Social media users are praising Miss South Africa for including a diverse group of women in this year’s pageant

The top 16 finalist were announced at MultiChoice’s offices in Randburg.

Among the contestants are a woman who identifies as queer, someone who’s plus-size, and “natural-hair queens”.

One contestant, 24-year-old Kgothatso Dithebe, has a unique birth mark on her face.

Kgothatso says she was often ridiculed growing up because of her birthmark, which made her feel insecure.

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She says being different is a blessing and she wants to use her platform to inspire people who “feel mistreated, misplaced or misunderstood”.

Sibabalwe Gcilitshana says she is honoured to be the first Miss SA finalist who is openly queer

She says it shows how progressive South Africa has become.

“…representation matters. Before entering the competition, I hadn’t given it much thought because it’s my identity. But now, I’m deliberately speaking out about my sexuality because I understand that not everyone has that opportunity.

“People are still hiding themselves because of fear, and if my speaking out helps someone, then I’ve done what I wanted – to represent and be a voice for the voiceless,” she told Drum magazine.

(Editor’s note: Sibabalwe Gcilitshana has identified herself as queer. While the term was used in a derogatory manor in the past, it has gradually been reclaimed by the LGBTQ community, and adopted as a positive term. Watch the video below in which Tyler Ford explains the history behind the word queer)

Beulah Baduza, who is regarded as ‘plus size’, has questioned why her body type is considered plus-size in the modelling industry

“I am a professional model outside of the Miss SA competition and if you are not a size zero, then you fall into a spectrum of ‘plus-size’, and when you are told this in your castings long enough, you start to see yourself as that,” she told TshisaLIVE.

Twitter users called out the Miss SA pageant on its beauty standards after the Mr South Africa competition unveiled its Top 20 finalist.

The men were mocked for looking very ordinary compared to Miss SA finalists who had to look ‘perfect’.

Organisers of the Mr SA pageant hit back, saying what is inside counts more than what is on the outside

“If the Mr South Africa account says that the Mr SA contestants only have to have a “good heart” then the same should apply to Miss South Africa. It would be nice to see a Miss SA with an afro, a curvaceous Miss SA etc. We are tired of seeing the same face win,” one Twitter user wrote.

Twitter users say they are glad Miss SA took note and has included a diverse group of women.

“This year’s Miss SA is testament that the Company listened and took proper advice! Melanin,” Tumi Sole tweeted.

Here’s a look at some of the diverse women in the Top 16: