lalela mswane, miss sa, miss universe, israel

Ex Miss SA Lalela Mswane has spoken on her Miss Universe trip to Israel.
Images via: eTV/ Facebook: @officialmisssouthafrica

‘I wanted to kill myself’: Lalela Mswane on Israel pageant backlash [watch]

Ex Miss SA Lalela Mswane reflected on how her trip to Miss Universe in Israel almost cost her mental health following widespread backlash.

lalela mswane, miss sa, miss universe, israel

Ex Miss SA Lalela Mswane has spoken on her Miss Universe trip to Israel.
Images via: eTV/ Facebook: @officialmisssouthafrica

Former Miss SA Lalela Mswane is speaking out for the first time about her controversial trip to Israel as part of her representation at the Miss Universe competition.

And according to the 2021 winner, the backlash and even cyberbullying that followed almost led her to take her own life.

Lalela’s trip was criticised by the public and by the government, who shunned her for going to an “Apartheid state.” Despite the criticism, Lalela was crowned Miss Universe second-runner-up. A few months later, she would go on to win Miss Supranational. 

ALSO READ: Lalela Mswane addresses hot water over Miss Supranational


On 13 December 2021, the Miss Universe pageant took place in Eilat, Israel. The location was a source of great scrutiny for the international pageant.

Speaking to Anika Larsen on eTV’s My Guest Tonight, Lalela Mswane revealed how being criticised by Miss SA fans affected her mental health.

She said: “Many people see me, and they’re like, oh, at first, I was so confused. I hated you for doing it [going to Israel]. But I’m so glad you went. And I’m like, do you comprehend the level of trauma I went through for you to come then and say this?

“On Twitter, I was being bashed and, you know, going through it, and in person, you’re now going to be nice to me”.

Lalela then reflected on being pushed to the brink of considering suicide as an option.

“At a point, I actually wanted to die by suicide because I absolutely got to a point where I couldn’t handle it.

ALSO READ: ‘I followed what felt right’: Lalela speaks after Miss Universe Top 3 win

“There are so many people that have died by suicide when people actually know what they put them through. So I don’t think they [critcis] even care.

“And a part of me was like; I will jump and die, fall to my death. All because of people that don’t know me”.


Lalela Mswane’s backlash for deciding to go to the Miss Universe in Israel made headlines at the time.

Mandla Mandela – the grandson of former SA president Nelson Mandela – criticised Miss SA organisers and other countries who decided to continue their participation in Israel, which he deems an “Apartheid state.”

Pro-Palestine movements – including the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) also strongly condemned her.

Miss SA organisers have announced Lalela Mswane's homecoming
Image via Facebook @Officialmisssouthafrica

And the Department of Arts and Culture also issued a statement, withdrawing their support to the Miss SA pageant and Lalela Mswane.

A part of it read: “What during initial consultations appeared like engaging, constructive and progressive discussions, was later met with an unpleasant demeanour that is intransigent and lacking appreciation of the potential negative impact of such a decision on the reputation and future of a young black woman.”


Lalela Mswane went on to defend her trip to Israel. She continued on My Guest Tonight: “It was a known fact, whoever wins is going to Miss Universe in Israel. So it’s not a me thing.

“It was whoever. It just happened to be me. I didn’t pick the location; it was just set. Had it been absolutely anywhere in the world, I would have participated.

“Being in Israel had nothing to do with my decision or the organization’s decision to go”

Lalela Mswane has responded to backlash following her Miss Universe return
Lalela Mswane has responded to backlash following her Miss Universe return Image via Facebook @MissSouthAfricaOfficial

ALSO READ: Lalela Mswane takes Israel: A look at her journey to Miss Universe [photos]

Lalela added that the situation could have been handled differently. She added, “I think things could have been handled more sensitively.

“In hindsight, I was very silent a lot of the time because I felt like if I said something, I’m going to be criticized anyways. So part of me just felt like I had no fight, and we left to keep or even to attempt to counter what people had concluded about me.

“But also, I am my own person who was your harshest critic. I firmly believe that many people joined this hate movement against me.”