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Miss South Africa 2020 Shudufhadzo Musida keeps raising the bar! She has now added ‘Author’ to her many titles. Shudu, as she is affectionately known by South Africans, has published a children’s book titled, ‘Shudu Finds Her Magic.’ 

The book is inspired by Shudu’s very own experience and her own childhood of being bullied and then her upbringing as well. Shudu is a well-known advocate for mental health, and every Monday she hosts ‘Mindful Mondays’ on her Instagram page to discuss all things related to mental health. 

I had the pleasure of hosting her on Instagram live, and below is how our conversation went…

Intro (Olwethu):

So, good evening everyone! Ladies & gentlemen, and other gendered individuals. Welcome to a conversation with our very own Miss South Africa. Our Miss South Africa, Shudufhadzo Musida. She’s going to correct me on that pronunciation, I know that there is such a particular pronunciation in the Venda language, and now she can add author to her title as well, amongst her list of achievements.

Musida has written a children’s book, which is “Shudu finds her magic” published by Jacana Media in six different languages, with delightful illustrations by Chantelle & Burgen Thorne. 

So, this is the book, and the illustrations are divine, your children are going to be in for a feast. You’re going to be seeing a lot of storytelling as you’re looking at the pictures. Malik was asking me about the individual pictures and what’s going on, it’s a very delightful book. The book is inspired by Shudu’s very own experience and her own childhood of being bullied and then her upbringing as well. She is a well-known advocate for mental health, straight after this live, she’s jumping over to her own page and she’s going to be talking, mental health as well. Seven o’clock every Monday, she does “Mental Health Monday’s.” 

So, I don’t want to have any further ado, I’m going to welcome her onto this live show, and I mean, she launched this particular book to deal with mental health in children as well. So, it’s going to bring up a lot of that conversation. It’s going to bring up and it’s going to inspire some conversations in your own home. And she explains that the book is aimed at children aged between the ages of four and twelve years old and deals with bullying and the power of friendships.

She hopes that youngsters are inspired by this and will be able to see themselves reflected in the storyline and be able to take some positives away from the book. She says, the one lesson I want to impart is that, when bad things are happening to you, it is important to speak up to an adult that you trust, about it. 

This could be a parent, a family member, a teacher, or an adult. Remember that bullying is not your fault. There’s nothing wrong with you, nobody should have to go through what Shudu went through.

So, let’s get joined up by Shudu. If you have any questions, pop them into the question box at the bottom of the screen and we’ll address them at the end. If we have time, if we don’t, I’ll send them through and we’ll address them and we’ll share them on one of our other platforms, whether it’s Art of Superwoman or even onto my Insta Stories.

Olwethu: Hello! How are you Shudu?

I’m fine, thank you. 

Shudu: What’s better than one bald girl, two (both at once). How are you doing, how are you feeling? After launching this amazing and beautiful book.

I feel absolutely blessed, but also, I feel a sense of healing that came with it because before my story of bullying was always like a, you know, like a way of reflecting, but it used to make me sad. But now coming from a point of victory and sharing the story for other kids that are going through the same thing, but also just educating kids on mental health. 

I think I’ve accomplished my mission, because as I stood on the Miss South Africa stage, I said that I wanted to start a mindful movement, and we’ve been doing that with “mindful Mondays”, which targets, young adults and adults, and teens, but then this book now targets children, because I think in terms of destigmatizing mental health, we need to start from the ground up and “Shudu finds her magic” is just that some, I’m very, very proud of it.

O: You know, there’s a lot of self-reflection within the book. Can you tell us about your own upbringing and that point you felt your childhood kind of, you know, slipping away from you because of aspects of bullying?

S: Well, I grew up in ‘Ha-Vhangani, I was “that child”, you know, people would say ‘uyaphapha’ (you are forward), because I was just literally that child that was everywhere, extroverted and I just loved people.

I loved to just share myself with people and just be myself, I didn’t have to have a lot, but I had so much love that was surrounding me. Then I moved to a new town, and everything just changed. I found myself becoming more and more silent, basically losing my magic, because growing up I was this child that had so much fire and magic in her. Everyone was saying that there’s something special, but when I moved to a new town and the bullying started I became silent and I became very sad, and I just lost my magic.

I really just lost my magic, and then when I moved through the power of friendship and love and just self-reflection as well, and checking in as well, because I was exposed to mental health at a very young age, I found my magic again because that’s what happens when you use your voice and you speak up. The problem with bullying is that it silences us so much, that we feel like our voices don’t matter, that you don’t even recognize the sound of your own voice. So, this was quite important for me to highlight in the story in the book.

O: I mean, Shudu bullying can happen to anyone, to any child, children find anything to pick on. What was it about your experience that you shared in the book that almost made you shrink back in the face of bullying, and is it that you as a child were not able to articulate what was going on at the time or did you recognize bullying when it happened?

S: I didn’t recognize the bullying as it happened, it just felt like basically I was being tortured every day. Cause I’d go to school and then during break time, I’d have to find a hiding spot, just because I couldn’t stand the meanness, you know? People don’t understand how abuse, verbal abuse goes a long way, especially because the bullying started during my formative years, nine years old. I found myself, I used to think that I was a perfect child because my great-grandmother used to tell me that I’m perfect, the way that I am.

And then I moved to this new school, and they make me feel like everything is wrong with me. I mean the first time I actually cut my hair was in grade five, because they were making fun of my hair, so I cut it. Even after I cut it, they still made fun of my hair and they were calling me ugly. They were saying all these mean things, and saying things or bullying me about things that I could not change about myself. But at the time I just thought maybe if I tried this, maybe it’s going to get better, and then try this, maybe it’s going to get better.  

Only when I moved schools did I realize that it never gets better, the only person you need to satisfy in this life is yourself, you need to live for you. You can’t live for other people. When I recognized that I was bullied, it was through a lot of psychological reflection and just realizing that I’m not the same person that I was anymore. When I go home, I’m not the same person that I was anymore, and it felt like not even my mother, like I felt like the people that knew me growing up could not recognize me anymore. 

O: Now in your opinion, how do we continue to open up these conversations, when there’s still this like embedded thing in our society of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” you know, “go back” and like “suck it up” and “get on with it,” within our school environments. 

S: I think the biggest thing about bullying and trying to combat bullying in general, I think it’s just focusing, not only on the person that’s being bullied, but also the person that’s bullying. Bullying is a reflection of the other person, not a reflection of you, which is why bullying is never your fault, because what is happening with bullying is that a person is projecting what they are feeling inside to make themselves feel better, onto you. Unfortunately, you are caught in the crossfire, so it’s not, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.,” we have kids dying by suicide because of bullying, so it actually does kill you. 

So, the toxic language that exists in our society right now needs to change because the problem with this kind of languaging, it’s perpetuated in different areas of our lives, not just in children, not just in bullying. I mean, if we look at social issues, such as gender-based violence, if you look at toxic masculinity, they’re all fueled by this language, that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” “suck it up,” and then you’ll be a fine type of thing.

We need to change that language because we are damaging our society to the point where, like you say, the fire should always be in us, or the magic should always be in us. But then there’s times where that magic can’t be reignited because someone has lost a life. So, it’s time for us as a society to start a different conversation, where if a child comes and says, mom I’m being bullied, we address it with the school.

There are serious implications to bullying because that is a form of abuse. We can’t play around or tiptoe around it anymore just because, “they’re kids it’s going to pass.” It never passes. It happened to me for seven years, seven years. And I had to get a lot of therapy just to feel like myself again, just to find out who I am, you know?  And just love myself again. So, the language that we use, even in terms of mental health, even in terms of everything that we are doing, the language needs to change, because it’s the toxic language that is perpetuating so many social ills in our society.

O: Absolutely. Absolutely. You had obviously found your magic because you wouldn’t have entered Miss South Africa. If you didn’t know that, I got it, I got the magic.

