource tool that helps theme and decorate any classroom with everyday teaching aids. It is available in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu and offers donors the opportunity to support and enable caregivers and/or staff members in underprivileged creches to give children the stimulation they need, to be better prepared for Grade 1. We’re also collecting clothing, books, toys and the likes and distribute them to various safe houses, crisis centers and other NPOs.
For the duration of the pageant, you will be supporting and raising funds for CANSA. What are your feelings around that?
CANSA is the official charity for Mrs. South Africa and its purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa, enabling research, educating the public and providing support to all people affected by cancer. CANSA believes a good support system will enable those affected by Cancer to feel strengthened and motivated to continue to fight the disease. They have been instrumental in providing holistic care & support to ‘survivors’ and their loved ones, from the time of diagnosis, through all phases of need and as someone who has had family affected by this disease it is an honour to align myself with them and bring about increased awareness of their plight.
The journey will obviously not be easy, however, you seem to be somewhat calm and confident about it, what will your main focus be to keep you in the running of Mrs. South Africa?
I have my moments, but after the Top 100 conference I came away KNOWING one thing, an opportunity has presented itself and whether or not I think I can do it, staying where I am is not an option. I can give up and essentially move backward or embrace the challenge and move forward and grow from the experience, for however long that is. I intend to stay focused on the here and now, not worrying about the things I cannot change or that are too far away to do anything about. This year’s motto is ‘Brave to be you’ and that is the greatest challenge in all of this. Yes there are 99 other beautiful dynamic women, yes they all have something unique to offer… but… so do I. I want to enjoy the process and celebrate the small victories. I want to continue to be the best wife, mom and friend I can be, and to use each day to refine my thoughts, opinions and actions so that I am as ready as possible for the judge’s interview late in April. I want to be the best ME!
Finally, support is an essential part of winning at anything in life, and looking at your Facebook wall you don’t lack that from your friends. However, being a Mrs, this journey is not yours alone but your husband’s as well. How does he feel about all this influx of attention?
For as long as I am in the competition, it will require quite a lot of commitment from my side and I will need my family’s support more than ever. My husband has been amazing. His exact words were ‘It’s a no-brainer, you were made for this!’
Follow Christy’s journey.
Facebook: Christy Haefele – Schwartzkopf Professional Mrs SA 2016 Semi Finalist