JeVanne Gibbs
3 minute read
6 Oct 2014
2:02 pm

Profile: Ilzé Saunders – Miss Earth 2014 with big dreams

JeVanne Gibbs

Pressure mounts on so-called beauty queens to be knowledgeable on current affairs – but the newly crowned Miss Earth SA, Ilzé Saunders, also believes beauty should have a cause.

Ilzé Saunders, the new Miss Earth 2014, poses for pictures during an interview with The Citizen. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark.

Saunders tells The Citizen it was her dream to represent South Africa internationally – if only to spread her message that young women can create their own opportunities.

“I believe beauty queens should have a purpose and be role models to young women and share a message they can benefit from,” says Saunders.

“I always try to plant a seed in someone’s heart so they can strive to be remarkable.”

Saunders says during her reign she aims to create practical ideas that can improve lives.

“I want to change people’s perspectives about life, as anything is possible with knowledge, determination and willpower,” she says.

“About five months ago, I could not speak English at all … I want to be that example for people: no matter what your background is, whether you’re from a small town with big dreams or can’t communicate, you can succeed when you put your mind to it.”

Ilzé Saunders, the new Miss Earth 2014, poses for pictures during an interview with The Citizen. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark.

Ilzé Saunders, the new Miss Earth 2014, poses for pictures during an interview with The Citizen. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark.

Born and bred in Klerksdorp in North West, Saunders, who recently obtained a communications and management degree from the  University of the North West, describes herself as a down-to-earth young woman who was never scared of digging in the soil and getting her hands dirty.

“I’m currently busy with my BCom, which I’m planning to complete in a year,” she says.

“Planning is key in managing my time. My schedule is hectic, but I am a very energetic person, so I can be a full-time student, Miss Earth, and part of the various communities we work with.”

A self-professed “adventure girl”, Saunders’ passion for the environment stems from her desire to make a difference in communities – and
show people they can use their surroundings to create a sustainable difference.

“My father is a fisherman, so as a child I always went out with him to catch fish. I loved being outside, doing stuff like that with my brother, Johan, who studied medicine at the University of the Free State,” she says.

“As a young girl it wasn’t really weird taking part in such activities, as my brother and father are sportsmen – with international colours in fishing. We are a very outdoorsy family.”

Ilzé Saunders, the new Miss Earth 2014, poses for pictures during an interview with The Citizen. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark.

Ilzé Saunders, the new Miss Earth 2014, poses for pictures during an interview with The Citizen. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark.

Saunders’ passion is to provide opportunities for young women to enrich themselves with leadership skills.

She started the “lappieskombers” (patchwork quilt) project with the aim of empowering unemployed single mothers in Sonderwater.

The project involves women producing blankets to be sold in a bid to create independence and a sustainable income.

“Miss Earth was the ideal platform for me to make a sustainable difference – not only in my community but countrywide,” she says.

“Young people are eager to learn; they want to get involved and want to make a difference – and through Miss Earth we make the environment sexy. We make planting vegetable gardens cool.”

Ilzé Saunders, the new Miss Earth 2014, poses for pictures during an interview with The Citizen. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark.

Ilzé Saunders, the new Miss Earth 2014, poses for pictures during an interview with The Citizen. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark.

 

One of the projects Saunders embarked on with Miss Earth was an energy-efficient task, which involved visiting schools to educate students
on “green” energy, such as solar and wind power.

“I also started a food-security project at an old age home in Ikageng in Potchefstroom where elderly people are growing vegetables. With the municipality, we also created a park for them,” says Saunders.

With the rhino population under threat by relentless poaching, Saunders believes government is doing all it can to address such issues – but all South Africans should be responsible and play a role.

“We can’t just sit back and think government will handle it. They are trying, but we, as a country, should take hands and work with government,” she says.

“I made my passion a reality – and in the process I discovered who I really am.”