A competition in Zimbabwe has been marred by cheating allegations and even physical altercations. Accusations of body modifications and using unnatural means have marred the once vaunted contest as the winner pocketed the winnings under a cloud of suspicion while opponents decry the outcome. We are, of course, talking about Zimbabwe’s fourth annual “Mr. Ugly” pageant, held on Nov. 21.
The winner is one Mison Sere, a man who has been deemed “too handsome” by naysayers. Sere lacks most of his front teeth and conducted a series of facial expressions to wow the judges into awarding him the $500 prize. But rivals maintain that he plucked his teeth out intentionally and is normally a good-looking fella.
“I am naturally ugly,” says reigning three time champion William Masvinu. “He is not. He is only ugly when he opens his mouth.” Another contestant, Patrick Mupereki, chimes in as well, asking, “Do we have to lose our teeth to win? This is cheating.”
Following the announcement that Sere had won, the crowd began immediately shouting at the judges, as well as pushing and shoving one another. They point out that the contest’s rules explicitly forbid body modification or enhancements.
The contest was originally started by David Machowa to remove the stigma of not being considered attractive or beautiful in a traditional sense. However, with a $500 prize it can be tempting for people to make minor changes in order to gain an advantage. We aren’t sure we’d pull out any teeth for $500, but we aren’t Zimbabwean.
The contest originally had five contestants when it first began in 2012, but it has already grown substantially, with 36 entrants this year, though last year the contest was not held due to financial issues. The contestants strut their stuff on a catwalk and try to impress the judges with their ugliness. Sere used a variety of facial expressions in conjunction with his missing teeth to show his ugly side. It was those facial contortions that got him the prize.
“Sere made tremendous effort to enhance his ugliness by pulling facial stunts,” said judge Abigail Mataranyika. “Masvinu thought he is so ugly that he didn’t need to try hard. That cost him the crown.”
Masvinu and his supporter disagree, believing that the pageant should focus on natural ugliness only, not missing body parts or facial skills. The controversy may lead to clarification of the rules in the future, but for now Sere is holding the money and the victory. He calls the others “sore losers” and maintains that they are simply jealous of his victory.