Seventeen-year-old Takudzwa Phiri was born with hearing and speech impairment. Neither of these could, however, deter her from pursuing her dream.
By MOSES MUGUGUNYEKI
Two weeks ago, Phiri battled out for honours with nine other models from the Midlands Province for the Miss Gweru crown and she subsequently walked away with the first princess prize. Twenty-year-old Michelle Tugwete, a photographer by profession, was crowned Miss Gweru while Kgotso Mhandu, a sixth form student, walked away with the second princess crown.
For Takudzwa, cat walking on the ramp at a pageant of such a magnitude was something she always cherished. She said the Miss Gweru pageant was a launch pad for many things to come.
“Modelling means the world to me. I get to show off one of my talents and I love the fashion industry. I would like to thank Mavis Koslek, Auntie Elain, my mum and fellow models for making me feel loved and treating me equally and supporting my dream,” Takudzwa told The Standard Style.
A hairdresser by profession, Takudzwa believes disability does not mean inability.
“As someone with hearing impairment, at first I found it challenging to do modelling because of stigmatisation and discrimination. This is the main reason why many people with disabilities fail to make it in the modelling industry. I am fighting for equality in the modelling industry and I want girls with similar problems to stand up,” she said.
“As someone who is among the Gweru queens, I am happy to say that I am not being discriminated against because of my disability. I encourage my friends and relatives to do away with discriminating against people because of their disability. I will focus on people living with disability who yearn to be counted among others.”
A product of the Jairos Jiri Naran School in Gweru, Phiri did part of her secondary education at Mambo High School before she was transferred to Msume Mission in Mberengwa.
“She did part of her Form One at Mambo High School but we transferred her to Msume Mission after we realised that she was not comfortable at the school,” said Takudzwa’s mother Cnythia Gaba, who described her daughter as someone who was born to be a model.
“I discovered that she had a passion for modelling when she was very young. Takudzwa would pose for photo shoots just like a model and she liked to watch modelling and fashion shows on television. She never wanted to have a big body and tried to maintain her slim body like the models that she saw on television.”
Gaba said she was doing her best to give Takudzwa the strength to pursue and achieve her dream.
“I am behind her and giving her the support she needs to achieve her dream. As long as what she pursues is life-changing and makes her a better woman, I would support her, but as a parent I will try to treat her equally with other siblings,” she said.
“Apart from modelling and hair dressing, Takudzwa likes dancing, playing around with children, cooking and cleaning the house. She is a hard-working child.”
Takudzwa said during her reign as one of the Gweru ambassadors, she would fight for the emancipation of people living with disabilities.
“It is my hope that as a Gweru ambassador, I represent people with disabilities. They have rights just like any human being and my first task would be to conscientise society on the need to treat every human being equally regardless of their condition,” Takudzwa said.
“I will also do my best to address the concerns of the girl child, especially on early marriages. I will go into schools and talk to girls and I will partner organisations in campaigns against child marriages. Early marriages are not the answer to the difficulties faced by people living with disabilities.”
Takudzwa said she was a living testimony of how one can achieve their dream regardless of their condition.
“It’s possible to achieve your dream as long as you are focused and goal-oriented. If given an opportunity, I would love to go to King George School in Bulawayo to pursue my studies,” she said.
Gaba said Koslek, the brains behind the Miss Gweru pageant, had given her child a lifeline after she allowed her to contest in the pageant.
“I would like to thank Auntie Mavis for accepting Takudzwa to be part of the contestants at the Miss Gweru pageant. I am grateful with the effort that Koslek made in bringing out Takudzwa’s talent, showing the world that disability is not inability,” she said.
Koslek, who is the founder of Image Modelling Agency in Gweru, described Takudzwa as someone who can make it to the top in the modelling industry, provided she gets proper grooming.
“She has the potential to get to the top despite her condition. She has the right body and all that she needs is proper grooming,” Koslek said.
Takudzwa said she was now eyeing the big stage.
“Just like any aspiring model, I want to make it to the top and cat walk on national and international stages,” she said.