By Bruce Ndlovu
Although she has been spoken of as the epitome of excellence in the world of modeling, Brita Masalethulini does not see herself as the most beautiful woman that the Miss Zimbabwe pageant has ever produced.
In fact, the woman who first conquered Harare, then Zimbabwe before snatching the African crown at the turn of the century sees herself as more of product of effective and aggressive marketing than just her stunning looks.
“I can’t say I’m different from other women that have won Miss Zim. I think that everything is about time and place and some of us get profiled in a way that just makes them seem more memorable. I just feel like I was just more aggressive in terms of how I marketed myself when I was on top and perhaps that stuck in people’s hearts,” she told Sunday Life in an interview.
“I feel like there’s a better crop of women that we don’t know out there. It’s just that maybe they haven’t been profiled right or haven’t heard the opportunity to be showcased in front of wider audiences. They’re certainly many women that I feel deserve to be put on the pedestal but maybe because of circumstances don’t get the prominence they deserve,” she said.
As modest as she is, that cannot be all there is to the Brita Masalethulini story.
Hers is a Cinderella story for the ages. Digging into her past will reveal how an art student, plucked from the farm on the outskirts of Harare, became the apple of a nation’s obsession.
Fearful that the rumours of the globe’s impending doom were true, she decided to make her make her mark in life and clinched the Miss Zimbabwe crown a year before the dreaded end of the 20th century.
Two years later, Zimbabwe’s sweetheart turned into Africa’s darling when she walked away with the Miss Malaika crown. Beauty is fleeting and Masalethulini decided not to linger in the world of modeling while the crown was still on her head.
Instead she went into business and over a decade later found herself on the hot sit as a presenter on Capitalk 100.4 FM.
It represented a serious shift for the woman who won a nation’s hearts as a fresh faced beauty during the Miss Zimbabwe pageant.
Having lived most of her life in front of television screens answering questions from presenters, she acknowledges that going behind the microphone was not an easy step.
“It’s been exciting I would say. It’s really interesting being on the other side. During the first few days and weeks it was difficult because I found it hard to balance the technical aspects and the output that was expected from me. Being on radio was a bit daunting when I started. Certainly the feeling that I got from being on radio was different from my reaction on being on TV in front of the camera,” she said.
While her beauty has brought her fame and fortune, Masalethulini says that it had its own drawbacks. She also acknowledges that her first days on radio were not easy, as she needed the station manager to hold her hand as she took baby steps.
“Luckily for me I had a good teacher. Our station manager at the time Napoleon Nyanhi was someone who was very patient with us and he was basically training us step by step. In the end it was a privilege to have someone like that guiding you through the process.
“It’s all part of a learning curve. Because I believe everyone was learning during the whole process. Talk radio is a relatively new concept in Zimbabwe. So you get to learn what the listener wants and also the listener is getting to know and learn their presenter. It was an all round learning process because we’re all learning about each other,” she said.
Former model, businesswoman and radio presenter are all titles that Masalethulini has claimed at one point or another and she admits that life can be a little too busy at times.
“It can be overwhelming. I feel like I’ve got eight hours per day because there’s simply too much to do. But now I think I’ve found my balance. I roll with the punches and simply find a way to make sure that all my responsibilities are taken care of,” she said.
Having been regarded as one of the most beautiful women to emerge from Zimbabwe, Masalethulini has not allowed beauty to be her defining characteristics. Indeed venturing into business and then later radio gives the impression that Masalethulini a strong will and ambition has always been her greatest assets.
While she continues breaking new ground in her life, to many Zimbabweans Masalethulini will always be the beauty queen who stole their hearts, a pretty face that a nation cant dare forget. Despite this, she says she has never been afraid to lose her famous looks.
“I’ve never worried about losing my beauty. It has never been the basis of what I do. Beauty is fickle it could be here today and not there tomorrow. I’ve never taken facial beauty be the definition of who or what I am. Fortunately everyone is beautiful to someone in their own unique way. If I worried myself about how ugly I’ve become or how fat I’ve become I wouldn’t get anyway. Beauty has never motivated me and I’m more of a results oriented person,” she said.
However, she does acknowledge that when she enters a boardroom for a meeting, some have a hard time separating her past from her present.
“Yes you get people who look down on you because of your background in modeling. This is because people all have different perceptions about the industry and it all comes down to the people that you’re dealing with. I always try to make it clear that, look, I’m not just a personality but someone who’s serious about what she does,” she said.
Despite what some might think, her beauty and reputation has never been a tool for her to get ahead in life.
“I never approach a business meeting using my beauty as an advantage. When I step into a business meeting I have set objectives that I have to achieve.
The name Brita Masalethulini might have some benefit in one meeting but it might also have the opposite effect in another,” she said.
Although she might have worn many prestigious crowns in the past, the mother of three counts being a parent as one of her greatest achievements.
“Being a mother is a God given blessing. There’s nothing better for me in the world. If I was given an opportunity I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world,” she said.
A nation’s obsession with its one time queen has seen Masalethulini grab the headlines for all the wrong reasons a few times in her life. Her private life has been scrutinized and her image dented at various times. Through it all, Masalethulini does not regret the attention and scrutiny that her achievements on the ramp brought her.
“I just take it all as part of my life experiences. It’s an important part of me. I take responsibility for it all because I got myself into this. But also I’m grateful for all that I’ve been through because it builds character and teaches you to be strong,” she said.
The self confessed adrenaline junky admits that the little girl from the farm still lives within her, as once in a while she retreats to enjoy the little things that made her who she is.
“I have fun. I’m an adrenaline junkie. I love motorsport and most of the time you’ll find me at a racecourse. I also love painting. When I want to rebuild and refocus that’s one thing that I turn to,” she said. Sunday N