Meagan Duckitt, of Parow Valley, is no stranger to the glitz and glam of the fashion industry.
The former Miss SA semi-finalist and Mrs SA semi-finalist is also passionate about empowering young people to become the best versions of themselves.
Meagan comes from humble beginnings and grew up in Matroosfontein near Elsies Rivier and attended Elsbury Primary School and later Bishop Lavis High School.
After matric, she was accepted to study fashion design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in Bellville.
“After I received my degree, I began my career in the fashion industry. Initially, I started off as a designer and later a fashion buyer for three top clothing chain stores.”
Wanderlust led Meagan to Cardiff in the UK, where she worked as an image consultant and a personal stylist for three years.
In 2016 she headed down a different path and became a lecturer at the Cape Town College of Fashion Design (CTCFD) for five and half years.
Meagan says the fashion and beauty industry puts a lot of pressure on women to look a certain way and not embrace who they are.
“I have always wanted to do something meaningful to empower women through inspirational talks and teach them self love. Beauty is often perceived as being something external. However, I believe beauty shines from within,” she says.
“The industry is telling women they should be a size 8 and 10, but in South Africa the average women are between the sizes 12 and 14. Women compare themselves to the images they see in magazines. However many of those photos are Photoshopped and they paint an unrealistic standard of beauty.”
Meagan and her husband, Elroy, started an NGO, Equilibrium, in 2008 to create balanced individuals in disadvantage areas.
“We try to achieve this by hosting character-based leadership programmes,” Meagan says.
Equilibrium works with youth in Elsies River, Epping Forest, Uitzig, Clarke Estate and Ravensmead.
They also run a project called Hadassah, which means compassion in Greek, that helps to get matric dance dresses for girls who can’t afford them.
“I also try to teach the girls accountability through the project. I didn’t want them to perceive it as a hand-out.
“Every girl has to apply and motivate why they should be a recipient of a dress, and they must show how they have given back in some way in their communities.”
Last year, Hadassah donated dresses to 50 matric girls and also got sponsors to do their hair and make-up for their special night.
“This year, we plan to expand it to seven schools. We want these girls to feel valued,” Meagan says.
She also launched her fashion label, Calista Clothing, in 2016, which means “she who is most beautiful” in Greek .
“My fashion line comprises mainly bespoke wear. I make pieces specifically for my clients’ body types and taste. My website is currently under construction, and I am looking to sell my clothes online in the future.”
At the moment, Meagan is coaching Parow High School pupils for the Ms and Mr Parow High pageant later this year.
She says entering Ms South Africa in 2000 and Mrs South Africa in 2014 gave her a platform to reach more women.
South Africa celebrates Women Day tomorrow, Thursday August 9, and Meagan says one of the greatest lessons she has learnt in her life is discernment.
“Everybody has their own story, and I have also learnt that we all need to help and support each other. I have also learnt to embrace every part of me.
“The scars we have tell a story that could possibly be an inspiration to other women. My faith and beliefs have also always grounded me throughout my life.”
According to NGO Africa Check, South Africa’s femicide rate is one of the highest in the world: a woman is murdered every four hours in South Africa, and half of them die at the hands of their intimate partners.
Meagan says the most important thing is to value and respect yourself.
“We, as women, should never settle. I want them to know that there is always someone out there who will love you exactly as you are and not just tolerate you.”