When the Miss South Africa beauty pageant organisers announced that the top 30 finalists had a transgender woman, it showed the world two things. Firstly, that inclusivity was no longer a ‘maybe’, and secondly, that they were following through with their word.
Lehlogonolo Machaba’s Instagram bio titles her as the First TransWoman to be on MissSATop30. However, the queen of the North West province is arguably much more than that description.
At 24-years old, hailing from Letlhabile town, Machaba stands as a symbol of hope for many. A symbol that extends gracefully and far beyond our country. Her position allows anyone who has previously felt as though they didn’t quite fit the mould under society’s conservative proclamations, believe that they didn’t need to fit it at all. They could do far more, and break it beautifully.
In light of her current standing in the top 30, Machaba wrote:
“I am proud to announce that I have OFFICIALLY made it to the #Top30 of #MissSA2021 thanks to all of you. This journey has been nothing but a great one and all of you have made this worthwhile. I will continue to push for change and acceptance of everyone in the LGBTQI+ community and being the first EVER TransWoman in the competition.”
On the decision to enter
“Transgender women are almost always ostracised from such opportunities, which is why I never thought I’d see anyone like myself on such a platform. I believe that being chosen would raise hope in a lot of little girls like myself,” she expressed as per Channel24.
She also expressed that her “representation counts,” especially now and that she is “just grateful” that we have a representation of a trans woman “who happens to be black,” as SABC mentions.
On her advocacies
In light of her current position and potential future platforms, Machaba indicates that she wants to advocate for the LGBTQIA community but more specifically, queer-identifying women.
“I would use this opportunity to empower every marginalised person and become a beacon of hope for young girls out there regardless of whatever they think hinders them from attaining whatever goal they have,” she says.
Beyond her dreams of future advocacies and activism, she is already in the business of helping others. Machaba volunteers at a local LGBTQIA centre, Access Chapter Two, where she helps young people in the community with university job applications.
On her career
Machaba is a fashion guru who has a diploma in fashion design technology from the Tshwane University of Technology and works as a model booker at Invade Models.
“I have lost countless opportunities for not having an ID that reflects who I am. I have lost count of the many international opportunities I have lost because my ID didn’t reflect my identity and I know that this one milestone is going to open so many doors for me,” she once wrote in a post detailing her excitement on receiving a state-issued ID that reflected her changed gender.
“I lost an opportunity to travel to Milan for the Gucci fashion show because of my gender marker and not having the necessary documents to change it,” she explains.
Her social media posts are almost always woven with warm messages of gratitude.
“I will never stop extending my gratitude to everyone who’s been supporting me, sharing posts, and sending me heartwarming messaging. Those don’t go unheard. Kealeboga,” she expressed.
And gratitude to you Lehlogonolo. Thank you for being brave, standing tall and showing South Africa that it’s not only beautiful but powerful to be yourself.
Picture: Instagram/ posted by @lehlogonolo.machaba