WATCH: ‘It’s not a look. It’s about attitude!’ Disabled beauty Laura Wagner-Meyer explains why she wants to be the next Miss South Africa

Laura Wagner-Meyer. Picture: Shafeeq Mallick

Laura Wagner-Meyer. Picture: Shafeeq Mallick

Published May 19, 2024


“You can’t always choose the body that you were born into, but you can choose how you’d like to feel in it,” says 25-year-old Laura Wagner-Meyer.

Wagner-Meyer lives with a congenital neural tube defect which has left her body with an unusual shape.

Her spine is severely curved and she has limited mobility in her legs, which means she needs crutches to walk.

Laura Wagner-Meyer. Picture: Shafeeq Mallick

Regardless of her disability, she has entered this year’s Miss South Africa competition.

When asked why she entered the competition, the East London-born fashion designer and model said that it was her able-bodied twin sister Emma who planted the seed, saying: “Well, I think you should enter. I think you could win. Just give it a shot.”

That was in 2022 when Wagner-Meyer entered the competition for the first time.

“I had considered it during Zozi Tunzi's year because I was inspired by the change that she was able to create,” she says.

“So the idea had been sitting there. I really needed that bit of validation from my family. As long as my family supports me, I always go out to chase whatever desire I have.”

This is her third time entering the competition.

“The whole idea of representation and inclusion on platforms like these is so important to shatter stereotypes. That's what drives me,” says the model.

“I am someone who is incredibly determined. I don't give up on any of my goals very easily. I simply want the opportunity to show them what I am capable of.

“I'm more than just a ‘pretty face’. And I should be taken as seriously as other participants. I shouldn't be excluded just because of my unique abilities.”

When it comes to inclusivity in the fashion and beauty industry, she says that people with disabilities in this country have very little to no opportunities.

“We don’t have them fall into our laps, we have to quite literally go out and grab them or create them ourselves.”

She adds that that in itself is so difficult, both mentally and physically.

“It’s not an easy road and there needs to be support and validation that we deserve to be in these spaces too. That’s what this platform will do. It’s the classic ‘if I can do it, so can you!’.

“We simply need to feel like there is space for us, that’s what representation is. It’s validating that you’re here and deserve to be.”

Wagner-Meyer says that if she were to win the Miss South Africa title she would use the platform to create opportunities to empower and uplift communities by equipping them with the necessary skills to pursue entrepreneurship objectives.

“A key part of entrepreneurship is confidence. Once women feel confident in themselves, their ideas, and their overall abilities, they can create wonderful things.

“You have the power to decide who you want to be and what you want to achieve in this lifetime. Never, ever let anyone tell you otherwise!”

In her Miss SA competition video submission, she says: “Miss South Africa is not a look. It’s a purpose. It’s a cause. But most importantly it’s an attitude.”

Over the past few years, the Miss South Africa competition has been moving toward being a more inclusive pageant.

In 2023, they announced that married women and those with children were allowed to enter the competition.

There are also no height or weight specifications or requirements.

The age limit has also been modified, allowing applicants to turn 30 within their year of reign.

In 2021, Lehlogonolo Machaba became the first transgender woman to enter the competition and make it to the top 30.

This year entrants were required to post their entry video on social media.

Here is Wagner-Meyer’s entry video.

@laura_wagnermeyer_ Trying something new this year with my entry video. Here we go! My passion lies in disability inclusion in fashion and igniting empowerment through entrepreneurship. I want to be part of crafting a society that embraces inclusivity and empowers every woman to feel beautiful and capable. I am relentless in my pursuit of challenging beauty norms and breaking down barriers. Miss South Africa 2024, I'm ready. #MissSouthAfrica2024 #MissSA2024 ♬ original sound - Laura Wagner-Meyer

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