‘No bias’ at Miss SA pageant

Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters was crowned Miss SA in March. Adè van Heerden, left, and Boipelo Mabe are the two runners-up. Picture: Yolanda van der Stoep

Miss South Africa organisers have denied claims that this year’s pageant was rigged‚ labelling the accusations as a case of sour grapes.

The competition has come into the spotlight after a report that at least 15 semifinalists and finalists alleged the show had been rigged in Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters’ favour.

They said Nel-Peters, crowned Miss SA last month‚ allegedly received preferential treatment and apparently had a long-standing personal relationship with two of the judges‚ former Miss SA winners Claudia Henkel and Melinda Bam.

But Henkel‚ who is also the Miss SA spokeswoman‚ has said the accusations are unfounded.

“There was no favouritism. Not from me. Not from any judges,” she said.

“We did not share our scores or discuss any of the contestants – and the results were independently audited.” Henkel also denied having a relationship with Nel-Peters outside the competition.

“I was a regional judge for the competition and met Demi-Leigh‚ along with all of the other contestants‚ at the regional competitions,” Henkel said.

“As a publicist for the pageant, I got close to all of the girls‚ but when I was called as a judge for the finals‚ I distanced myself from them.”

She said she was stunned by the report because the organisers had given the girls an opportunity to speak freely.

“There was an open-door policy that would have protected anyone who had any concerns,” Henkel said.

“Several issues were discussed with all the girls, including charity work and exposure, but never was favouritism brought up.

“In my opinion, it is simply a case of sour grapes by those who did not win.

“It’s understandable‚ because of the fierce competition.”

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