ALTHOUGH he has a sash, the newly-crowned Mr South Africa dons it more for business than pageantry.
It’s been two diary-filled months since 26-year-old Armand du Plessis of Joburg won the title. On his first official visit to Cape Town he welcomed Cape Argus reporters into his high-rise hotel suite to share a coffee and biscuits, and details of the opportunities the pageant affords him.
The Mr South Africa competition runs for a year. After initial selection in March, 100 contestants are tested and eliminated based on their performance in 10 monthly challenges, a 100-day “Men of Honour” social media campaign, and a Finalist Week that’s designed to try the top 12 contenders physically and intellectually. It involves paintball fights, mountain biking and brain-teasers.
A University of Pretoria law graduate who wants to specialise in child law, Du Plessis completed the challenges – like starting a community vegetable garden, founding an anti-drug campaign, and organising a winter blanket drive – while managing his final year of studies.
Du Plessis is firm about the title: “Mr South Africa is not just about good looks. It’s about hard work and commitment.”
That’s why a former Mr South Africa told him to wear the sash 24/7, he said, in order to lift the brand and change the way South Africans see it.
“For me, so much of this was about timing,” he said. “It’s long and difficult. But to be given such a platform is huge. Your heart has to be in it.”
Du Plessis’s candidate charity, and now the official charity of Mr South Africa, is DeskBags, an organisation that gets businesses to buy portable desks for pupils and distribute them to schools in need. Du Plessis also plans to organise monthly dinners in cities to raise money for their respective charities, a legacy event future Mr South Africa winners can continue.
And, for the first time this year, the other top 11 finalists were dubbed “Mr South Africa Ambassadors” for their specific regions. Together they form the Mr South Africa Council, of which Du Plessis is chairman, and to which he will assign various charitable tasks throughout the year.
In addition to the title, he won prizes amounting to more than R500 000. They included bungee jumping, private dance lessons, spa sessions, a professionally designed personal website, and suits and casual wear worth R100 000.
“Mr South Africa has taken me to places I’d never seen before, I’ve met people I might have never met, and done things I’d never done.”
Meanwhile, Miss South Africa will be crowned on March 29 in Gauteng. Three of the 12 Miss SA hopefuls are from the Western Cape: Danelle de Wet of Kuils River, Nicole Lamberts of Stellenbosch, and Taryn Morris of Camps Bay.