Miss South Africa

Miss South Africa’s first transgender contestant, Lehlogonolo Machaba, speaks to The South African about her Miss SA journey. Image: Supplied

Miss SA finalist Lehlogonolo Machaba gets candid about LGBTQI+ issues

Miss SA’s first trans contestant, Lehlogonolo Machaba, speaks about her Top 30 journey in an exclusive interview with The South African.

Miss South Africa

Miss South Africa’s first transgender contestant, Lehlogonolo Machaba, speaks to The South African about her Miss SA journey. Image: Supplied

The Miss South Africa 2022 Top 30 finalists were announced on Monday 16 May. Among the diverse contestants and representing the North West is model and LGBTQI+ activist. Lehlogonolo Machaba. The 25-year-old has made history as the first openly transgender woman in the Miss SA Top 30 and she has entered the competition for a second time.

In an exclusive interview with The South African, Machaba opened up about making the Top 30 again and what she hopes to teach through raising awareness about various LGBTQI+ issues in South Africa. 

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How does it feel to have made the Miss SA Top 30 again? 

“That I’m on the right path which was written for me before I was formed. I believe that I am here not only to practice the true definition of authenticity but change the narratives of everyone who is marginalised, more especially Black transgender/cisgender women.

Through this platform, I know not only me but the rest of my communities, would be empowered to live through their purposes and best believe that they were set apart and appointed a specific purpose at birth.”

What was the inspiration behind entering Miss SA a second time? 

“I wouldn’t call it inspiration but rather a calling. I’m a firm believer in Jesus Christ, who I feel is LOVE and I was brought here to add change to ongoing matters that are affecting marginalised groups.

A platform such as Miss South Africa would enable me to advocate, as someone who is marginalised, that being your authentic self is the best quality one could always embrace — there’s no need to fit in. 

For example, I would like to destigmatise that a good public speaker should always be fluent in English when South Africa has 11 official languages. [I] believe that every language and voice matters.”

Is there anything different this time around? 

“I am not only advocating for the LGBTQI community but everyone who is marginalised and feels they don’t fit into a ‘perfect’ society. My mom is a black woman from the villages, I want her voice to be amplified through my advocacy.” 

You aim to create awareness about LGBTQI+ issues in South Africa, is there anything specific you hope to teach through this?

“As a black trans woman from the villages, having my gender marker changed onto my identity documents was a long process and that delayed me [from] getting my driver’s licence, which is a basic requirement for job seeking and the discrimination we often get from public sectors.

“I pray and hope that one day our government will recognise not only our lives are in danger but we are also limited [to] having equal opportunities like an equal citizen. Our difficulties as minorities aren’t part of the definition of freedom in South Africa.”

You are a stunning woman who has inspired many by entering the Miss SA pageant, is there anything you would like to say to the young LGBTQI+ youth?

“Be yourself with no doubt, love fearlessly and be unapologetically queer.”

Apart from Miss South Africa, what else have you planned for your future endeavours?

“I don’t believe in planning life ahead because tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. With that being said, I was recently appointed as an ambassador for #Outthegenderbox campaign by Prejudictionary and United Nations Women South Africa and I recently started my own campaign titled ‘What is Imperfection?’ which [will] be covering redefinition of imperfection, in collaboration with #Outthegenderbox.”

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