Miss South Africa 2023 Top 12 finalist Levern José has withdrawn from the competition following bullying allegations levelled against her.
Last week, José was accused of being a bully in high school by at least two people. However, she said that she was only protecting herself from other bullies.
“As a survivor of bullying, I learned how to protect myself from bullying during my school years.
“If my actions in protecting myself caused harm to anyone, I offer my sincere apologies.
“The pain of being a target has left an indelible mark on my heart, and I would never intentionally cause hurt or contribute to someone else's suffering,” she said in a statement.
She also added that due to her kindness and empathy, she is committing herself to advocate against bullying.
“All forms of abuse and bullying are unacceptable and have no place in our society. Please know that I am determined to work against bullying and bring about wider awareness about this issue.
“I am unwavering in my stance on upholding what is right and just. I am human; the pressure has been immense and has taken its toll on me. Together, let us strive for fairness and compassion in all our interactions with others.”
The Miss South Africa organisation, with the help of the South African Depression And Anxiety Group (SADAG) has provided counselling to her, and the CEO of the pageant, Stephanie Weil, said they have accepted her decision to withdraw from the competition.
“The Miss South Africa Organisation does not condone bullying of any kind. We accept Levern’s decision to pull out of the competition and respect her for owning her truth and taking this time to focus on her healing”.
The organisation has not yet announced who will be filling in her position.