Man­i­cured talons are out

Al­leged rig­ging ru­mours at city beauty com­pe­ti­tion Dur­ban sa­lutes the­atre king’s pro­fes­sion­al­ism and kind­ness

Sunday Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - NABEELAH SHAIKH NABEELAH SHAIKH

ASCANDAL has erupted over the Mrs Uni­verse 2017 pageant held in Dur­ban re­cently af­ter a video sur­faced on so­cial me­dia this week in which a con­tes­tant al­leged the con­test was rigged and the in­ter­na­tional or­gan­is­ers were racist.

Mrs Latin USA, Monika Tunc­bilek, al­leged in a 30-minute tell-all video on her Face­book page that she was asked to pay $10 000 (R132 281) for a spot in the top 20.

She also al­leged the in­ter­na­tional or­gan­is­ers called the In­dian con­tes­tants “sav­ages” and crit­i­cised Lati­nas over their lack of punc­tu­al­ity.

The event was poorly or­gan­ised, con­tes­tants were treated badly and they weren’t fed, ac­cord­ing to Tunc­bilek. She claimed that one con­tes­tant went with­out food for a day and a half.

When the or­gan­is­ers did give them food, it was fast food like Mcdon­ald’s, piz­zas, burg­ers and fries which most of the con­tes­tants did not eat, she said.

Tunc­bilek also claimed that the or­gan­is­ers had pro­moted the event as hav­ing par­tic­i­pants from 85 coun­tries, but said this was a lie.

“About 20 par­tic­i­pants came from In­dia and there were five par­tic­i­pants from the US alone. So it re­ally wasn’t 85 coun­tries as they had ad­ver­tised,” she said.

Her video has been viewed more than 13 000 times.

Con­tes­tants’ sched­ules in HE TOUCHED the hearts and lives of all those he knew and if there is one thing he will be re­mem­bered for it is his smile.

That’s how friends and rel­a­tives re­mem­bered Dur­ban the­atre king Themi Ven­turas, who died this week at a hospice af­ter bat­tling pan­cre­atic cancer for sev­eral months. He was sur­rounded by his fam­ily as he breathed his last.

His death has left a void in the South African the­atre com­mu­nity, who de­scribed his per­son­al­ity and pro­fes­sion­al­ism as “re­mark­able”.

Ven­turas had worked in the arts for more than 30 years and was an award-win­ning di­rec­tor, per­former, pro­ducer, mu­si­cian, per­former and Dur­ban were full of “mean­ing­less ac­tiv­i­ties” and they had no time to them­selves, she added.

Tunc­bilek re­ceived a le­gal let­ter yes­ter­day from a Dur­ban law firm on be­half of the hosts. It asked her to re­move her defam­a­tory re­marks and video or the or­gan­is­ers would ob­tain an in­ter­dict or in­junc­tion against her.

How­ever, Tunc­bilek said she was not threat­ened.

“I am not one to be eas­ily afraid of any­thing and I know that I am speak­ing the truth about what hap­pened to me so I have noth­ing to lose.”

Tunc­bilek and pageant or­gan­iser Sava Tsekov were be­lieved to have been at log­ger­heads for the du­ra­tion of the pageant in Dur­ban.

Tracey-anne Buck­ley Aggett, the Mrs Uni­verse host­ing di­rec­tor for Africa and first princess (Mrs Uni­verse Zimbabwe) in last year’s com­pe­ti­tion, said she was aware of the so­cial me­dia com­ments, but that they were un­true.

“The con­tes­tant con­cerned was dis­qual­i­fied by the In­ter­na­tional Mrs Uni­verse Ltd com­pany in Bul­garia af­ter the world fi­nal at the Dur­ban ICC af­ter her defam­a­tory com­ments.

“An in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion is un­der way by the In­ter­na­tional Mrs Uni­verse Com­mit­tee and Com­pany.

“The South African or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee has also sought le­gal ad­vice and is pur­su­ing the mat­ter,” said Buck­ley Aggett.

How­ever, Tunc­bilek said she writer. He served as the man­ager of many the­atre venues and com­pa­nies. would con­tinue to ex­pose the truth be­hind the go­ings on at this year’s pageant. She said she had sup­port from other con­tes­tants, in­clud­ing Mrs Swe­den and Mrs South Africa, who had been in con­tact with her.

Mrs South Africa Tr­isha Poona said she had a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. “How­ever, some of the al­le­ga­tions made by Monika are ques­tion­able and I feel for her be­cause I know where she is com­ing from.

“We were told by one of the other con­tes­tants that they were also asked to pay a sum of money and we knew some­thing was fishy if this was be­ing said by more than one per­son.

“But there is noth­ing I can con­firm be­cause it was hearsay,” said Poona.

Tunc­bilek also shared a sec­ond Youtube video on her Face­book page in which she con­fronted the pageant or­gan­iser while in Dur­ban about al­le­ga­tions sur­round­ing the rig­ging of the pageant and be­ing of­fered a spot in the top 20 for a sum of money.

Ven­turas was cre­mated yes­ter­day at a pri­vate gath­er­ing with only fam­ily present.

“What I will miss most about my dad is just hav­ing him around and his un­wa­ver­ing sup­port. He was al­ways so proud of his chil­dren and his guid­ance was amaz­ing. We would like to thank ev­ery­one for stand­ing by us through this dif­fi­cult time,” said his son Matthew.

He said a pub­lic me­mo­rial ser­vice would be held at the Elizabeth Sned­don The­atre at a date yet to be con­firmed.

Ven­turas’s friend and col­league, Daisy Spencer, who worked with him for more than 14 years, said he had taught her ev­ery­thing she knew as an artist.

“He pushed bound­aries and re­ally went the ex­tra mile to help and en­cour­age artists. We worked closely to­gether on the Young Per­form­ers Project Foot­loose. He was not a self­ish man and would of­ten not even like to take credit for his work be­cause that’s how hum­ble he was. He was an in­cred­i­ble man who al­ways stood back and made artists feel re­spected and val­ued,” said Spencer.

Pub­li­cist Illa Thomp­son, who worked along­side Ven­turas for many years, said not in her mem­ory had the en­tire Dur­ban the­atre fam­ily come to­gether in their united grief and sad­ness as they had now, on hear­ing of Ven­turas’s pass­ing.

“In many ways, Themi was the glue who bound our frag­ile lit­tle com­mu­nity to­gether – he was the tena­cious vi­sion­ary, al­ways the one who ini­ti­ated the projects, opened the­atre venues, ran fes­ti­vals and did so much to pro­vide work for us all. He was the one who gave so many young per­form­ers the lucky break to kick­start their ca­reers and live their dreams,” said Thomp­son.

She said he would be re­mem­bered as the cham­pion of the un­der­dog.

“His legacy is vast – but, at a time when apartheid di­vided us, Themi’s the­atre united us. I had worked along­side Themi since the 1980s, and I will miss his ded­i­ca­tion, in­spi­ra­tion, lead­er­ship, friend­ship and care,” said Thomp­son.

Mrs Latin USA, Monika Tunc­bilek.

Themi Ven­turas

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