Zimbabwe’s ‘Mister Ugly’ contest turns ugly

Contestants stand on stage, during the 2015 edition of the Mr Ugly competition, in Harare, Saturday, Nov. 21.2015. The competition was won by Maison Sere who controversially dethroned former Mr Ugly William Masvinu to scoop the top prize of $500 in a contest marked by allegations of cheating. Masvinu has had it relatively easy over the past 3 years when the contest struggled to draw more than 10 contestants. This year's competition attracted 35 contestants with organisers saying they were looking for people with natural ugliness. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Harare – Pageant judges have crowned a new winner of Zimbabwe’s 4th annual “Mister Ugly” contest, upsetting supporters of the crowd favourite and prompting rioting at the event.

Mison Sere, Zimbabwe’s Mr Ugly. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP)

Judges on Saturday chose 42-year-old Mison Sere, citing his numerous missing front teeth and a wide range of grotesque facial expressions, over William Masvinu, who had held the title since 2012.

Masvinu and his supporters mobbed the judges upon hearing their decision, claiming that Sere was “too handsome” to win and his ugliness wasn’t natural since it was based on missing teeth.

“I am naturally ugly. He is not. He is ugly only when he opens his mouth,” maintained Masvinu, gesturing at his rival.

“Do we have to lose our teeth to win? This is cheating,” shouted another contestant, Patrick Mupereki. While no one was injured, there was a great deal of pushing and shoving as the results were announced and insults were hurled at the judges.

Sere dismissed the critics as just “sore losers” as he pocketed the $500 in winnings.

“They should just accept that I am uglier than them,” he said. “I hope to get a TV contract. I already moved around schools performing and showcasing my ugliness so this is a chance to make it on TV.”

The complaints of Masvinu and the other contestants may have a degree of validity. Organisers had previously announced that disabilities or enhancements would not be accepted in the competition which should focus on “natural ugliness”.



Pageant organiser David Machowa originally told the Associated Press that he began the contest to remove the stigma of ugliness. “Looks are God given. We should all be proud of who we are.”

The pageant involved three rounds of modelling, with individual and group struts down a catwalk of a Harare nightclub.

“Sere made tremendous effort to enhance his ugliness by pulling facial stunts,” said judge Abigail Mataranyika, a university student. “Masvinu thought he is so ugly that he didn’t need to try hard. That cost him the crown.”

This year’s competition attracted a record number of 36 entries, compared to just five in 2012 when Masvinu began his winning streak. The competition was suspended in 2014 due to a lack of sponsorship, but this year the owners of a string of Harare nightclubs donated $1 000.

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