The western media has brainwashed most of us into believing that a slim woman is a beautiful woman. Yet Africa has for a long time believed that big is beautiful and healthy. The recently crowned Miss True African Queen, Constance Kachoka, is one person who propagates the African thinking. Regardless of the ridicule her body size attracted, the 22-year-old, did not get discouraged, but worked hard, graduated, and started a business at a tender age. She talks to Albert Sharra.
Give us a brief story of your life
I was born in South Africa on 14th September 1989. My father was working there. We moved to Zambia in 1990. I did my primary and a good part of secondary education there. My father was working with United Nations as an economic officer. We came back home in 2003, after my father had retired from his job. We stay in Likuni, Lilongwe.
I finished my secondary education at Bambino and then went to Malawi Adventist University, where I did a Bachelorâ€™s degree in marketing. I am currently operating a business with my boyfriend Zeru Nkosi. We sell wedding dresses, casual wears, and cosmetics.
You were recently crowned Miss True African Queen. Were you expecting it?
I feel great and humbled. It was something tough for me considering that I was a princess for Miss True African Queen Lilongwe before, and that I was promoted to be the queen of the city later. This was a challenge to me because I was supposed to prove it that I really deserve the crown. I was not so confident that I would make it since it was my second time to contest in a beauty pageant. Initially, I wanted to join modeling but I was too conscious of my body until last year when I got the courage to do it.
What do you think earned you the crown?
It is only because I worked hard during rehearsals and I managed to perform to the best of my abilities during the finals. I was so confident. Another factor is that, because the national crown was here in Lilongwe, I did not want it go outside Lilongwe. Those who patronised it would testify that it was really a tough contest. All candidates were good, and it was anyoneâ€™s game. However, I think I did very well in talent show. My poem titled â€˜The Phenomenal womanâ€™, was very dramatic. They moved almost everyone in the hall. I saw the reaction of public when I was performing.
What gave you the courage to take up the challenge?
I grew up wanting to participate in modeling activities but I was discouraged because I am big. I could not take the challenge because most pageants recognise slim bodies. But then, when the Miss Biggie was introduced, it was like an opportunity for me. I was encouraged last year after coming out among the top three during the Miss True African Queen Lilongwe. It gave me confidence that I could participate at the national level.
People believe that being slim is beautiful, being big is plain. What is your take?
Thatâ€™s definitely a wrong perception. At first I had a negative perception about it, but after succeeding in Miss True African Queen last year, I feel more confident about my body. I especially like my curves. As long as you feel confident about your body, carry yourself well, be happy, then you are beautiful.
Have you ever received some negative reactions from friends just because you are big?
Yes, I have had friends who would tell me that I should lose weight because I donâ€™t look nice. Unfortunately, I even dated guys who had problems with my body size.
How does your boyfriend feel about your weight and your participation in pageants?
My boyfriend is very loving. He accepts me the way I am. He has never forced me to lose weight or do anything on my body to please him. He helps me a lot and wants me to grow as a successful woman. He supports and reminds me that I have the potential to do whatever I want in life. This is what any woman wants.
You said you have been failing to participate in other pageants because of your size. Have you ever tried to lose weight?
I have tried that several times, but I always put on the weight again. If I had a medical condition which requires me to lose weight, I would take it. Otherwise, for now, I am comfortable with my body. I just make sure that I am active most of the day and thatâ€™s enough exercise. When it comes to food, I eat healthy, and once in a while, I eat junk food. My weight is usually at 95 kg and my clothing size is 40.
You are now doubling as queen for Lilongwe and Malawi. Isnâ€™t this too bulky for you?
No. I am actually happy to wear two crowns. It gives me confidence and courage to produce results. I have grown up taking challenges and striving to get effective results. I am within my yard. I am expecting to deliver successfully both as Lilongwe and national queen for Miss True African beauty pageant.
I already started my charity projects in the Central Region. I have made various donations. I just have to expand the projects and take them across the country. I am now taking modeling as my second career. I want to contribute to the development of modeling in the country. This will be my next step in my projects. I want the world to appreciate that big is beauty and being big does not mean idle.
Should we expect something new from you as a queen?
Yes, I want to make a difference in beauty pageants: most of the times princesses are left idle. My tenure will fully involve princesses, and I will use them to help me take my projects to all corners of the country.
I have observed that queens of different beauty pageants work independently. I feel like this just creates unnecessary competition, as everyone wants to be rated the best. I feel if we can team up and share ideas, this can help us succeed. This is a new thing I am bringing in the modeling world during my tenure.
In a nutshell, how do you describe modeling in Malawi?
I can say Malawi is now doing well. We have made significant strides in the area. For instance, people have started appreciating big women again. I thank the people that initiated the pageant. It is good news that at the moment we have three national crowns: Miss Malawi, Miss Warm Heart, and Miss True African Queen. This shows growth, and that as a country we are moving forward. My advice to other queens is that they should utilise the crowns to expose their talents and reach the minority. The extension goes to both government and the corporate world. They should take modeling as a bridge to reach the minority, and sell the country as a tourism activity.
Again, Malawi should take modeling as a career. In other countries, modeling is a hot industry.
Did the retirement of your father change anything in your life?
Of, course. I wanted to become a lawyer. My dream changed because his retirement changed everything. When my dad was working, we had money that enabled him to send us to any school. We were forced to come back to Malawi. My father could not send us to good schools as before. This affected our destiny. I couldnâ€™t attend a school that offered the courses that were a stepping stone to my law career.Â I had to adjust my dreams to fit into the situation we were living in.Â I just thank God that despite the challenges I went through, with the help of my family, I later on managed to pursue the marketing degree.
How have your parents moulded you into what you are today?
I thank my parents for the way they brought us up. I am a third born in a family of eight children. We have all grown up as responsible children. I have been brought up in a Seventh Day Adventist family and discipline is paramount. That is why I have managed to survive from all teenage misbehaviours. My father is my inspiration. He is always smart though he likes jokes. My mum is another great person in my life. She has taught me to be strong and to never give up.
What keeps you going in life?
I have the courage and belief that one day I would reach the heights I want. So I take challenges and opportunities as they come. I donâ€™t like to regret in life. I am always optimistic about life. I am always focused because I believe that everything has its time.
What do you like doing during your free time?
I like visiting and interacting with people; spending time evaluating my charity projects; searching for new projects, and new activities to do. To refresh my brain, I enjoy listening to music and reading inspiration articles. I also like cooking. I cannot do without a prayer.