She won Miss Port Elizabeth just two weeks ago but on Wednesday she resigned – citing questions raised by her fellow finalists about the organisers of the event and their NPO as one of the reasons.
But Gwen Davies, 27, of Motherwell has questions of her own, and believes she does not need the title to inspire and motivate young girls to achieve, or to continue her charity work.
“One of the things I told the judges about on the night was my desire to be a real-life hero. I want to inspire others and this is one of the main reasons I have given up the title,” she said.
“There are just too many questions. I was already struggling to get support from local business for Miss PE. It would have been even more of a struggle to continue. I needed them [the organisers] to be transparent.”
Last week, Weekend Post published an article about pageant organisers and RoleModels Foundation (RMF) bosses Juanita and Alwyn Smit – with four Miss Port Elizabeth entrants questioning why there was secrecy about the money they had raised as finalists for the NPO’s preschool projects.
But while the Smits believe Davies was happy to win the title and had resigned only as a result of last week’s article, Davies said she no longer wanted to be associated with the RMF brand.
Last week the Smits said the proceeds from their 40 annual events are paid to their NPO which then sustains three preschool projects in the country, including Imfundo Educare, a preschool RMF manages in Malabar Extension Six.
“I agreed with a lot of things the girls were saying [in the article] and a lot of things made me nervous and uneasy. Everything that has happened has made me lose confidence in them and I just could not continue under those circumstances,” Davies said.
She said she had become concerned after being informed that her prize money of R5 000 would be paid in two instalments, with her receiving half immediately and the other half only at the end of her reign.
“I always expected the whole amount but they said receiving half later was to ensure that I remain committed to RoleModels and Imfundo. It was only after I informed Juanita that the Weekend Post had contacted me for comment last week that she informed me that I would receive the full R5 000 immediately.”
Davies, who works as a receptionist and model, said one of her primary concerns was a stipulation that she could not assist or raise funds for any other charity but RMF and Imfundo during the year of her reign.
“I agree [with the other finalists] that we should have been informed how much was raised by the pageant. Some of the girls raised thousands of rands and everyone worked really hard.”
She said the girls were added to a WhatsApp group where they were constantly updated with how much each girl was raising.
“I felt like this was deliberate to spur us on to raise even more. You end up panicking. It made me feel like the only way to compete was to pay for some items from my own pocket and I am now broke.”
Despite this, Davies believes she did the right thing by relinquishing her title and has already returned her prize money.
Yesterday Juanita Smit said RMF was disappointed by Davies’ decision to relinquish her title. “We had a very amicable meeting with her the day after she was crowned and explained everything that she is now questioning, and yet did not question at the time. There was no uncertainty from Gwen, she was excited about being Miss PE, until the Weekend Post’s article appeared.
“We have no doubt your malicious article intimidated her and caused her to make this decision. Gwen’s sponsors, who had committed to sponsor RMF, have now rescinded their sponsorship, thus complicating the tallying of donations further.
“This was the first pageant where RMF was offering a cash prize and initially felt that it would be best to give half at the commencement of her title, and the balance upon completion. After discussions with Gwen on April 30, it became apparent that she does not have her own transport, and in light of her congenial nature and enthusiasm towards the title, it was discussed internally and agreed on, that RMF would release the full amount immediately,” Smit said.
“This is an example of the distrust – where there was formerly a good relationship – which the Weekend Post has created,” Smit said.