When laying eyes on her for the first time, one can’t help but be captured by her enthralling beauty. Her tall, slender statue and the beautiful dark, flawless skin immediately draws you closer to her and invokes interest to know more about her. Nompumelelo Maduna (23), better known as Mpume to those who know her well, is an editorial and commercial model from Rockville in Soweto. She has worked with leading local brands such as Style Diva, The front Row, Sightique sunglasses, People Magazine, Fashion World, Atelier Africa and The Model Academy.

But most importantly, she is the 1st runner up of Miss Earth SA 2018/19, an achievement she continues to relish. Globally, Miss Earth is considered to be one of the biggest beauty pageants, after Miss Universe and Miss World. “When my name was announced, I was ecstatic! Competing with 12 strong dynamic women was not easy. I will forever remember this day,” says Mpume.

The Miss Earth South Africa is a leadership programme that aims to empower young South African women with the knowledge and platform to create a sustainable difference in the plight to combat the destruction of the natural heritage. The programme helps to create an awareness of sustainable development, environment, wildlife and the conservation of the natural legacy in South Africa.

“I entered Miss Earth South Africa because it is such a great woman empowerment programme. Through this platform, I knew that I would be able to inspire women beyond my radius to be the best version of themselves, and to live a purpose driven life. I have always had a passion for the environment and Miss Earth SA gave me the opportunity to gain more knowledge about nature conservation. This title is a true blessing. I spoke things into existence and God answered my prayers. This title has and continues to open many doors for me, and I am grateful for the opportunities,” she says.

She works with the #Wastestopswithme campaign which involves doing clean-ups in communities where there are illegal dumping sites. She is also involved in the Aresebetseng, a clean-up project, once a month and #Onemillionpads campaign which distributes pads to underprivileged girls.

Mpume started pageantry at the tender age of 4. To solidify her modelling career, she underwent model training at a company called Figures. She has not looked back since. The ramp has elevated her to career to progressive heights.

She says the modelling industry can be tough and competition is very rife. “Like anything in life, we always encounter challenges, the modelling industry is so saturated with young individuals who share the same passion of entering the modelling industry. One of the biggest challenges was facing rejection. I get to be told, “you are not tall enough” or “you need to lose weight,” she says.

She is using her current celebrity status to empower young girls who want to be models. “I always advise the girls to do something they are passionate about and not do something just because they want to be like someone else. I tell them that doing something with a purpose is very important. It’s a very competitive industry and because of comparison to others, it may break one’s self-esteem and facing rejection is not easy. This industry can break you if you are not strong-willed. You must know that you are not going to get a casting for every job you audition for and that does not mean that you are not good enough. It only means that you are not what the client wants for that specific job. Confidence is such a powerful tool, with self- belief you can achieve anything that you set your mind to,” she elaborates.

She currently works at The Model Academy as a senior trainer. Her main modules are “Building Self-Confidence, Directing Photoshoots, Training on Scams and model do’s and don’ts.

Mpume plans to start her own pageant training school and an editorial, directing company to empower creatives to be part of photoshoots, styling and basic model training.

Photographer: Natalie Field