HAJIRAH Belinda Potts was recently crowned Miss World Zimbabwe at a colourful ceremony in Domboshava’s Orchid Gardens, shrugging off stiff competition from 13 other contestants. NewsDay Life & Style reporter Anesu Mushawatu (ND) caught up with the 21-year-old Masvingo beauty (BP) who will represent the country at the Miss World Finals in China. Below are excerpts from the interview.

Sneak Peek: Anesu Mushawatu

Miss World Zimbabwe 2018 finalist Belinda Potts flanked by first and second princesses Patricia Muchenje and Kuziwakwashe Muzhakati, respectively [Pic: Shepherd Tozvireva]

ND: At what point in your life did you decide to do modelling?

BP: When I was 13 I developed the passion for modelling although I was not really particular about it. Later, I ventured into real modelling and started getting grooming lessons and participating in fashion shows when I was 16.

ND: Share with us your modelling journey so far?

BP: The journey has not been easy. I first went through the Miss Masvingo contest, in which I did not do well. I also went into Miss Zimbabwe Warrior, a pageant held back in the day and was crowned queen. I was also crowned Miss Victoria High before coming for Miss Tourism where I was among the finalists. Then there was a recent Miss Top Model Zimbabwe where I came out second runner-up. This is my final pageant, after which I hope to retire. I will probably have to open a school to help groom upcoming models after this.

ND: Can you share with us some of the challenges you encountered and how you have dealt with them during bootcamp?

BP: Bootcamp was very tough. It was a matter of enduring the part that was difficult. We would have intense gym sessions and a lot of hard work came with this body. We would have an hour of gym squats and all that. After that we would shower and do rehearsals, then attend grooming lessons. We had no access to newspapers although we had television sets in our rooms.

ND: Was the bootcamp experience worth it?

BP: Yes, very important! We talked about everything from the basics, hygiene, body skills, talents and entrepreneurship. We were literally groomed and everything in bootcamp was just a life’s walk-through experience, which one can talk about every day. With no family, or phone, but just complete strangers, we became best friends and sisters.

ND: So what kept you going?

BP: We were given phones once a week to phone home and there were times I felt like giving up, but my mother kept on pushing and inspiring me. She kept me going.

ND: What is the greatest significance of this win for you?

BP: I was born in June 1997 and modelling was like my mother’s passion. She wanted to go for it and she fell pregnant with me just before she could participate in the Miss Zimbabwe back then. So her dream was shattered. I think this is the reason she has kept pushing me. So she became my inspiration because I did not want to disappoint.

ND: Besides modelling and school, what other passions do you have?

BP: I love swimming, baseball and volleyball. I was vice-captain back at Victoria High, but now it is difficult to focus on that because of my school commitments. I also love travelling and all things agricultural. Growing up, I was at a farm and I am a volunteer at SPCA charity while I am also a frequent blood donor. I was also first princess at the National Blood Service Zimbabwe in 2012.

ND: How do you balance school and modelling?

BP: I prioritise and because I love doing what I do so it does not feel like hard work. There are pageants that do not have bootcamps and they just have rehearsals and a lot of hard work. I make sure that I am doing what needs to be done at the right time. When I wanted to compete in the Miss Valentine Zimbabwe 2018 while writing my end of semester exams, I told myself if I did that I would fail and had to abandon it to prepare for the exams.

ND: There have been a lot of cultural stereotypes concerning modelling, how have you handled those?

BP: I have been labelled a prostitute, especially in Masvingo, but I do not believe that and would want to invite them to bootcamps so they can understand how much we work and the discipline that we have. They should just understand that pageants help girls get to be themselves, advocate and show their beauty and voice out their opinions. Modelling also provides good entertainment to people. Those people need to be invited to pageants like Miss World Zimbabwe, which are classic and elegant.

ND: So what can we expect during your reign?

BP: I will start with my hometown Masvingo, but will not be biased towards it. I am planning to go around the country and see which places really need assistance and I want to give back to the community.

ND: Any plans yet on spending your $20 000 prize money?

BP: I have to pay off my fees, but I am still deciding what to do with the rest of the money because $20 000 is a lot of money, over which I definitely need advice.

ND: What do you think about the Zimbabwean modelling industry?

BP: Zimbabwe is still a developing country and not much attention has been paid to our industry. We have only a few elite pageants, which are the most legitimate ones — the rest are full of nepotism, they do not give opportunities to our girls, whether there is money involved or not. I feel like we should have a committee in each town or province and there is need for more sponsorship.

ND: What do you think gave you the edge over your competitors at the Miss World Zimbabwe finals?

BP: I think the opportunity we have with the judges for the one-on-one sessions, where every judge would ask you any question — they even asked me about my animal science programme and if I understood breeding and what element that gave me the height I have and if I am proud of it. Those were questions that could either make or break you and I think I did well in those pre-judging sessions.

ND: What do you do during your spare time?

BP: I watch television and travel. I love cartoons and chick flick romantics. I also love ice-cream and pizza and swimming. I love water so much that I sometimes go to the river when I am at my grandmother’s house — just to swim.

ND: What advice would you give to upcoming models?

BP: The industry is not easy. If you have no money, beauty and walk, then get on it and start working on it. Don’t give up, keep praying, keep on going and attend every fashion show and learn.

Get your name out there and expose yourself so when opportunities come, the people that matter will think of you. Remember, practice makes perfect.