I recently sat down with the inspiring Ziphelele Ndokweni who’s representing my province, Kwa-Zulu Natal in the Mrs South Africa pageant. Being a proud KZN citizen I must say that Ziphelele is who I’m rooting for, I really hope that she goes far. Read below to get a little bit more, there’s so much learn.
Tell me a little bit more about yourself;
I was born and bred in KwaZulu-Natal, home is KwaNyuswa – a rural area just outside Hillcrest also known as the Valley of a 1000 Hills. I’m the last born of the Radebe family. I’m married to my high school sweetheart, and we have two amazing children.
I matriculated from St Benedicts School in Pinetown that was formerly known as Pinetown Convent. I really enjoyed my school, it was like my second family as I was there from Class 1 which is now Grade 1 to Grade 12. I was athletic, my nick name was not only Zippy because Ziphelele was not easy to pronounce but I was very fast on the track having won numerous medals for 100 metre sprints and relays. I was SRC head and a prefect, and I was above average when it came to my school work, so I was pretty well rounded. I graduated with my IMM – Marketing Management Diploma that I studied part time whilst working. My working career started off with Peace Players International, then with East Coast Radio where my radio foundation was built. I was with them for 3 years. I then went on to work at Immedia and the Success on Hold Group before moving to Gagasi FM where I really developed in my career and as a person. I achieved a great deal there, I held two managerial positions, Marketing Manager and then Head of Creative and Promotions. When you are a manager, it comes with tremendous responsibility and you need a thick skin, so I developed that. I gained a lot of understanding about how brands can connect with listeners, their consumers in a way that resonates with them and I merged that with my creativity which made me successful in my role as Head of Creative and Promotion. I must admit, the best part of my role as Marketing Manager was being out in the community making a difference big or small, it ignited my spirit every time. Also working with a great group of people was a bonus. As of January this year, I am based in Johannesburg working with Mediamark as a Creative Executive. I absolutely love using my imagination to come up with creative ideas to give brands solutions. I also get to learn so much from the other creatives I work with.
Let’s talk about Mrs South Africa;
Mrs South Africa (Pty) Ltd is the number one pageant for married women in South Africa and is seen as a women empowerment program and not a beauty pageant, in the traditional sense of the word.
Beauty pageants are not typically thought of as particularly real or relatable. The gorgeous gowns, the tiaras, the immaculate hair and beauty, and the perfect and polished contestants: all wonderful to watch, yes, but not attainable in real life.
But Mrs South Africa is not the typical beauty pageant. It offers married South African women who have real-life careers, families, and hobbies the chance to compete for the prestigious title of Mrs South Africa. Glamour and sophistication are part of the criteria, but the women who enter and win all have those relatable stories we’re looking for. We all know a Mrs South Africa: she is smart and ambitious, and cares about her family and community.
The Mrs South Africa pageant is about giving South Africa’s unsung superwomen a chance to get support and give input, and a platform to reach a new level of success and visibility on a global stage. It is truly a life changing journey for the women who enter this renowned Woman Empowerment Program
Is this your first pageant, ever?
Yes, I’m a tom boy. I grew up climbing trees, riding my bicycle and baking mud cakes. I’ve always kept my nails short and didn’t wear much make-up. I was very athletic at school and just wasn’t pageant inclined but I clean up good. So I’ve learnt a lot, I had my second set of acrylic nails in my life for the Mrs South Africa Semi-Finalists workshop. Mrs South Africa in essence is a women empowerment program, and just from the two day workshop my work colleagues and family can tell you about the positive changes I’d made towards a better me.
What inspired you to enter?
It definitely wasn’t about my height or size. I’m a size 34, 1.68 metres, I am beautiful but I come from a family of five girls, I know that there are smarter, more beautiful women than I but I have my own magic and queendom that makes me awesome, as Jill Scott put it.
I entered because I wanted to challenge myself, I was in a comfortable space. I wanted to do something for me that would empower me and others. I wanted to share my story, inspire other mothers, young women, girls and my daughter that they had all they needed to be remarkable. When people see what you have achieved they don’t know the challenges you faced along the way, it’s so important for young people to know that they will face many things in different stages of their lives however they are not alone nor should feel less than. I wanted to instil in them that they are more than enough for the various roles they play, being a mom, wife, receptionist or student, whatever it is.
