Miss SA top 12 finalist accused of being high school bully

Levern José is accused of being a high school bully. Picture: Supplied.

Levern José is accused of being a high school bully. Picture: Supplied.

Published Jun 13, 2023

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It’s almost becoming a norm for Miss South Africa contestants to have scandals, but no one is perfect, right?

Last weekend, one of the Miss SA 2023 top 12 finalists, Levern José, was caught in the crossfire when her former schoolmates accused her of being a bully in high school.

The 23-year-old from Kimberley in the Northern Cape had more than one person accusing her of bullying.

“I was shocked to learn you made it to the top 12 in the Miss South competition, one of the girls you used to bully at school spoke out on what you and your gang of mean girls did to her on her WhatsApp status, you are truly a horrible person I'm not gonna (going to) lie,” said @AnelisaJu.

Twitter user @nsalemane also came forward with the bullying allegations against José.

She said: “Not going to lie, but when I saw that girl make it to Miss SA’s top 30, I was asking myself how cause she was a BULLY BULLY. I wanted to comment on my experience, but I held myself back (and thought maybe she's changed let me just mind my own) and low and behold, the Twitter streets did an exposé.”

The bullying allegations sparked a debate on Twitter, with some suggesting the people who came forward were jealous because José is now on her journey of possibly becoming the next Miss South Africa. And that it is the victim’s responsibility to heal and move on.

“Bathi (they say) it doesn’t take away the pain from the victim. The victim naye must take it upon themselves to heal. The scars are there, okay, but heal mntase you can’t still be holding on to the anger ya 2008. You’re bringing it back now because your bully from grade 7 might win Miss SA?” said @___Kokie.

Others suggested bullies should be allowed to redeem themselves because when people grow, sometimes they change for the better.

“Admittedly, I look back at my behaviour in high school, and I can honestly and unashamedly say I was a 'mean girl', I was not a good person. Over the years, I'm 100% sure I've grown to be a better person, I'm in no way the person I was back then. Are we saying people don't grow & change?” commented @DlaminiNamelani.

Another user @Zane_Mahlangu said: “Please don’t fight me, but I genuinely want to understand. So if someone did something in their past or made bad decisions and they see the wrong in their actions and have grown up and changed, we still judge them according to those bad decisions from High school? Pls (please) don't fight.”

Most argue that while the bully repents and gets on with their lives, the victims remain with lifetime scars which may affect their everyday lives.

Mbali Mbatha, opened up about how her daughter, a victim of bullying, almost ended her life.

“My daughter was hospitalised at 12 years old due to being suicidal as a result of bullying. It's 4 years later and she STILL struggles with confidence, trusting people &making friends. Anime kancane (wait a minute) about people changing because that’s about the bully. Our concern is the victim/S.”

Bullying remains a sensitive topic that should be handled with caution. Mbatha was lucky her child survived. But the parents of Adriana Chiya, 17, and Lufuno Muvhanga, 15, who committed suicide because of being bullied by their schoolmates, live to tell a different tale. So, where do we draw the line and understand how horrible bullying is?

Also, South Africans have selective outrage because, in 2020, Bianca Schoombee, a Miss SA hopeful, was dragged to the gutter for the racist comments she made when she was 14. Yet the same people who dragged her are now defending José, it’s giving double standards.

Miss South Africa CEO Stephanie Well said she had no comment when IOL Lifestyle reached out, which is disappointing because former Miss SA Shudufhadzo Musida (2020) opened up about what bullying did to her and her self esteem. Hence she is using her influence to fight for children who are victims of bullying.

José has also not addressed the allegations against her.

She is still in the competition and could be your next Miss SA.