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Former Miss South Africa in Big Business

Former Miss South Africa hasn’t rested on her laurels, writes Lerato Matsaneng BASETSANA Kumalo’s life reads like an epic. The once shy beauty queen from Soweto has evolved into a successful businesswoman and one of the country’s most appreciated and respected public figures. It probably has something to do with her ability to captivate people with her charming smile, her gentle and tenacious nature and the manner in which she takes life in her stride. She was born into a modest Soweto family and rose to fame when she was crowned Miss Soweto and Miss Black South Africa at the tender age of 16 in 1990. Hot on the heels of these apartheid era honours came a higher degree of recognition when she was crowned Miss South Africa in 1994, a fitting representative of the new nation’s hopes and ideals. In the same year she became the first runner-up in the Miss World Pageant.Surprisingly, she says that being Miss South Africa was never one of her a goals, but rather a stepping stone to getting what she wanted to achieve. She entered the competition after much persuasion from her family.“I never had aspirations of being a Miss South Africa. It’s a 12- month period and then it’s over. I had to have plans that lasted longer than that,” she admits.

While growing up, she saw her parents make and sell sandwiches and ice cream at soccer matches in her neighbourhood, fuelling her desire to go into business. It was after her reign as Miss South Africa that, together with her partner Patience Stevens, she started Tswelopele Productions, a television production company which produces Top Billing and Pasella. The company also produces commercials and corporate videos, and publishes the Top Billing magazine. In 1999 Tswelopele merged with Union Alliance Media and listed on the JSE Securities Exchange SA, making her one of the youngest black women directors in the mainstream of the South African economy.

Some of her other business ventures have included her clothing range labelled Stature Ladies wear by Bassie, and under the same brand she also launched an optical and sunglass range and her own cosmetic range. And one of her other business interests, mining company Uzalile and Sekoko Resources, was recently listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. Bassie, as she is affectionately known, is also president of the Business Women’s Association. Immersed in all this success is a 33-year-old devoted mother, wife and passionate philanthropist, whose greatest joy comes from mentoring other young women and inspiring South Africans to be better people.

“I’m living my dream,” she declares. “I grew up with the notion that to whom much is given, much is expected. “I surround myself with positive people and avoid moaners and complainers. I call them “nagaholics”, they drain your energy and leave you feeling depressed and tired, just like they are.” The esteemed businesswoman says one of her aversions and a great challenge to women in business is what she calls the PHD (Pull Her Down) syndrome.

“As women we do not do enough to support and care for each other and as a result our own successes are compromised.“The only way the legacy of women in business and leadership can live on is if we mentor other young women.” Bassie’s zest for life should not be mistaken as naïve optimism. Sh e maintains that her share of challenges has made her stronger and renewed her will to live.In 2003 she lost her father and in 2006 her mother also died. A year later she suffered a miscarriage in her 20th week of pregnancy with her second baby. All this in addition to other challenges she had to face in business and in her everyday life . “All these tests were hard on me, and forced me to re-evaluate my life and take stock of all the other blessings I had to be grateful for,” she says.

“Everything in my life is a gift, from the challenges to the blessings. “I epitomise the new breed of women who are mastering the art of leading successful yet balanced and fulfilled lives.” The outspoken and confident Bassie says the secret to leading a happy and successful life is to be grateful for all you have, and to give life your best shot. When she dies she would like her tombstone to read: “Here li es a soul who lived passionately, loved much and lived life to the fullest.”



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