Faces of Africa – Mpule Kwelagobe: Beauty and Brains

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Mpule Kwelagobe, a Batswana model and social entrepreneur crowned Miss Universe beauty pageant winner in 1999.

 

 

Mpule Kwelagobe is a Batswana model, philanthropist and social entrepreneur. She

is popularly known for the 1999 Miss Universe beauty pageant which she scooped

the title beating her close competitor from Philippines.

She became the first African woman to win the coveted trophy.

Mpule Kwelagobe, a Batswana model and social entrepreneur crowned Miss Universe beauty pageant winner in 1999.
Mpule Kwelagobe, a Batswana model and social entrepreneur crowned Miss Universe beauty pageant winner in 1999.

Mpule was born in 1979 in Botswana. While in high school, she auditioned for Miss

Botswana at the age of seventeen. Maleta Luna who was the Miss World Franchise

holder at the time in Botswana spotted Mpule at the auditions. “She struck me, out

of all the girls who were there. She really had something special about her and as it

happened, she actually won the Miss Botswana competition,” recalled Maleta.

Two years later, she won the Miss Universe beauty pageant bringing joy and pride to

her country. “You win, you’re crowned on stage and the minute the cameras are

switched off, there’s a team of people around you and you don’t even know them.

Immediately, your whole life is changed,” told Mpule. “It was amazing!

“Everybody wanted to touch her, talk to her. I’ve never experienced or seen

anything like that ever in my life and I’m pretty old,” told chuckling Maleta.

Mpule became the only living Batswana to have her image used on mail stamps in the country after her victory in the Miss Universe pageant.
Mpule became the only living Batswana to have her image used on mail stamps in the country after her victory in the Miss Universe pageant.

Many attributed her victory not only to her beauty but her intelligence as well.

“To be a beauty queen, is not only about beauty but the brains must be there. I think

she’s one of the pioneers of what we call beauty and brain”, told David Annobil –

Mpule’s former high school teacher.

Mpule used her platform to help in the fight against HIV/AIDs. Though her

involvement started when she was Miss Botswana, she got even more involved

when she became Miss Universe and continued even thereafter.

“The work that I do really came from the time I was seventeen years old when I went

as Miss Botswana to Zambia and Uganda and meeting women that had to become

leaders in their communities because of the HIV/AIDs crisis. So that was my first time

encountering these issues,” told Mpule.

Mpule with women from rural Kenya farming. She supports sustainable agriculture particularly among the women farmers in Africa.
Mpule with women from rural Kenya farming. She supports sustainable agriculture particularly among the women farmers in Africa.

In the 1990s the deadly disease was becoming more and more rampant in Africa.

“People would not talk about it but in order to stop a disease like HIV, you need to

educate people and that’s where Mpule came in. She really did so much, going from

town to town to talk about this, to open it up and allow people to talk about their

experiences and saying it’s ok,” said Angelou Lambrou – Mpule’s fashion designer.

Her efforts were recognized by the United Nations and she was appointed as UN

Goodwill Ambassador on youth and HIV/AIDs in the Sub- Sahara Africa. Apart from

focusing on health, Mpule also focuses on agriculture. Through her own

organization, Mpule Institute for Indigenous Development, she seeks to curb the

perennial droughts in Africa, one of the continent’s major problems. She traverses

Africa meeting various stakeholders especially women farmers. She has managed to

empower women and the youth in agri-business. From HIV/AIDs to sustainable

agriculture, Mpule is a model with a difference.

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