S: It’s funny. It’s funny that you say that. Let me tell you something. If you watch my entry video to Miss South Africa, I was expecting to fail because I thought it was just, for me, it was just a moment of getting out of my shell. So, to those people that are too scared to try it, please do try it, because I was so scared of trying and failing all my life, because I was scared that people, imagine posting a video, people would bully me if I don’t sound right, if I don’t do this. But then once I did it, that’s when I found my magic again, because I trusted myself enough to know that I could try something like this, but anyway you were saying…

O: But what made you kind of go, “damn girl, you are the girl you think you are,” in that journey of becoming Miss South Africa?

S: Representation, representation because in the last few years, we’ve seen people like Zozibini Tunzi walk on to stages. We’ve seen people like Lupita Nyongo, changing the narratives of what beauty is, you know? So, when I entered, I entered with my dhuku, I entered just with myself because at that moment, I wouldn’t say that I believed that I was good enough. It was a step in the right direction. Almost like I’ve had all these talks with my therapist and she’s telling me that no, “Shudu you can do it, you’re perfect just the way that you are.” And when I saw those women, when I saw people being represented, like people that looked like me on stages, on big stages, I felt like I could also do it. You know? Like I felt like I could also do it, even though it was scary because the last thing I said before I entered was what do I have to lose, little did I know that I had everything to gain?

So, it’s about believing in yourself. I think that’s why this book is so important, because there’s going to be a little girl that is reading this and she’s going to realize that there’s a Miss South Africa that is bold. Meaning that the things that society tells us, like our hair, doesn’t define us. What defines us as what’s on the inside, if you’re beautiful on the inside, it’s going to exude to the outside, and beauty, beauty is not only skin deep, you know. There’s the beauty that lies within us, its us being kind to one another, us practicing the spirit of Ubuntu, you know, like those are the little things that make us human beings, beautiful human beings.

For me, if it wasn’t for those women standing up on stage, if it wasn’t for them showing me that, ‘’oh you look like me, so that means I can do it too,’’ you know, I prayed about it a lot and I’m so glad that I did it. I’m so glad that I did, and the beautiful thing is throughout this journey of being Miss South Africa, I found myself trusting myself more and finally looking in the mirror and saying, “Hey, you’re beautiful. Hey, you’re good enough. Hey, I love you.” because we do this thing with a firepower group. They tell us, “say you love yourself three times. Even on the days where you don’t believe it,” because you need to affirm yourself before anyone else can affirm you. So yeah, this, this is everything that has happened.

This book, mindful Mondays, is a combination of me coming into my own, and I’m so glad that I get to share that with the world.

O:  Friends can pull you through very difficult times, and you centered two of your friends that literally pulled you through the first, there was the primary school friend, and then the high school friend. Can you share about that?

S: We are relational beings, that’s what we are, so we cannot live alone. That’s why it’s important to let the other person know that, “you’re not alone.” For me I would say my magic, the reason why it’s still there, was because of the two friends that I made. I remember Yvette was actually friends with those girls that were bullying me. Then when she realized what they were doing, she was like, ‘’no.’’ And then she became one of my closest friends, because we used to have honest conversations and she just showed me that love can exist.

I believe that in this world, the way the universe shows us love the way God shows his love is through people, and friends, all those people, like they are the non-blood relatives, but they are family. That’s essentially what they are, I mean the best friend that I met in high school, I remember the first, when I, when I got to my high school, I decided to, to sit in the library. So, the principal actually got me friends. He’s like, “you guys must take care of, you must take care of Shudu, be friends with her.” But I ditched them, and I went to the library, and was just like, “I’m not doing, I’m not doing this again. I’m not, I’m not doing this again. I’m not going to let anyone bully me ever again in my life, that is not going to happen.” 

Then, I met this girl in maths class and the first thing she told me, she was like, you’re so beautiful, you know, and when we were speaking, she would, she’d just tell me that I can do anything.I mean, the only reason I even became a model, I never thought I’d be good enough to be a model. The only reason I became a model was because she was like, “no, come to me, take pictures of you.” 

So, she affirmed me in different ways through her love, through her kindness. And that’s what friendships are all about, you know, like we are family and we’re relational beings. So having friends is very, very important because friendship did a lot for me, did a lot for my self-confidence, and I don’t. I truly believe that I would not be sitting here Miss South Africa today, if it was not for Liddy or Yvette. 

