The vivacious Eloise Cupido was a very popular MC at Saturday's gala event. Here she is photographed with last year's winner, Marizanne Visser. Marizanne handed her crown over to this year's winner, Zonke Frans from Knysna.
GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - Women, beautiful, strong and assertive who have been seasoned by life were the winners at the annual Miss Garden Route and Little Karoo pageant. The event took place at Pinnacle Point Beach and Golf Resort in Mossel Bay on Saturday.
Although the emphasise of the evening was on glamour and glitz with celebs rubbing shoulders with the public and the 12 finalists, it was the strength and assertiveness of the safe house finalist that actually stole the show.
Their smiles and gratitude was apparent on stage. Natasha Sutherland, actress (at present in MNet’s The Wild), author, mot-her and founder of the Big Heart Foundation had the audience clapping and smiling (and also wiping away the tears) when she spoke about the plight of battered women and how she was totally blown away by their strength, tenacity and will to break free from their bondages.
"When one finds your purpose in life - it is only then that the magic starts" she said.
Natasha, Bertha du Plessis and Cornelle Carstens interviewed the four finalists in the safe house make-over category, which runs in conjunction with the beauty pageant. The young ladies form the "face" of the project, with the shelter residents as the heart and the public as the body that need to buy the tickets and make donations in order for the money to go to the safe houses.
Before the show Natasha told the George Herald that she needs to be part of the project to keep her humble. "When you talk to women who have never had the luxury of visiting a hair salon or to have coffee and cake at a coffee shop with her friends, then you know you have very little to moan about" she said.
According to Natasha she and the other two judges decided that the women were all so awesome that they could not choose just one winner. "We decide to put them into categories and all four were given cash as well as product prizes.
The ladies walked away with the following distinctions: Ella Mahlulo (from Lukhanyiso in Knysna) was named as most dynamic; Marchelle Cubi (Phambili George) as most inspirational; Millizene Roman (CEF Mossel Bay) as having the most perseverance and Falencia Goba (Malabongwe in Oudtshoorn) as best make-over.
"When the women leave the shelters it is crucial that they find work because financial empowerment is key not to sucked back into the abusive cycle. We need bursaries and mentorship to achieve this" Natasha said before she announced that she had a score to settle from last year.
Jackie Markgraaff, runner up last year and an ex resident of CEF in Mossel Bay, expressed the desire to attend a course on nail sculpturing so that she could help to make other women feel beautiful. Natasha managed to secure two bursaries for a nail technician course sponsored by Placecol and Dream Nails. The one was awarded to Jackie and the other one went to Marchelle from George.
The beauty section was won by Zonke Frans (23) from Knysna. Her two princesses were Chanieel du Plessis (21) from Hartenbos and Tracy-Ann Buckley (23) from Mossel Bay.
The fashion category was won by Jeanine Barnard from George.
"A feel good project that speaks right to your heart" - that is how the celebs and public experienced the event.
This annual project aims to raise as much awareness and funds for the four above mentioned Safe Houses for battered wo-men and children in the Southern Cape.
The project started off eight years ago when Tryana Potgieter, promotion co-ordinator of the Garden Route Casino organised the first beauty pageant under the auspices of the Casino. This project grew to include the charity arm, and the beautiful finalists became the draw card to get the public to buy tickets to the gala evening. They are known as the "face" of the project and the Safe Houses are the "heart". The public that support the project is the "body" and together with the sponsors they supply the funds that go to better the circumstances of the victims of this "silent crime".
As part of the Miss Garden Route and Little Karoo project - four residents from each of the four safe homes on the Garden Route are treated to the make-over. This is their chance to feels like a "queen for a day". The four finalists were given a cash prize as well as product prizes. From left: Millizene Roman (CEF Mossel Bay) was recognized for having the most perseverance. She is with Natasha Sutherland (one of the judges), Jackie Markraaff, runner-up in 2010 who received a bursary to qualify her as a nail technician; Marchelle Cubi (Phambili George) for most the most inspirational entrant (and she was also awarded a bursary); Ella Mahlelo and Falencia Goba (Malibongwe, Oudtshoorn) for best make-over.
The safe house finalist from Knysna, Ella Mahlulo from Lukhanyiso (which means 'the light') was awarded the title of most dynamic woman. This ball of energy has managed to shake off her past and now she looks after a number of battered children. When she came to Knysna she started off as a domestic worker and now she has teamed up with other role players to offer township tours at Lukhanyiso. Here she is with Natasha Sutherland, who has taken the safe home project under the wing of her organisation, the Big Heart Foundation.
Calvyn Gilfellan, CEO of CTRU (Cape Town Routes Unlimited) and Levona Feris (second from left), George tourism with the two finalists that hail from George. Left is Jody Calitz and right Mary-Ann Majola.
At the Miss Garden Route Casino pageant a high profile panel of judges had to make the decision on who would be awarded the "Face of Tourism" for the Southern Cape. Posing with them is guest artist Nicholis Louw (back left). The judges front: Anton Nortje (Manager Advertising Die Burger), MC Eloise Cupido, Michelle Cawood (ISP), actress Sandra Prinsloo and the choreographer Willie Venter (of Huisgenoot Skouspel fame). Back: Nicholis, Calvyn Gilfellan (CEO Cape Town Routes Unlimited). Robin Seabrook (General Manager Garden Route Casino) and Natasha Sutherland (actress, author, mom and judge for the safe home make-over). Photos: Denise Lloyd