University of Pretoria (UP) alumna Gizzelle Uys has been crowned Miss Eco International 2021. With this win, Uys has become the first South African to win the pageant, the aim of which is to promote the importance of saving the planet.
“It has only been a short four months since I was crowned, yet it has already been such a wild ride, but in the best sense,” says Uys, who hails from Standerton in Mpumalanga and who graduated from UP’s Department of Historical and Heritage Studies in 2019. “I have learned so much about myself, the world and life in general, and have had the opportunity to meet new and incredible people.”
As Miss Eco International, Uys becomes an advocate for a greener future by promoting eco-tourism worldwide. “A Miss Eco International automatically becomes an ambassador for the United Nations as part of the platform,” she explains. “It is an honour to extend a helping hand to areas that they are involved in. To date, I have initiated a donation collection for a children’s home, and there are many more humanitarian projects to follow.”
Uys believes that her Historical and Heritage Studies qualification allows her to enter an industry that she is passionate about. “During my studies at UP, I was introduced to the term ‘eco-tourism’ and was immediately curious,” she says. “Miss Eco International caught my interest because it is a platform through which eco-tourism is promoted worldwide and creates awareness around various environmental problems.”
Apart from her duties as Miss Eco International, Uys also runs her own eye make-up business called Confident Beauty. It is a fitting name, if her advice to anyone who wishes to enter a beauty pageant is anything to go by. “Firstly, you need to know yourself well and be comfortable with the person you see in the mirror,” she says. “While a beauty pageant might boost confidence, it does not fix an unhealthy self-esteem; in fact, it exposes it. Get a coach or mentor, work hard, be prepared and believe in all that you have to offer the world.”
For Uys, the best way to make an impact is to lead by example. At present, social media is a helpful tool when creating awareness and it is a space that she utilises wisely. She also visits schools (when national restrictions allow) to help educate young minds.
“I have always felt a deep need to be a voice for the voiceless. I have also always been amazed by how nature operates and by its delicate balance. I always keep Dr Seuss quote close to my heart: ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.’ Our environment needs a lot of care, and it needs people to use their voices to help speak for nature as it cannot speak for itself.”