Of tiaras and android beauty queens

To many people, pageants are dull, anti-feminist or downright creepy. In fact, no one really knew who our Miss South Africa was until she mysteriously withdrew from Miss World amid speculations of a scandal. It was a dream opportunity for any first princess. Cue: Remona Moodley. Turns out she's got a few interesting facts in her bio.

Zeenat Mahomed caught up with the Moodley for a tongue-in-cheek interview.

How on earth did you manage to get your electrical engineering degree done and advance so far in Miss South Africa?
Wow! It was really really tricky being in my final year and I also had my thesis to do. I was applying for jobs and in Miss SA at the same time but it’s so funny that in the one year that I piled on so much pressure was the year that I performed well in all of those areas so I managed to land my dream job, do well at Miss SA and graduate with my degree which was the cream on top of the graveyard.

Is there a way to combine your two interests? We're thinking… electrically engineered beauty queen androids…?
[Laughs] Hahahaha! Noooo! I mean I think that…umm…it helps me strike a balance in my life…umm.. and having a beauty pageant side helps me in my engineering career and [pauses briefly] having an engineering mind which is quite a problem solving type of mind helps me with beauty pageants. I think it makes me distinctive because it’s really juggling something that people think is a man’s job and then something that’s typically lady-like.

Are you working in the field at the moment?
I don’t. I actually work as a management consultant.

How did that happen?
Hahaha … well in South Africa engineers are very much in demand for their problem solving skills. It’s not so much for their technical knowledge and so one of the global company consulting firms bought me out of my bursary from a steel company and umm I now work as a management consultant which is effectively a problem solver.

And you enjoy it?
I love it!

Is that going to affect your responsibilities when it comes to Miss World?
Umm … so as soon as I found out I was going to Miss World I took leave and my company was really supportive. They really encourage well-balanced individuals and they’ll take me back with open arms when I’m done and if I win they take me back when I’m done with reign as Miss World.

Is Melinda Bam secretly an android? Is that why she can't take part in Miss World?
Is she secretly an android? [laughs] Are you kidding? [laughs] That’s not the reason at all and the reason is a lot more innocent than people are speculating. There’s nothing more to it. It’s not because of an illness; it’s not because of anything other than what it is [She adds nervously] … errr … yeah, all I can say is that.

You're a bit of a professional at this, being a former Miss India SA. Why do we need to have a Miss India SA if all races are represented in Miss SA? We don't have a Miss African SA anymore?
I think that … umm … our country is made up of so many diverse groups of people. Sometimes it’s easier to relate to someone as an ambassador if you see them as part of your own. Part of your own culture if you can relate to them as being your own neighbour or your sister or your friend but I think that’s why sometimes segregated pageant groups are good because the youth will relate to different things and if it means the youth find a Miss India South Africa more relatable than a Miss South Africa then it’s great to have those options. Personally I felt that Miss India South Africa was very different to Miss SA in that it was very culture based but it also helped me in my preparation for Miss SA so that was fantastic.

It's every first princess's dream to get an opportunity like this. What did you think when you heard the news?
I didn’t … when I first heard the news I didn’t think it was real. I really didn’t think that it was true. I had to pinch myself and I wake up every morning and then it kicks in my head like 'Oh my word you’re going to Miss World'. I think I'll only realise that I’m going to Miss World when I’m on the plane there but it’s always been a dream of mine to go to Miss World and I’m reaaallly blessed to be given this opportunity.

So according to your bio you're certified as having a very high IQ.
[Laughs nervously]

Was that a bit of an obstacle during the question section of the pageant?
You know I honestly didn’t want to talk about that in my interviews but the judges kept asking about it and I think that it made me come across as unapproachable or intimidating about the fact that I am a member of Mensa but actually I don’t like bringing it up because I am just a normal person and I say stupid things sometimes and I do stupid things sometimes like [giggles] everyone…

So now you know.

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