Thobile Steyn went from tomboy that couldn’t walk in heels to being Miss Soweto
Johannesburg - The new Miss Soweto has a petite frame but has proven that dynamite comes in extra small packages.
The 21-year-old Thobile Steyn beat out 39 other young ladies to clinch the title of Miss Soweto 2020 at a glitzy affair on Saturday. It was a momentous occasion for her as she was also celebrating her birthday.
While the year has been a difficult one, Steyn has managed to find some joy with this win and allowing herself to take the plunge into the world of pageantry.
“It was my mom who entered me. One day she told me that she was entering me into the pageant because I needed to practise being more ladylike,” she said.
Her mother, Thabile, said for her it was more about her daughter gaining confidence than being ladylike.
“She is such a tomboy. I have to tell her how to do certain things but I wanted her to really gain that confidence in herself,” said the mother.
Steyn’s excitement began to peak when she was chosen among the top 40 finalists in August.
“We had to bring clothes and all sorts of things. I knew nothing about the process and had to call a friend who was into pageantry to help. When I got to the photoshoot I got even more excited seeing how good the production was.”
Steyn got into the thick of things immediately, waking up at 4am and heading to workshops on weekends with the other finalists, to prepare for the main pageant.
“I struggled with my walk initially, it was very unstable. I made it a point to walk in heels every single day and practise. We had people coming in to teach us how to do our make-up and how to speak (in public). We had talks on inner beauty and how to boost our confidence in front of an audience and a lot of other skills we can use in future.
“It was tough at times, I would want to cry with my emotions and confidence being all over the place. We faced a lot of scrutiny on social media as well but we learnt to shut out the noise,” she said.
She said that the camaraderie among the finalists created a sisterhood.
“Where one was lacking we would all help out. We still talk to each other and support each other.”
Steyn has a BA degree in Politics and International Relations and will do her Honours next year at the University of Johannesburg. She wants to one day become a diplomat.
The biggest lesson she has learnt in the last few months is to stay true to herself.
“Regardless of who says what, being true to yourself will help you get to where you need to be. People will see your heart when you are yourself. I kind of lost myself along the way and I regained Thobile.”
It was that Thobile that was on the stage last Saturday night when she was crowned Miss Soweto. Steyn just decided to have fun and enjoy the night, no holds barred.
As someone who is always on the move, Steyn wants to start her reign with a focus on the youth.
“It is important for the youth in Soweto to be informed. From university applications and bursaries to career options. I want to bring people to come and talk to the youth about bettering their futures. I want to speak to young men about mental health and young girls about empowerment.”
Talks about the relevance of beauty pageants always spring up when a new titleholder takes up her reign. Steyn is adamant that pageants serve a greater purpose than just beauty.
“When a Miss Soweto becomes a finalist in Miss South Africa, children and young girls can relate. We can relate to that girl because we come from where she comes from. We see the background and we have the same experiences in terms of the struggles in Soweto and how we grew up. When we see that, we see ourselves through her and see that it is possible that we can also be there. It’s that vision of ‘if she can do it, so can I.”
While her DMs on social media are filled with congratulatory messages, it’s the ones where young girls are telling her about how inspired they are that keep her even more motivated.
Steyn grew up in Diepkloof and loves the way the community stands by each other.
“Soweto is home. It feels like a village because everyone supports each other. My mom raised me with the other mothers on my street in Zone 6.”
She is still adjusting to her new role as queen, getting used to the curious stares and questions from people about her new role.
“I have always said my calling is to be a role model and to inspire people.”
Before her schedule gets busy, Steyn is still finding comfort in reading; sneakers and kick starting her music career.
“I love music. It brings people together and is good for the soul. The song I am going to release is a happy song and I hope everyone loves it.”
The publicity for Miss Soweto over the years has become lacklustre but Steyn is set on making sure she brings it back to its glory.
“Pageants help young girls feel empowered and independent. They give them hope that they too can change the circumstances in their community. Pageants educate and train girls so that they can think for themselves and do things for themselves.We have to keep the Miss Soweto pageant alive. ”