With the pandemic still raging, Rwanda’s event scene has been crippled by the tight health regulations that have resulted in few face-to-face public events. However, the 2021 Miss Rwanda beauty pageant is still going on, but with several differences from past years.
The pageant themed Beauty, Brain, and Culture, Rwanda Inspiration Backup, the company which is managing the show, decided to run the 2021 Miss Rwanda edition virtually. The first stages of the event were executed fully online, and the later stages were in person.
The pre-selection that took place on March 6, at the Intare Conference Arena, was limited to the jury, contestants, and technical team.
All activities were broadcast live on KC2 Television and via the Miss Rwanda YouTube Channel. They included runway catwalk sessions by all contestants, and a question and answer session. There were three emcees, who communicated in Kinyarwanda, English, and French.
Online registration ended on February 8, in response to the open call via the Miss Rwanda website. This was followed by a virtual audition, in which contestants sent in videos of themselves. From these, some 37 contestants from various provinces in Rwanda were passed to continue.
Voting was done online and by SMS voting in February, which influenced the March 6 pre-selection, narrowing the field to 20 contestants.
The top 20 are currently at a boot camp until March 20, when the grand finale will be held at Kigali Arena. According to the organisers, the rest of the activities will be conducted under what has been termed the “bubble system”. The public will be updated exclusively through the official broadcaster and Miss Rwanda online platforms.
“It is indeed a tough period, but we had to keep our goal of empowering women alive,” said Dieudonne Ishimwe, the CEO of Rwanda Inspiration Backup.
Ishimwe says going virtual has been costly and challenging. From honouring health protocols like rapid and regular testing of contestants, jury, and staff, to the cost of production, payment of the technical team, venue, and other activities.
The event previously relied on gate entrance collection from the public to fund some of its activities.
“The good thing is that the pageant made a name for itself in past years, which has attracted sponsorship and partners,” Ishimwe said.
This year's edition of Miss Rwanda has introduced major changes in selection criteria, organisation, and an upgrade in awards and prizes.
Unlike previous editions, the 2021 Miss Rwanda winner and finalists will be supported in different ways, including financing their projects for the entire coming year.
A total of nine finalists, who will include the First Runner Up, Second Runner Up, Most Innovative Project, Talent Winner, Miss Congeniality, Miss Popularity, Miss Photogenic, and Miss Heritage — all selected at the grand finale — will be offered full-year paid brand ambassador deals with various Rwandan companies and full university scholarships.
The crowned Miss Rwanda 2021 will walk away with the grand prize of a new Hyundai Creta, SUV 4X4 by Hyundai Rwanda, also a new major partner, and a monthly allowance fee of Rfw960,000 ($967), among other prizes.
The beauty pageant was first introduced in 1993, with Delila Uwera as the first Miss Rwanda.
However, it was not held in 1994 because of the Genocide against the Tutsi. It was later revived in 2009, where Grace Bahati was crowned. She was followed by Aurore Kayibanda (2012), Colombe Akiwacu (2014), Doriane Kundwa (2015), Jolly Mutesi (2016), Elsa Iradukunda (2017), Liliane Iradukunda (2018), Meghan Nimwiza (2019), and Naomie Nishimwe (2020).