Miss Deaf South Africa’s reign to be ‘one to remember’
13 October 2022
By Moraka Mehale
The newly crowned Miss Deaf South Africa (MDSA) plans to make her 12 months’ reign memorable through fundraising initiatives and creating more deaf awareness. The 25-year-old from Radiokop, Gauteng was the winner at the MDSA event which took place in Durban on September 3 2022.
Kereese Kuppan told ThisAbility that she would be advocating for the inclusion and recognition in education and social interaction of persons with deafness. This includes full right to access to education through visual modes as well as the understanding of deafness, sign language and the culture of deaf community.
With September being Deaf Awareness Month, to educate the public about hearing loss and deafness, Kuppan believes sign language should be one of the official languages, so “we can offer it at schools, make the language more accessible to society. This would mean so much to the deaf community.” Her dream is very close to being realised as in July 2022 the government published the constitutional amendment for sign language to be official.
Kuppan, who had never entered a beauty pageant before, said that “I have already been in touch with NGOs that need help” and planned events with them although dates are to be finalised. Before being crowned 2022 MDSA, this alumnus of the Johnathan Andrews Academy of photography and videography worked as a photographer.
She says her journey to being crowned was “such an amazing experience and all the contestants got to bond by participating in all organised events by MDSA and involved in publicity week”.
MDSA chief executive officer Janice Janker told ThisAbility that they want to empower finalists and winners with skills such as the importance of acceptance of their own uniqueness, to be proud of who they are, how to overcome barriers in communication with hearing people and how to go on fundraising as well as individual marketing in the public space.
Janker added that, as the finalists and winners continue with their growth on deaf community representation in the public, “we would like to believe we have achieved our goals we set regularly”. She said Kuppan is expected to create deaf awareness by teaching people about deaf culture which involves social beliefs, behaviours, values, art, literary traditions as well as “communication with deaf people and to be a bridge builder between the hearing and the deaf in her unique manner” of understanding deaf condition.
To enter MDSA contestants apply to the organisation and go through a selection process before making it to the Top 10 finalists. Judges focus on public votes, charity work done in different settings and one’s description of diversity during the finals. According to Janker, Kuppan stood out in all these.
Her mother, Magdelene Kuppan, describing how she felt the moment her daughter was crowned, felt that “I have done something right in raising this young woman who now is a representative of deaf culture.”
Kuppan will represent South Africa at the 2023 Miss Deaf Universe pageant, for which the date and place are yet to be announced.