O: You also mentioned on Twitter that this will form part of your Miss World, beauty with a purpose campaign. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? And also how can we support you in your journey to Miss World?

S: God willing, we are going to have it, but this is part of my “Beauty with a purpose” campaign. So, the beautiful thing about Miss World is that it advocates for more than just beauty, it advocates for beauty with a purpose. Where we can make changes in our respective communities, just one step at a time. 

I believe that we all need to speak the language of service, and that’s the only way we can change the world, being of service to one another. I am because you are, and that’s how we all need to be, and I think this book is an emphasis on that. As South Africans, we know what Ubuntu means, what it is and what it means to us. And this book the reason I submitted it as part of my beauty with a purpose campaign, was because it’s a true reflection of who I am.

A true reflection of who I am, a true reflection of the work that I’ve done as Miss South Africa, my passion, which is children. I remember when I was eight, I told myself that I want to live a life of service, I want to build this big Haven with white walls and a blue roof where women and children can come in to receive humanitarian assistance, but not only humanitarian assistance, they will be equipped with the necessary skills to help themselves. 

I think mental health education and me submitting this as part of my beauty with a purpose campaign, which is mental health education, is so people can be equipped with the necessary skills to help themselves. The dream that I had as an eight-year-old now has been translated into a book, has been translated into mindful Mondays, has been translated throughout my entire reign, which is what I’ve dedicated my time to. 

I think the way people can support, one is by, buying the book because for every book sold, one is donated to charity, being Childline, and the South African depression and anxiety group for their amazing work that they doing in protecting our children, teaching about mental health and also just having, counseling for those that need it in our society. So, supporting this is by buying this book please, as part of ‘the mindful movement’. 

Also, I think when the time comes closer, I would want, what I’d want is for mental health education to reach everyone. So, in your respective communities, I don’t have to be there, but advocate for mental health, de-stigmatize it, give people open spaces and safe spaces to say that, listen, I am not okay, but then you must also let them know that they’re not alone. So, I think in supporting me, it’s just paying it forward and doing that in your community. I mean, through mindful Mondays, through this book, there’s so much that we can learn, and if we can just pay it forward in our communities and start advocating for mental health, especially now during this time, then that is the greatest support you can give, because it’s not truly about the crown, but it’s about the work that we’ve done in our communities, and to know that lives have been impacted.

O:  There’s some questions quickly popping up. Let’s see, I’m going to try to find… somebody asked, should I let’s see if I can, there we go… ‘What has been the most challenging part of your journey as Miss South Africa?’

S: The most challenging part is constantly affirming myself that I’m good enough to be sitting in this role. The thing about bullying is that even when the bullying stops, you end up bullying yourself. So, just being conscious of that and just knowing that I’m good enough, you know and especially because of the cyber bullying that has happened throughout my reign as well, it’s constantly reminding myself that I’m good enough that I deserve to be in this position. So, I’ve shared that bullying is not only something that has happened when I was young it’s something that also happens when I’m older, but I think I’m just blessed to have the necessary coping mechanisms and mental health education, and being able to admit that I’m not okay, like it’s okay to not be okay, and that’s what I want people to know. 

That’s what I advocate for, because like I said, when it comes to bullying, it never stops. You end up building yourself, so you constantly have to be kind to yourself, consciously kind to yourself too.

O:  Absolutely. Absolutely. We’ll ask one more question. Qhama is asking, how did you deal with your insecurities in your modeling career?

S: How did I deal with my insecurities? I stopped modeling. I stopped modeling for my mental health in all honesty. I was constantly body shamed because like I was told that my body is unproportional, there were so many things that happened, and it just fed into my insecurities and just exacerbated my mental health. 

So, in 2018, I actually just decided that I’m not going to do this anymore. I’m choosing myself, I’m choosing my health and choosing to be happy more than anything else. No cheque is worth is worth my happiness, and that’s how I dealt with it. When it got too much, when it felt like it was affecting my mental health and my joy I left, that’s what I did. If a situation is not serving you, please leave. Like, please choose yourself first, put yourself first in every single situation.

