The 12 Miss South Africa finalists for 2017.
Ntandoyenkosi Kunene’s reign as Miss South Africa comes to an end tonight. While she wasn’t successful internationally, she was well respected by her peers. Miss South Africa 2017 will receive R1million in cash from sponsors Sun International and Cell C, as well as a bouquet of prizes that will elevate the competition to one of the richest pageants in the world.

She also gets to represent the nation at Miss World and Universe. Will the judges go for the girl who will do best at the international pageants or one who will just be a clapper? We predict who will make an impact at the pageant, which airs on M-Net and Mzansi Magic at 5pm.

Last year most people pinned their hopes on the wrong girl - but in hindsight, was Ntando the right girl to win Miss South Africa?

Ntando’s victory last year was a well-deserved one. She impressed the judges with her charm and intelligence, and that essentially sealed the deal for her. I still maintain that my favourite last year, Reabetswe Sechoaro, was the most beautiful girl competing and I would have crowned her.

Miss SA 2016 Ntandoyenkosi Kunene. Picture: Supplied

In hindsight, I can say that the judges were looking for a strong, independent woman who could be a good role model for young girls and an eloquent spokesperson for the organisation and their sponsors. I don’t believe that always translates to the international stage, but it’s up to the pageant and its judges to determine what they are looking for.

What do you make of the contestants? Are they a step up from previous years?

With R1m up for grabs this year, it was inevitable that we would get a strong line-up. I was a bit surprised by some of the girls who made it to the Top 12, but as usual it is a mix of girls who made it based on beauty and those who impressed the judges with their strong interview skills. In the end, we got a well-rounded Top 12.

I am not going out on a limb and calling them the strongest group we have ever had, but we certainly do have a few stunners in the mix this year.

There are more model-esque girls in the competition this year - does that mean Miss South Africa is going for a girl who can be both - a role model and a fashion model?

I actually love the fact that it seems like they are putting an emphasis on beauty this year. The majority of the South African public does not follow the competition as actively as in the past. That is why it is more important than ever that when people see photos of Miss South Africa, they need to understand why she won.

Rolene Strauss’ victory at Miss World proved that we can still find a Miss South Africa who is absolutely gorgeous, well-spoken, sincere and accomplished. When the judges get it right and choose the most beautiful girl, the public will support whoever that girl is.

Do you think each year Miss South Africa looks for contestants who fit the mould of either Miss World or Miss Universe?

The finalists from whom Miss South Africa 2017 will be chosen.

I have often wondered whether the organisers keep the international competitions in mind as much as they should. It is most frustrating for us fans of the pageant when we can see who the most beautiful girls are and not one of them end up winning the crown.

As someone who has followed pageants for more than 25 years, I am also aware that most organisations want a title holder who is easy to work with.

That is why the general public is often left unhappy with the results and we end up with a Miss SA who fades away into obscurity as her year progresses.

Women like Melinda Bam and Rolene kept the public interested, not only because they were gorgeous, but also because they were favourites to win the international pageants they competed in. That’s what the public wants and I wish the organisers would never forget that.

So judging from this group of girls - is Miss SA going for a contender at Miss Universe or Miss World?

When I look at this year’s line-up, I do see that two or three girls have the potential to place in the Top 15 at Miss World and Miss Universe.

That was not your question, though, so solely based on seeing a crown contender, there’s only one girl who I believe has what it takes to win an international crown.

If you were a judge, who would you choose as the winner and why?

If I were a judge, I would crown Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters as Miss South Africa 2017. She is absolutely gorgeous and comes across as a humble and sincere young woman who will not only captivate the South African public with her beauty, but also do us proud on an international stage.

She also has enough charisma to win local and international fans and judges over with her personality. I feel that she could join the list of one of the most iconic Miss SAs we have ever had.

* Andre Sleigh is a Taipei- based South African pageant expert who runs the pageant analysis website

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