Dear Mr. Marmel,
I would like to extend a warm and heartfelt thank you for what has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. You and your delightful wife planned an experience that made me and the other contestants feel like royalty for the 8 to 10 days that we spent in Orlando, FL this year. The relationships that we built and the memories that were created are gifts that we will carry for the rest of our lives.
My name is Nomalanga Mhlauli-Moses, Mrs Botswana 2010/2011 and I was one of the 58 contestants that participated in the Mrs World 2011 pageant. I am writing this letter on behalf of some* of the contestants that identify themselves as being black or of being of African heritage to express our disappointment in the lack of diversity both in your selection of judges as well as their selection of the top 14 contestants on finals night.
I will not assume that you are as aware as we all were that there was not a single black woman or a woman of African descent/heritage amongst the top 14 contestants and I am writing to bring this shocking detail to your attention. On the night of the finals at Mrs World 2011, shortly after the announcement of the top 14, several women voiced their disappointment at the way they were so grossly insulted by the blatant disregard of their presence in the pageant as well as the lack of acknowledgment that black women are beautiful, accomplished and worthy of consideration of the Mrs World crown. My suggestion was that upon our arrival back home, we should take a dignified approach to making you aware of our concerns regarding the issue of the top 14 not including any woman who is either African, black or identifies herself as having African heritage. That is the purpose of this letter.
Mr. Marmel, the omission of the above mentioned women in the top 14 makes such a strong statement that I feel that I would be remiss if I did not bring it to your attention; it says that no African woman is beautiful enough to be Mrs World; it says that our foundations, charities and the causes that we are passionate about are not important enough; it says that the Mrs World organization has such a narrow definition of beauty that we have no hope of ever fitting into it.
My research has found that in the history of the Mrs World pageant, no African woman or woman of African descent has ever won the pageant and to my knowledge, they have never even been in the top 3. I was told that the reasoning for this was that the pageant historically did not draw a large enough pool of women of color but I was present this year and I saw for myself that there was a large enough pool! I had the pleasure of meeting some of the most beautiful women that I have ever seen and amongst them were some intelligent, accomplished, passionate and gorgeous women of color!
My intention, being the first ever contestant to represent Botswana, was to then go back to Botswana and initiate a Mrs Botswana pageant and have a conversation with you about how I or another Motswana can become a country director. At this point, I feel that I cannot in good faith hold a pageant, prepare one of our most beautiful and accomplished Motswana women and then send her to Mrs World, knowing that she would be subjected to the same treatment that the black woman of the world were subjected to this year at the Mrs world pageant.
Mr Marmel, please be aware that these are not the angry ramblings of a discontented woman (or group of women) who feel(s) sour that she or they did not win. I am a woman who has a history of giving young women of color a voice, both in Botswana and in America. (I am married to a man who was born and raised in America.) This past semester I designed and piloted a college level course designed in the learning community seminar model to explore issues of women of color. Among these “issues” is a lack of recognition for our type of beauty and a lack of recognition of our accomplishments and the hard work that we do. I have a blog, www.successfulblackwoman.com that I created to take part in the redefinition of black women. Part of that redefinition is speaking up when we see issues that need a voice and doing it with grace and dignity. I am in the process of building a foundation in Botswana that will encourage the education of young Batswana, especially girls. I cannot remain silent when the most prestigious pageant for married women, whether intentionally or not, makes such a loud and deafening statement that black and/or African women do not have a place among the top 14 most beautiful and most accomplished women in the world.
My request, Mr. Marmel is that you make a statement that assures us that the selection of a top 14 that omitted black women at Mrs World 2011 was not the intention of the Mrs World organization. We would like some reassurance that the next time that the Mrs World organization holds a pageant; you will take deliberate actions to ensure that the judging panel is reflective of the diversity that exists among the women that are entering the pageant. We also suggest that the process of selection is more inclusive in that it is deliberately designed to select a minimum of one contestant from every region or continent of the world.
I would like to conclude by emphasizing that I have a tremendous amount of respect for you and your lovely wife. I believe that it took a lot of hard work, focus and talent to establish the Mrs World organization and develop it to its stature and I’m sure that you are just as concerned about its image as I am. I would also like to acknowledge Mrs America as one of the most amazing women that I have ever met and emphasize that this letter is not in any way written to criticize her or imply that she did not deserve the crown. I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of the pageant staff who were a remarkable group of people to work with. Once again, I thank you, Mr. Marmel and your wife, Elaine, for what has been a life changing experience.
Mrs. Nomalanga Mhlauli-Moses
Mrs. Botswana 2010/2011, Miss Botswana 1997-First Princess
*Please contact me for a list of contestants that endorse the writing of this letter