O: So I’m seeing some comments on the timeline. Blessed is saying my son reported bullying, took it up with the class teacher, and I’m glad she addressed the issue with immediate effect. He’s a happy boy now and loved school and the bullies were attended to, amazing Blessed. 

He says, “I’m finding it hard to believe that in schools, they are security cameras or people, but they never have evidence of the acts.” Do you think it’s not the need to account or turning a blind eye to how serious, how serious it is?

S: I think it goes back to what you were saying. It’s almost like “a stick it out and everything will be okay,” Type of thing, because when you address a bullying situation, I’m so, I’m so sure that so many will, so many others will come up, but there’s this toxic narrative in our societies that, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” that you’re going to get to the other side, you know, that kind of thing. I think, addressing it and actually taking it out under the rug, and actually addressing it will bring up so many things within our own schooling system as well. Because I feel like even in the education curriculum, yes they do speak about bullying, but mental health education was not emphasized enough, when you address bullying, you can’t just reprimand the person that is bullying, no, you also have to address why, what made them bully the other person. 

So, it becomes a whole chain where you realize that there’s a need for educational psychologists in schools, because when a child is bullying, clearly, they’re going through something as well. You know, obviously when it’s not, when it’s not addressed the person that’s being bullied is the one that suffers the most. We need to address both sides because if a child as young as six years old is making another child feel like they’d rather not go to school or hide, then clearly, we have a problem in our society. 

Olwethu: Absolutely, thank you so much Shudu. Thank you so much for making time to chat to us, I know you have to rush off and go prep for the live show you’re going to be doing later on today. You can join Shudu at seven o’clock for her “mindful Mondays,” on her Instagram page. But for now, so we’re kickstarting book week, go out and get “Shudu finds her magic.” 

It is available on Art of Superwoman online store and shop on artofsuperwoman.com. We’ve been so excited about it, I think I’ve been punting this book for a couple of months now, because we’ve been so, so, so excited.

I’m excited about the book launch. Shudu, this book is available in six languages, Yes. In Sesotho, Tshivenda, Afrikaans, English, isi-Xhosa and Isi-Zulu? Can you, can you please say the, in Sesotho it’s Shudu Isibhola Boigeto Bahai, in Tshivenda, I don’t want to butcher it. I don’t want to butcher the Venda.

Shudu: Okay. Shudu uwana vhutolo hawe..

Olwethu: The Miss South Africa organization and economy are determined to make this book available to children all across the country. And copies will be donated as Shudu has mentioned to SANDAC as well, who helped children with issues like bullying and depression. 

Shudu, thank you so much. Um, and also, I know, I know that the book will also be given to some organizations that support children like The Bibllionaire. So, some copies will be donated to some school libraries across for access sake.

O: So, there’s a request here, please can we have it in the Ndebele too?

S: Definitely. I think the more we support the book, the better, the more we can expand it as well. So, we started with what we could, but I’m hoping that we can have it in all 11 languages and also yeah, just having it in all 11 languages, because I think it’s quite important for everyone to have access to it.

Olwethu: Absolutely, and I also, one thing that I’m trying to do my best of, is even in the schools that my children go to. So, in their school right now, I’m going to send a copy of each one in each language so that our school libraries, we are the ones that are also empowering our school libraries to get more of our resources in there, and some access to the resources. 

So, if you’re a parent as well, think about getting a copy of this in all the languages that are available and donate them to your child’s school library so that you know, that you are empowering your child and also, you know, that you’re taking responsibility of what your child is learning and is reading at school.

Thank you so much Shudu, truly appreciate you. Thank you. Cheers.

Outro:

Thank you so much for joining us for this live, until next time. Don’t forget it’s national book week, so get your kid’s reading, read on Insta, create some content with some reading content on Instagram. I think this is the best time to kind of rally everyone to just get reading, tag us on Art of Superwoman when you purchase your book, read with your kids, create that content throughout the rest of this week, and let’s have fun with it. I love you guys, have a beautiful Monday and a beautiful rest of the week. Mwah, cheers.

Shudu Finds Her Magic can be purchased here.