In encouraging other women to have confidence in their bodies, Mdantsane-born Bongo Winnie Siyapi, 30, will represent East London in the Miss CurvyBody SA 2018 pageant that will take place in Johannesburg on December 1.
Despite embracing her curves and helping others to do the same, Siyapi said it had been a challenge.
“All my life I have always been the ‘fat’ girl and I used to starve myself because I wanted to fit in with other kids.
“I grew up not liking myself that much but because I have a strong foundation and support from my family, it helped me through.
“My dad always told me I was beautiful and there’s nothing I could not do the next person next to me could do. I think that stayed with me and helped my self-confidence grow,” she said.
She said when Luxe Boutiques were looking for a fashion model for a collection of their clothes, she grabbed the opportunity.
“I have always loved fashion. and always understood my body and what looked good in it. The opportunity also helped boost my confidence. I modelled a little when I was a child but as I grew up the dream faded because I started gaining weight and I thought it was a long-lost dream of mine.
“Then around June, I saw an advert on Facebook about plus-size models for Miss CurvyBody SA and it was then I decided to try once again,” she said.
Siyapi said she also hoped to encourage young girls to accept their bodies and to know they could achieve their dreams.
“It is also important to set a voice to society that we need to accept all women in their shapes and forms. For me it is all about leaving a mark to young girls who think they are not good enough or who come from townships that they too can make something of themselves if they never give up,” she said.
Singwa “Hercules” Silinga of Hercules Bootcamp said: “We stand against body shaming and insulting big women because of their physical appearance,”.
Hercules Bootcamp will hold be holding a “big, beautiful, actively fit” event at the beachfront on November 24. All funds raised will go to the bootcamp’s fitness Fun Day, and the Miss CurvyBody SA pageant, in support of Siyapi.