It’s just been hours since Seneo Mabengano has been crowned as Miss Botswana 2015 but the the social media in Botswana is inundated with comments which are dominated by, as the modern lingo would render, haters and trolls. Many comments in facebook and twitter pointed out that Seneo is not that black enough to represent Botswana at the global stage. Some called her as yellow skinned – not dark enough to represent Batswana-ness.


Seneo Mabengano. No black enough?


In contrast, the first runner-up of the contest, Nicole Lisa Gaelebale (Miss Earth Botswana 2014 and competed in Manila last year for the international finals), was very gracious in defeat. She extended her warm congratulations to Seneo. But many of her supporters claim that Nicole gave a far more excellent answer than the winner. And, if her supporters online are to be believed, she is black enough to become Miss Botswana.


Nicole Lisa Gaelebale. The rightful winner?

The Voice newspaper of Botswana puts the entire controversy rather succinctly:

Seneo Mabengano emerged the fairest of them all, but as expected, her crowning received mixed reactions with detractors suggesting that skin pigmentation worked in her favour while her supporters insisted that she is a brainy beauty who excelled throughout the assessment activities.  

Is the fairness of the skin has indeed become a winning factor in Batswana pageantry? Well, you can’t blame the organizers. At Miss World, the only time that Botswana almost won the crown (and the first time it landed at the semis) was by Emma Wareus who finished as 1st princess. She’s half Swedish, so one perhaps may call her yellow skin too. Contrast that with Miss Universe. The first time Botswana participated – and won – was when Mpule Kwelagobe, who was largely ignored at Miss World, impressed the judges in 1999! Mpule will perhaps pass the blackness test of those who now criticize Seneo for not being black enough.


The second princess Penny Grynberg. Black and beautiful but flopped in the final question

Unfortunately, racism though goes both ways. If the the European nations are hailed for crowning dark skinned women, why does fair skinned women get bashed in most of African nations? If we expect that being black should not impede victory, why being white or fair should? But what Botswana should do in the future is to clearly define the criteria so that they can fully justify the winner regardless whether she’s black, white, yellow or green skinned for that matter. This is the 21st century. Haven’t we learned enough from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that we shouldn’t be judged by the color of our skin but by the content of our character?




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