Few years ago, modelling was not taken seriously. Women were scorned and stigmatised for ‘diluting’ our conservative traditions.
Malumbo Mtonga, 24, is one of few Malawian women to choose modelling as a career.
Winning beauty pageants, too, has become her way of life.
She won the 2017 Miss Catholic University of Malawi (Cunima), Miss Valentine in 2018, Miss World University in 2018 and the latest on May 4 this year; Miss Culture Heritage, Malawi.
Although associated with promiscuity through unhindered dress codes, Malumbo decided to use the forum to reach out to others in need.
Parading on the runway and posing for magazines may be seen as a distraction for young people, but she founded Ya Ife (For Us) organisation for young people.
The Zomba-based organisation was established in March 2021 to economically empower women and fight against gender-based violence (GBV).
It also promotes girls’ education, youth talent, vocational skills training among girls and people living with disabilities.
Ya Ife also advocates for sexual reproductive health and rights.
The organisation operates on a voluntary basis and through donations from well-wishers as well as from members of the organisation.
“I discovered a gap between young people and adults regarding reproductive issues. In the end, the consequences are dire; hence, the introduction of a platform where youths are free to express themselves and access such services,” she said.
Her passion is to represent young people, become their role model and change the mindset about modelling.
Malumbo observes that beauty pageants are flourishing and mushrooming with beauty queens selected as brand ambassadors for different stakeholders, inking lucrative contracts along the way.
As they promote various brands, she observed that their relationship with society, too, is evolving; impacting girls positively.
The model added that Miss Culture is a whole new level of pageantry as it promotes culture as a tool for tourism attraction in Malawi.
Miss Culture International grand finale is scheduled for November this year in South Africa and the queen is expected to showcase key cultural elements in Malawi
She said: I was inspired to take part in Miss Culture Malawi/International because it is unique and I believe it will make my dreams come true. Aside from that, the theme of the pageant is encouraging girl child education and my mission is to be an agent of change. I want to be a role model to all the young girls nationwide; to show them just how far education can get them. I also want to fight for a chance at education for the less priviledged.”
Malumbo got a scholarship to study community development at Exploits University for winning the Miss Culture title.
She also received a phone from Timeline Electronics worth K400 000, a makeup voucher from Q’s closet worth K50 000, shoes from Nagowa Fashions and three nights stay at Amaryllis Hotel in Blantyre.
The beauty queen said the scholarship will enlarge her horizon as a social worker.
She said the competition was tough and took intense preparation.
Her goal through it all was to have a good time, make friends and appreciate the mere participation.
Added Malumbo: “We have different tribes, beliefs and customs. I have to learn these vast tribes to proudly represent Malawi in South Africa. There is a lot to brag about when it comes to our culture and I intend to showcase it all.
While Miss Culture Malawi emphasises on girls’ child education, the model said boys should not be sidelined.
She explained: “Many initiatives target girls because they are vulnerable. As a queen, it is my responsibility to enlighten people about the importance of educating our young girls.
“I also need to understand my cultural heritage because I am expected to compete with girls from different countries.”
She said every pageant contestant is a winner and that is what keeps her going. When she was called into the top three, she was so happy.
Malumbo said: “Being in the top three meant a big deal because this pageant is big. So when I heard my name as the first ever Miss Culture Malawi, I was overwhelmed.”
She said her parents are supportive of her modelling although the trade is associated with immorality.
Malumbo has proved them otherwise by excelling in school.
The beauty queen said it hasn’t been easy to get where she is and has lost relationships because of her career path.
However, she added that it was worth it as they weren’t bold enough to keep up with her.
“I have contested in a number of pageants since secondary school. I was Miss Chinamwali Girls in 2013 and Miss University Africa Malawi in 2018. In 2019, I got recognised by the Glam and Glory Beauty Pageant and I was invited to be one of the judges in 2019. It was a very exciting moment for me because we travelled across Malawi to scout girls for the competition,” said Malumbo.
Apart from modelling, she has worked with Malawi Prisons Service, taught at Chinamwali Private Secondary School and established a voluntary community-based organisation (Great Heights Recreation Centre).
“What I love about modelling is travelling, getting to see new places, meeting new people and making new friends. I love eating a variety of food every time I go to a new place and learning new languages. I enjoy the stories we share as people from different parts of Malawi. I get to play dress-up and get all dolled up in make-up. It’s amazing,” she narrated.
Malumbo’s role model is her mother who she said is prayerful and hard-working.
“I get what I want, trusting God to handle the rest,” she added.
To her fellow young women, she says everything is possible and happens according to its time.
“That is how God operates, He is never fast or slow. He works everything for the good of those who love Him and trust in His will,” she said.
Her advice to aspiring models is be true to oneself.
Said Malumbo: “If I could start all over again, there is only one thing I would do differently. I would explore the modelling industry more. I wouldn’t do for fun. I would focus more on the agency I started then and conduct fashion shows,” she said.
In her free time, she loves watching movies and reading novels.
She is the first born daughter of Edward and Sithandazire Mtonga. Malumbo has three siblings, Chindikani, Angel and Promise.
She resides in Zomba, Habitat.
Malumbo went to Embangweni Primary School in Mzimba, Chiedza Primary School then in Blantyre. After, she went to Likangala Secondary School then Catholic University of Malawi and studied economics.
She graduated in 2018 with a credit.