I do some work with Hospice in Sherwood, and when I did an outreach with them when I was still working in the Marketing department at Gagasi FM I was drawn to the work they do, not only to provide dignity and support for the terminally ill and their families but the work they do within communities from providing health support to families that have members suffering from HIV, TB and other diseases to providing food for those that receive NO income, that means no grant NOTHING. Tell me then, what do those children eat if you need at least R15 to buy just a loaf of bread? I entered because I want to use the platform to highlight the work they do and garner more support and funding for them.
I also have other projects I want to work on like my #MoreThanEnough campaign aimed at empowering young girls and women. It was inspired by my name, Ziphelele which means complete or enough. I want to drive the message that everyone is ‘more than enough’ and worthy of love, friendship, the work they do. It starts at a young age, young girls don’t know they value, don’t know they bodies are precious and that they too can achieve anything they set their minds to. Women tend to do things to please others and at times feel like they do not measure up. This was my personal journey, I use to push myself in the work environment and at home, to be better than the next person. I want to inspire young girls to dream and keep their dreams alive, even when they face social challenges they need to strive towards their dreams and not get side tracked by what people say or do.
My big hairy audacious goal is to build a wellness centre for the mentally challenged in a rural area, I’ve a place in mind. It’s close to my heart as I’ve family that battled with access to treatment and dealt with the stigma and shame around it especially in black communities. Why not?
How has your journey been? did you anticipate to make it this far?
As mentioned above I’m not your typical glamorous female, but I know that I am beautiful, intelligent with a passion to help others, and a vision to shift thinking and ignite change within people and communities. I entered with the vision to be in the Top 3. I am working with great sponsors, Satiskin, Lavish Nails Spa in Durban, Foschini SA, Phemelo Molefe and Nompumelelo Mkhize. They have added so much value into my journey and I’ve appreciated them sharing my vision.
You’re the KZN representative, what does this mean to you and KZN?
There are other ladies from KZN, I think there are 4 or 5 of us. One of my hashtags for the campaign is #ProudlyZKN. My roots are in KZN, the woman I am today is a reflection of the people and places in KZN. I’m so proud to be from KZN, we have the best weather, trust me the thunder storms in Johannesburg will have you appreciating Durban weather. The people, are open and friendly. My husband and I have travelled extensively throughout KZN, we know the tourist hot spots and they are great but there are hidden gems that we’ve discovered in our backyard and that makes KZN special. I’m loyal to the soil, KZN is my soil it’s nurtured me and it’s always key to know where you come from to stay in the right path towards your destiny.
How will you make KZN proud?
You know, there are a many women from KZN doing great things from the likes of Minnie Dlamini to the current Mrs South Africa – Hlengiwe Twala who is also a KZN girl. There must be something in the water. My focus in terms of the work I want to do is in KZN. I want to continue working with Hospice and the communities they service like eMlazi, Mayville informal settlemen, Chesterville and others. I want to continue the work I started with doing talks with young girls and providing them with not only sanitary towels but create a platform to openly discuss sexual issues and health, hygiene, social ills they face, career choices – there is so much out there but some students are still not exposed due to lack of access to information and other issues. Basically I want to not only be an ear, but impart guidance from my own experience as well as information that will help them. For instance if they are faced with a problem at home, I want to be able to provide them with information or people that can help and be the link. I want to try and help eliminate as many barriers or obstacles in their way.
What keeps you going as an individual?
I’m inspired by being better. I’m a Christian and I’m really inspired by the fact that God created which means I’m to create… create a better life for myself and others. I’m inspired by TED Talks, I watch a lot of TED Talks. I’m inspired by women like Leymah Gbowee – Liberian Peace Activist, who fights for the vulnerable and Maysoon Zayid – Comedian with cerebral palsy, who was determined to succeed despite her disability. I’m inspired by fellow women from KZN like authors Phindile Grootboom and Nobuntu Webster and business women Lynette Ntuli and Akhona Ngcobo, my sister Thokozani Majola, my mentor Cheryl Wheelerand and just people around me that are driven and resilient. My family is a huge inspiration, they drive me each day to tackle each day and give it my all.
