On the face of it, it would be difficult to understand why someone like the beautiful Miss. SA finalist, Tamsyn Gerrits, all self-esteem obstacles had to overcome?
This soft-spoken beauty and successful businesswoman took her breath away during last year’s Miss. SA competition, but says her journey through it was not without tears, setbacks and many doubts.
“That’s how we are as women, you can get a million compliments, but that one piece of negative criticism will stick with you,” she tells Rhewal from the Western Cape.
Even though she didn’t walk away with the title, a lot has changed since Tamsyn won the Miss in August last year. SA top five at the SunBet Arena at Time Square in Pretoria.
First, her intimate fairytale wedding in December between the Boland mountains and vineyards to the businessman Jaco Gerrits, and soon after the news that they will soon be welcoming a pinkie.
“The past few months have been an overwhelming mess to say the least,” she teases.
Miss. SA not initially in her sights
As boss of her own media agency, Pique Media, Tamsyn says that the business world rather than the beauty world beckoned to her.
Her interest in Ms. SA was first stimulated with Demi-Leigh Tebow’s (then Nel-Peters) victory in 2017.
“I had so many misperceptions about it, but Demi’s whole story was so inspiring to me, I even stayed up to see her at Miss. Universe be crowned.”
According to Tamsyn, enrolling herself did become a matter of prayer.
“It was really important for me to make sure I was signing up for the right reasons. It can very easily be about one’s own ego and the title itself, and I didn’t want that to motivate me.”
Her newfound passion for entrepreneurship also made her look at this competition differently at the time.
“I have a degree in food science, but knew early on that my head was more towards entrepreneurship. I realized Ms. SA could offer me a platform as an entrepreneur and also give me the opportunity to put issues that are close to my heart in the spotlight.”
Self-image struggles almost stand in her way
She already wanted to enter in 2020 and then again in 2021, but says her self-esteem obstacles – which even included eating disorders in her younger days – initially weighed her down.
“I didn’t feel like I looked like a Miss. SA in my head should not look. I’m built differently and felt a bit bigger and didn’t think I fit in mould not. I wanted to be a certain size before I signed up, but I knew Jaco and I wanted to get married and have a family and the rules and requirements were still different then. It was a ‘now or never’ situation.”
That’s why she was surprised to get the call that she made the top 35 out of thousands of entries. “I was so pedantic about my entry photos and tried to plan everything perfectly. In addition, the caliber of the women who entered was phenomenal.”
However, her goal was never to wear the crown, but at least to reach the top ten.
“Many successful women like Marciel Hopkins, what now Farmer looking for a wife presented, was a finalist and achieved even more than people who progressed further in the competition.”
However, reaching the top ten in the age of social media is a challenge in itself.
“For months all eyes are on you. Social media also makes it more difficult because people are not shy about making it very clear who their favorite is. Unfortunately, what then happens is that they not only praise their favourite, but also disparage the other participants.”
Tamsyn says that every now and then she has seen cruel social media polls and received “paragraph-long” messages from strangers pointing out her mistakes.
“Beauty pageants are about people’s opinions and if you take part you open yourself up to criticism, but I’m more soft-spoken and withdrawn than a typical contestant, so all my insecurities about my appearance have been recalled again. I did without a doubt imposter syndrome had.”
However, she compliments the Miss. SA organization for their ongoing support and training they provide for finalists in this regard.
“It sounds so cliché, but this competition really teaches you to find peace in and with yourself. Looking back now, I am proud of my journey and the answers I gave especially at the final, although I wish I could say it with more confidence. I was 100% myself, that’s why it didn’t bother me to lose.”
Future looks brighter than Miss. SA crown
Tamsyn admits that she and Jaco, who was himself a finalist in the Mr. SA competition was, did not expect to become parents so quickly.
“So many women reached out to me after our pregnancy announcement and said they couldn’t wait for the day they could finally be a mother, so I’m counting my blessings because we know that’s not everyone’s reality.”
When asked if Jaco’s experience with Mr. SA was to her advantage, she just laughs.
“No, unfortunately the two competitions are vastly different, but I soundboard everything with him because his insight means a lot to me. He also sat with me in the evenings and went through questions. We are a good team.”
Of course, many doors have opened for this 25-year-old beauty since August last year.
“I had to sit down and decide what I was going to focus my energy and focus on. There are so many brands that approached me for collaboration on social media and I was even offered a role on a soap opera, even though I can’t be an actress to save my life,” she laughs.
“It’s funny how people now automatically have more respect for my knowledge and opinion. So, it is now very important for me to look carefully at such opportunities and make sure that they are aligned with my future plans.”
She does not want to reveal too much about what these plans entail, but says that her business and parenting are of course currently the biggest priorities.
Unfortunately, she did not escape morning sickness in the beginning of her pregnancy and jokes that she only saw chance for bread and potatoes.
Becoming a mother also helped her to overcome her self-esteem obstacles to some extent.
“One day I would like to challenge myself to really be at my fittest and healthiest, but my skin is much thicker now against critics and I probably for the first time in my life really love my body. I’m actually sometimes in awe of what it empowers now and I truly have peace and no need to conform to someone else’s idea of beauty. Pregnancy completely changes your outlook in that respect.”
She hopes that her journey will encourage other young women to have more confidence in themselves.
“In one of the preparation questions for the Miss. SA final said that women should not wait to win a title before chasing their dreams. Don’t compare yourself to others and put yourself under your own spotlight. Only you are equipped to walk your unique life path.”
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