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UKZN Dietetics student among top 10 contenders for Miss SA title

UKZN Dietetics student and Miss South Africa top 10 finalist, Ayanda Thabethe. Photograph: Supplied

UKZN Dietetics student and Miss South Africa top 10 finalist, Ayanda Thabethe. Photograph: Supplied

Published Jun 30, 2022

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By Christine Cuenod

Ayanda Thabethe, a final-year Discipline of Dietetics and Human Nutrition student at UKZN, is one of the top 10 finalists in the prestigious Miss South Africa pageant.

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The 22-year-old is one of two contestants from KwaZulu-Natal selected by professional and public judging, and has spent the past three years balancing her modelling career, business and studies. The aspiring dietician plans to contribute to developing nutrition-related guidelines to combat South Africa’s double burden of malnutrition and obesity.

Thanks to the influence of Consumer Studies educator, Shelagh Goddard, Thabethe decided to pursue Dietetics studies at UKZN. “The structure of the course is phenomenal and I liked the modules; it was a strong programme,” she said.

She found the environment at UKZN stimulating and conducive to success because of the small and personal Dietetics department, as well as exposure to a diverse student body. She said the staff showed care for their students, provided all the necessary information and were always available.

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Thabethe began modelling after a spur-of-the-moment suggestion from a friend that she apply for a modelling opportunity. She soon realised her aptitude for it and completed the requisite courses for professional modelling. She signed with an agency, successfully freelanced, and was then signed by Boss Models, which accelerated her career. She also started her own business, The Closet, which rents out formal dresses and ball gowns for pageants.

Participating in Miss South Africa has been an unexpected journey. It has provided more opportunity for individual expression than Thabethe had anticipated, and offers contestants routes to self-improvement through lessons and information in the pageant workshops.

While modelling is important to her, Thabethe’s career is her first priority. She hopes to focus on holistic health, inspired by time in a rural area with her family where they motivated their community to take up pastimes such as jogging. She hopes to promote the use of outdoor gyms, host boot camps, and encourage the use of community centres for discussions on mental health.

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She said that her Dietetics internship has crystallised her learning and enabled her to put her studies into practice. Thabethe and her colleagues have received praise from hospital dieticians on the depth of their knowledge. When her studies are complete, Thabethe will be one of the first in her family to attain a university degree. She is looking forward to her Community Nutrition block and preparations for the next stage of Miss South Africa.

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