Mrs SA gets ugly: Money, bikinis and lawyers’ letters
The Mrs South Africa's pageant says it offers a 'life-transformation journey' geared towards 'becoming the very best version of yourself”, and claims to the contrary are malicious allegations by a disgruntled loser.
The Mrs SA competition is turning quite ugly with a former contestant going public with a range of accusations against the event organisers, including allegations that contestants have to spend thousands of Rands in order to stand a chance to win, compulsory fundraising akin to “slavery”, and having to wear bikinis in public.
But the event organisers have hit back, saying these are nothing but malicious allegations by a disgruntled loser, that the competition is run along international pageant standards, and that everything was agreed to with the contestants upfront.
Chandrè Goosen-Joubert (37) from Cape Town says she was very disappointed because she entered the competition to empower women who were abused, but instead found it to be just about red lips and high heels. And of course, that bikini.
She says she ended up spending R1,8 million to complete all her duties up to the final where she failed to win, but ended up being crowned Mrs Charity. She returned the title afterwards.
When The Citizen confronted the owner of the Mrs SA pageant , Joani Johnson, with Goosen-Joubert’s allegations, she responded with a lawyers’ letter as well as court papers filed against Goosen-Joubert and website uSpiked and its writer, Tony Mochama, that carried her accusations. Her court papers seek to interdict the aforementioned duo to remove all negative and defamatory allegations about the competition.
The lawyer also accused The Citizen of not giving them enough time to respond and threatened the reporter with a personal defamation action.
The cost of getting to the final
Although the lawyer says Mrs SA was “very upfront” about what is involved with the programme so that contestants can decide if they feel ready to participate, Goosen-Joubert claimed in the uSpiked article that they were not told that they would have to buy products for promotional purposes from the event sponsors, and everything else they would have to pay for.
According to the response to The Citizen, all contestants received a detailed operations manual and contract outlining their rules, regulations, expectations, and contestant obligations. An initial workshop was also held where they discussed the obligations in detail and allowed contestants another week to consider before signing.
In the operation manual, which is ‘confidential’, but that is now in the public domain because it forms part of the court papers, the organisers make it clear that a certain amount of capital raised will be used for the company’s overheads.
This includes salaries, petrol costs, phone bills, production, TV and event costs, as well as the official charity, Women4Women, a non-profit company Johnson registered in 2017 as a charity for women empowerment.
Goosen-Joubert told USpiked that contestants had to pay money and raise sponsorships as soon as they became one of the Top 100, right up to the semi-finalist stage. In addition, they had to sell five tickets for a Women4Women breakfast at R1 500 per ticket, and pay for the table decor, flights and accommodation. It was also compulsory for the finalists to prepare goodie bags.
When they were chosen as one of the Top 50, they had to man a golf stand and watering hole, that cost R6 000 and where they also had to put together a four ball at R1 000 per person. Each contestant had to pay for her own accommodation, travel and flights. They also had to contribute 250 goodie bags each.
For the Top 25 announcement the contestants had to travel to Muldersdrift and again pay their own costs and accommodation. They also had to sell tickets at R1 500 per person for a table of ten people at a table, and supply goodie bags and table décor.
This was followed by another golf day with another four ball for R4 000, and a watering hole at R6 000.00. Again they also had to bring goodie bags and pay for their own accommodation, flights and travel.
When asked who benefitted from the money raised by the contestants, the Mrs SA lawyer replied that it is a private company and uses a sponsorship model, which means that it derives all of its income from sponsorships, fundraising and events.
In the uSpiked article, attached to the court papers, it is also claimed that it has evidence that five participants were instructed to deposit funds raised into the personal bank account of Cindy Nell-Roberts, a former Miss SA and one of the directors of Women4Women. The Mrs SA lawyer says this is not true.
“It can categorically be stated that at no point has any fundraising money been paid into a personal bank account and the records will reflect this,” the lawyer wrote to The Citizen.
When asked about some contestants getting into financial trouble because they spent all their money on the competition, the lawyer simply referred us back to the answer on fundraising.
According to the Mrs SA lawyer, the only fundraising requirements for semi-finalists were to raise R24,000 plus VAT in the form of a silver sponsor, while finalists had to raise a further R24,000 plus VAT in the form of a gold sponsor. Contestants received professional sponsorship proposals and media kits to use.
They say finalists were also asked to host a fundraising event for Mrs SA’s NPO, Women4Women, using the skills they have learnt. The lawyer also emphasised that “the Mrs SA crown is not for sale”.
Bikini or not?
Asked about the requirement for Goosen-Joubert to wear a bikini at a golf day as reported by USpiked, while it sells itself as a vehicle to empower women, Mrs SA said the only time that contestants wear swimwear is during the judging process, which is well understood before choosing to participate in the programme, according to international pageant standards.
“At no point have our clients ever requested contestants to dress in swimwear for fundraising events”, the lawyer said.
According to the lawyer’s letter, they are not required to wear bikinis and can wear cover-ups. He also defended Mrs SA’s position to have contestants wear swimwear during the judging process by saying “many ladies find it empowering” and that “the programme promotes being comfortable in your own skin and finding the confidence to do that walk.”
- uSpiked and Goosen-Joubert must now decide if they will oppose the application, failing which it is set to be heard on 5 October this year.
- Goosen-Joubert says she has already instructed her attorney to oppose this application “as it seems that Joani Johnson & Co is yet again attempting to silence me for speaking the truth. This is very similar to previous abuse I have suffered during gender-based violence. The intimidation tactics are appalling and shall not be tolerated. “