Miss South Africa 2012, Melinda Bam, competes during the Swimsuit Competition of the 2012 Miss Universe Presentation Show on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 at PH Live in Las Vegas. The 89 Miss Universe Contestants will compete for the Diamond Nexus Crown on December 19. (AP Photo/Miss Universe Organization L.P., LLLP)

MELINDA Bam has passed on her Miss South Africa crown, but the Pretoria beauty is showing no signs of slowing down just yet.

“I want to be just as busy as last year,” she said.

Bam, Miss SA 2011, told Pretoria News her future is in marketing and brand management and in the launch her own swimwear label, Bamshell. “I am going into the business world and it is just as daunting and exciting as Miss SA.”

She plans to use the contacts she gained as Miss SA and as a swimwear model to develop her label.

“I have a brief window of opportunity to launch my brand because there is a new Miss SA already.”

The 23-year-old beauty is not afraid of people judging her on her appearance in the business world, but she says: “People should see your character and not what you look like.”

Although winning Miss Universe in Las Vegas was her ultimate goal, she does not see the outcome as a failure.

“South Africans have made me feel like I am Miss Universe.” She made it to the top 10 in Las Vegas.

“It turned out differently but I am now in a new phase of my life. And it was much easier coming back to a new love,” Bam said.

Bam is smitten with the new man in her life. Bam and Adriaan Bergh, a former Mr South Africa, have been seeing each other for a month but have been good friends for the better part of her reign.

“Because he has been through the same experiences I have, he has always been supportive and understanding of my commitments.”

She wears a ring with an “A” on it, a gift from Bergh.

“We complement each other and I love him to bits,” she said.

Bergh is a business man in the city and Bam is not planning to let him go. “I do not want to make plans without him. You are only this happy once in your life,” she said.

The best thing about her reign was the opportunity to learn and grow. “Few girls get the opportunity to see and experience as much as I did during my reign. I really did learn a lot.

“I was out of my comfort zone the whole year and I have learnt to flourish. I want to continue putting myself out there,” she said.

”I have achieved everything I set out to and I think I made a success of my time as Miss SA,” she said.

Bam feels she reached the hearts of South Africans.

She plans to continue living as Miss SA. It is not something you can fake for a year, and then stop.

“It is a way of life long before you get the crown and long after your reign is over,” she said.