When Shudufhadzo Musida was crowned Miss South Africa last year, she was determined to use her reign to assist those struggling with various mental health ailments. At the time, the nation was deep into its Covid-19 pandemic which resulted in a spike in anxiety and depression cases.
The 25-year-old has since launched her online mental health initiative, #MindfulMondays, on her Instagram account, in conjunction with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) and Discovery Vitality.
But the Limpopo-born beauty queen noticed that this initiative was largely reaching the adult population and was cognisant that youngsters were also struggling with mental health issues. In a bid to address this, the self-proclaimed advocate for mental health awareness and empowering women and children decided to write her very first book, Shudu Finds Her Magic.
The children’s book, which will officially be launched next month (August), was inspired by her own childhood and the bullying she experienced when she moved to a new province and a new school.
“I felt it was hugely important that we reach the children of this country and the idea of Shudu Finds Her Magic was born,” she told The Saturday Star this week. “The book is aimed at children aged between 4 and 12 years of age and deals with bullying and the power of friendship.”
She added that she hoped that youngsters would be able to see themselves reflected in the storyline and be able to take something positive away from it.
Shudu Finds Her Magic, which will soon be available at bookstores as well as online at the end of August, is expected to retail for R95 and also includes illustrations by acclaimed duo Chantelle and Burgen Thorne. It will also be available in Afrikaans, English, Sesotho, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.
The reigning Miss SA said it was important for her to have the book available in six different languages.
“Studies have proven that a strong mother tongue foundation benefits youngsters throughout their schooling and education. It is an essential part of developing literacy and gives children a strong language foundation that makes learning easier,” Mashudu explained
She also hopes that Shudu Finds Her Magic will spark the imagination of all those youngsters who read it.
“It also will help with their performance in school,” she said.
While Shudu Finds Her Magic has not been officially released yet, the beauty queen said it had already received raving reviews from publisher Jacana Media. While Musida is thrilled about the official launch of her book, she admitted that putting it together was a cathartic process. Even though this is her first foray in the publishing world, her own personal experiences made it easier for her to put the book together.
“It really wasn’t a huge challenge, once I sat down and started writing my story and it has been wonderful seeing it come to life with delightful and colourful illustrations by Chantelle and Burgen Thorne.”
She has dedicated Shudu Finds Her Magic to her grandfather, Takalani Elias Musida, who she said always reminded her of how special she was, as well as her grandmother, Mbulaheni Marandela Musida, who “raised me to be the woman I am”.
“She slept with a magazine that had my picture in it under her pillow. Now, I have been able to dedicate this book to her to sleep with it among the stars.”
Musida also believes that her book sets itself apart from other children’s books of its kind because it was created with the nation’s youngsters in mind.
“It is grounded in South Africa so it is relatable to our children, so I hope that children will be able to see themselves reflected in the book.”
Ultimately, Musida hopes that her book gives children a voice and that it encourages them to speak out on whatever is bothering them.
“The one lesson I learnt is that when something bad is happening to you it is important to speak about it with an adult that you trust; this could be a parent, a family member, a teacher or an elder. Don’t be silent, speak until someone hears you and remember that being bullied is not your fault, there is nothing wrong with you and nobody should have to go through what I went through.”
Meanwhile, the Miss SA organisation and Jacana Media are determined to make Musida’s book available to children around the country and copies will be donated to Sadag, who assist children with issues like bullying and depression. Copies will also be given to literacy organisations like Biblionef, which donate books to schools and libraries to help foster a love of reading. Musida will be giving a series of virtual school talks around the publication of the book and will do a countrywide tour to promote it, subject to Covid-19 restrictions.
Musida will also be participating in the 70th edition of the Miss World pageant set to be held on December 16, 2021, at the Coca-Cola Music Hall in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She hopes to follow in the footsteps of South Africa’s Rolene Strauss, who took the title in 2014.