Vernacular words like chivhindikiti, ivithikazi and chigagairwa, were coined to describe the beauty of women.
Report by Godwin Muzari
In most African cultures, the beauty of a woman is determined by her physical appearance and heavily built women are taken as the yardstick of beauty.
Before the coming of beauty pageants in Africa, women contested for beauty when they were paraded before kings and princes to select their spouses.
In some cultures, kings get new wives every year and they choose the most beautiful girls for their palaces. It was not often that slim girls got chosen at such parades.
Although facial looks were considered in such processes, they had to be complemented by body shape.
With the coming of beauty pageants, beauty was redefined. Today, models that are selected to represent beautiful women of most countries are slim and tall.
However, most African men still concede that they see beauty, more in heavily-built women than in most beauty queens. It is this debate about African beauty and modelling that have given rise to different pageant models in the country.
Modelling agencies have come up with different names and forms of pageants in an attempt to divert from the Western-moulded beauty contests. Besides conventional contests like Miss Zimbabwe, Miss Universe Zimbabwe, Miss Malaika and smaller pageants like Miss Universities and Miss Colleges, there are a number of different beauty contests that have graced our arts industry.
There was Miss Rural, Miss Biggy Matofotofo, Miss Legs and, recently Miss Curvy.
Miss Ugly is also reported to be in the pipeline as a parallel project to Mr Ugly. There was also M-Net Face of Africa, which was a regional contest.
All these pageant sought to be different in one way or the other, with each strongly defending its thrust to justify why it was different.
The major question around these models is: which one of them is a true reflection of African, or Zimbabwean, beauty?
The now defunct Miss Rural, scouted for models from rural areas that had no grooming at all. By the time of its demise, organisers were pushing for virginity tests for their contestants.
Founder of that pageant, Sipho Mazibuko, said it was a true reflection of African beauty because her contestants were innocent girls that embodied real African womanhood.
She argued that models from cities were not naturally beautiful because they were using beauty enhancers.
Lwazi Mbowa, creator of Miss Biggy Matofotofo, said she was looking for what she called a “fuller figure” because that was real African beauty. She looked for heavily-built women and described them as ambassadors of African beauty.
Beautiful African women have nice curves: Mushaninga
Mercy Mushaninga, organiser of Miss Curvy pageant, says she has broken the constraints of conventional beauty pageants because beautiful African women have big and nice curves.
She says she has opened the floor for beautiful Zimbabweans to showcase their beauty without worrying about height or weight. She differs from Miss Biggy Matofotofo in that she wants models that are shapely and obviously have more appeal as beautiful women.
Some of the pageants have come and gone. others are being founded everyday, but the question still remains: which among them truly represents African beauty?