Her name is Rebecca Asamoah, and she is from Ghana. Asamoah was recently voted Miss Africa Continent, the first pageant of its kind. Zambian Michelo Malambo came in at second place, while South African Jemimah Kandimiri was third. Asamoah was crowned the winner based on more than the volume of votes as contestants from Nigeria, South Africa and Angola placed higher. The first Miss Africa in history is a 24-year-old dental hygienist. Asamoah was last year’s runner up for the Miss Ghana crown.

 

Asamoah rose from a selection of 11 finalists chosen from an original list of 40 contestants from across Africa. Twelve women gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday, April 30, to compete in the contest that veered from traditional beauty pageants. Miss African Continent presents itself as celebrating African beauty and femininity, which informs this departure. In the place of a swimsuit contest, contestants danced to African music.

 

 

Traditional outfits were displayed with Asamoah, for example, having worn an ensemble inspired by the traditional Ashanti dress complete with a golden beaded crown. She also represented her country by wearing the iconic kente cloth. Contestants also cooked dishes indigenous to their native countries as part of the competition. As winner of the inaugural event, Asamoah now holds a grant to study business management at a South African university.

 

Miss Africa Continent has been five years in the making, according to South African film producer Neo Mashishi, who came up with the idea. According to Mashishi, the contest is for empowering African women. It is about Africa, being proud to be African, and showing Africa to the world. In this way, it does not imitate or borrow from Miss Universe, for example. Mashishi hopes to involve the African Union in future pageants and to use the platform to combat issues, such as malaria and xenophobia.

 

Are beauty pageants a useful tool for empowerment and uplifting young women? Let us know your thoughts in a comment below or on Twitter @rafeeeeta