Pretoria - Miss Regal International South Africa 2017 finalist Tintswalo Mnisi said she was bullied for most of her schooling days because of the dark tone of her skin.
But thereafter she told herself that in life she needed to get over that and learn from it.
She joined Miss Regal International South Africa 2017, a People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) endorsed beauty pageant.
The winner will be crowned on September 26. And she hopes to beat the 11 others to the title, she said.
The 20-year-old model from Orchards said she had been studying fashion design, but had to drop out because of financial problems.
She also wanted to relieve her parents from the financial burden of educating her.
“I dropped out because my parents also had to pay fees for my older brother, who is in Cape Town pursuing an acting qualification, and for my younger brother who is in high school.
“My parents have always been supportive of our dreams; they have never let us down. But I had to drop out to relieve them and they understood,” she said.
Being bullied at school was part of her past. “I was bullied because of being too dark, and that left me with low self-esteem. I never believed in myself. The children at school made me feel like an outcast,” she said.
She said she never enjoyed her schooling years because they used to mock her and saying hurtful things like “she would blend in the dark”.
It was difficult but when she looks back she thanks them because now she is stronger and more confident.
She said entering the beauty pageant has been a wonderful experience and was a blessing in disguise.
She entered the pageant three days before the closing date when a friend encouraged her to.
And the week after she found out she was a finalist, “I was shocked and excited because I had always wanted to enter a prestigious pageant, and Miss Regal International is exactly that,” said Mnisi.
The pageant was a stepping stone to bigger stage for her as she now realised the pressure of being part of a beauty pageant before she entered a big one like Miss South Africa.
It would open doors for her but she had not entered the pageant for the glitz and glamour but for interacting with fellow peers.
Part of what contestants will be judged for is assisting Powa shelters by providing clothing, books or food. She said it was a difficult challenge. Abuse was close to her heart because once a women was abused it broke her self-esteem.
She forgot what she was like: "I was verbally and emotionally hurt by being bullied. Abuse for women is shattering,” she said.
She has mentored young girls who had been bullied at school to make them understand how they could deal with the hurt and pain.
“Besides being the darkest out of all of them, what makes me stand out is that if I win the pageant the judges and people would see a bunch of girls wanting to be junior Miss Regal as I would have inspired them to be confident,” she said.
Mnisi said she wanted to venture into construction, and next year study child psychology, which was her passion.