Gugulethu Mtshali (19) currently the reigning Miss Teen Soweto 2019, entered her first pageant when she was 13 years old. A year later she won her first pageant title, Miss Teen Dobsonville.
Gugulethu lost at least 5 pageants before she won and says she learnt a lot from all the loses. "Besides learning what I was doing wrong, it also taught me that failure doesn't mean that you are not good enough but that you have things to learn before you get what you want."
Born and bred in Mofolo Soweto - Gugulethu Mtshali, an IIE Rosebank College Braamfontein campus student, is also the founder of the newly rebranded NALIGUGULETHU Foundation. Her non-profit was initiated to, in Gugu's words "offer treasure to those in need." Gugulethu started the foundation at age 14. Before its' recent rebrand, the foundation was called The Royal Queens Foundation, and looked at connecting pageant queens with girls who didn't do pageants. "I wanted to show them our space and show them that we are all the same, just young people who are in no way better than them." The foundation created a space where young women could share their dreams without being judged.
Under the foundation, Gugulethu hosted the first ever Miss Teen Mofolo. Gugulethu's perspective on pageants has always been to use the platform to help others. "I also realised that it doesn't help to empower the girls but leave out the boys and that's when I decided to rebrand the foundation to be more inclusive."
Gugulethu, who is also doing her second year as an LLB student sees herself graduating and majoring in constitutional law. "I consider myself an ambassador for young girls and boys, someone who is always looking to represent the youth."
Gugulethu describes herself as action-oriented. "I don't plan I just go for it. That's how most of my initiatives were started. For example, our school shoe drive idea came up while I was at the hair salon, and nearby, a house had burnt down. It hit me there and then that I could do something about it, I could collect school shoes for needy kids." Gugulethu then created a poster and approached the media to spread the message. "I was interviewed on Jozi FM and received a very positive response."
Gugulethu has since expanded the foundation to also offer mentorship. "I approached people I knew personally to join as mentors." NALIIGUGULETHU Foundation now works with Grade7's from her former primary school to transition from primary to high school. "We offer students advise on pursuing various careers by linking them with mentors in those fields. I am also a life coach and have a few life coaches on board to assist. The G7 project, as it's also called, aims to create a generation that fights for what they want."
Written by Karabo Keepile