What has this competition taught you? It’s taught me that out of the 100 girls, I have my own magic that thing that the next women doesn’t have that makes me, special, worthy, of value and awesome. It’s taught me to appreciate my family so much more because they have been so supportive and understanding about this journey. It’s also taught me to work even harder to achieve what I want and not to be afraid to knock on doors.
Why do you think you’ve got what it takes to be the next Mrs. South Africa?
I’ve grown to know and appreciate who I am, my magic. I’m resilient, hardworking and passionate about people, my province and South Africa. I’m a dreamer and want to inspire others to dream and know that they are their own limitations, nothing is impossible.
Why should South Africa choose to vote for you other than the rest of the candidates?
I think all the candidates are wonderful all with commendable initiatives and the spirit to make a positive impact and difference. I know that if I win I will strive to raise support and awareness for organisations that are already working in helping people.
How do you overcome challenges life throws at you?
I pray, I seek guidance from those that have travelled the road, for instance my sister or parents. I look at the positive and focus my energies on helping someone else so I remove the focus from myself. I also bake when I’m stressed and write down my thoughts and feelings, it helps to process things and approach matters rationally instead of emotionally.
Words of advice to women who look up to you;
I’m getting use to the idea that there are women who look up to me and so humbled by it. My advice is be genuinely you. We’ve all been created unique with a purpose, with something special and if you don’t tap into it, hide and try to be someone else or play small you’ll rob the world of something. Hence my campaign #morethanenough, we all possess what we need to do what we’ve been placed on earth to do. Don’t seek others validation. You are worthy and you are more than enough.
Who is Ziphelele at home?
Ziphelele at home is teacher, doctor, friend and helper. I’m chilled, I tend to spend my time reading with the kids, doing some DYI, watching movies with my husband, cooking and baking if I’m really stressed. I enjoy being outdoors, I love watching rugby live and visiting animal farms or going on hikes. Ziphelele, laughs a lot, she takes things lightly, she loves to create.
How did you and your husband meet?
We met at The Wheel, when it was still one of the places to chill in Durban. There was no Gateway back then. Yo, feel old. Anyway, I was out with my sister and he was with his friends. As I was going up the escalators he was at the top and our eyes locked. It was like the scene from the movie Cruel Intentions. As they say, the rest his history. We’ve been together for about 17 years, and it’s been a trip. He is my life partner, he is supportive, challenges my thinking, charming, romantic with great legs, driven and resilient. I love that he is madly in love with his family, he prayed for us before we even met, that’s special.
Tell me about your kids;
Qhawe and Zaria, I love them and God was just showing off when he made them. They are beautiful inside out. Qhawe is my little hero, he’s name says it. He’s a sensitive soul that really cares about others and their well-being, he’s also very charming like his dad. Right now he’s 9 years only and doing Grade 4. He’s at an age where he’s not mommies little boy anymore but he’s also not a teenage so he’s trying to figure himself and I’m just giving him his space with the hug and kiss there to reassure him. Zaria, my daughter her name has many meanings from blossom, princess, sunrise. She’s super confident, she loves to sing and acting. I love her sense of humour but she’s also a little moody you don’t want to mess with her, she doesn’t care if you are a girl older than her or a boy she doesn’t put up with nonsense.
What is it that you enjoy most about being a mother?
The unconditional love, both ways. I also like what I’ve gained in terms of understating not only my mother better but my father. The sacrifices they made because they loved me, as a child I didn’t understand so I appreciate them so much more. Motherhood challenges you and it makes you realize that you are stronger than you think but also humbles you because you learn not to rely on your on strength but on God.
“In order for me to progress to the next stage (Top 25) I need everyone’s support. You can support by voting, SMS ‘Ziphelele Ndokweni’ to 35959 at cost of R3/sms – free sms’es do not apply. You can vote as many times as you like. You can follow me on Facebook and Instagram – Ziphelele Ndokweni and Twitter – @Zippyndokweni… And like my page – Ziphelele Ndokweni Mrs South Africa Semi-Finalist”