Glamour, class and pomp characterised this year's Miss Malawi beauty pageant held last Friday at Capital Hotel's Marquee in Lilongwe.
And when the pageant's creative director, Tadala Chakhaza, was called to announce the winner, the jam-packed marquee was shrouded with anticipation and anxiety.
"Ladies and gentlemen, it's with great pleasure that I announce this year's Miss Malawi. She is contestant number 14," said Chakhaza, igniting ululations and prolonged applause.
Suzan Mtegha was the contestant number 14. She swayed a panel of five judges namely, Malawi's former Big Brother Africa representative Hazel Warren, Marjorie Machinjiri of National Lottery Board, Bridget Mkumba, Bruno Kalemba, artist Qabaniso Malewezi. They certified her as someone with unquestionable integrity, intelligence, beauty and talent befitting the office of Miss Malawi.
Suzan walked away with K500, 000 from Carlsberg Malawi and Blockbusters, a trip to Hong Kong courtesy of National Lottery Group, a scholarship from New Horizon, a K60, 000 shopping voucher and K100,000 from Farmers World.
For the first time in the history of the pageant, two contestants from Mzuzu City made it to the top three. Apart from Suzan, the other Mzuzu-based beauty is Jacqueline Chimkwita-Phiri, a Biomedical Science student at Mzuzu University who emerged second Princess.
Mayamiko Msosa, 22, an employee of National Assembly in Lilongwe was crowned first princess.
During the colourful ceremony, musicians Theo Thomson, Rudo Mkukupa Chakwera and Symon and Kendal dished out beautiful vibes.
Miss Zambia, Zindi Hanzala, and Miss Zimbabwe, Samatha Shuma, also graced the event, which had Gender, Child and Community Development minister Reen Kachere as guest of honour representing First Lady Callista Mutharika who excused herself due to a busy schedule.
Other cabinet ministers in attendance during the jam-packed event were Patricia Kaliati, Jean Kaliani and Daniel Liwimbi.
The 24-year-old Miss Malawi is a holder of an advanced diploma in Information System from the Lilmikokwing University of Botswana. A fashion designer and dancer, the new beauty queen is a cousin to 2006 Miss Malawi, Perth Msiska.
A seventh born in a family of eight, Suzan's ambition is to obtain a Masters Degree in Information Technology.
Is she single or taken?
"I am in a steady relationship but I am not prepared to disclose my boyfriend's name," she says.
And how does she feel to be crowned Miss Malawi?
"I feel greatly honoured. I was a bit nervous at first but as soon as I picked up confidence, I knew I would make it and here I am. I promise I'll make a difference by working hand in hand with the responsible ministry to fight against deforestation in the country," says Suzan whose original home is Bwengu in Mzimba.
Mayamiko Agatha Msosa
The 22-year-old First Princess is currently working as an editorial intern at the National Assembly in Lilongwe. She is a holder of a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Humanities.
She says her ambition is to become a chartered marketer and own a prominent marketing film while as the first princess her goal is to encourage teen mothers to go back to school.
"I will fight hard to ensure that I realise this noble dream by finding means of encouraging teen mothers to go back to school so that they become self-reliant and productive citizens," she says.
For being crowned first princess, Mayamiko went away with K150, 000 from Nali Limited and a K20, 000 shopping voucher.
Jacqueline Chimkwita Phiri
Currently in third year at Mzuzu University, the 19-year-old Second Princess aspires to become a highly recognised neuro-surgeon.
She says her eyes are set on helping vulnerable people, especially prisoners.
"I want to work with human rights organisations to fight for the rights of prisoners in addition to assisting them with various basic items," she says.
As second princess, she carted home K100, 000, a K20, 000 shopping voucher and K50, 000 from Farmers World.
Miss Malawi organisers to start recognising princesses
It is a common feature within the beauty pageant circles for the beauty queen to be flanked by the first and second princesses on her coronation day.
These are ladies that come out second and third – quite closer to grabbing the crown.
But it has been noted that the recognition bestowed on the princesses ends immediately at the end of the contest. The winning queen goes on to execute her duties without her 'two deputies'.
In fact, their contacts with the organisers of the pageant also end there, making one wonder whether these two positions should be sustained.
For instance, the first princess for Miss Malawi 2010 Carol Zulu and second princess Mavis Ngulube have never worked with the outgoing Miss Malawi Faith Chibale throughout their year long tenure.
While appreciating the concern, the organisers of the event, Artistic Agency, say this trend will be a thing of the past as this time around all the finalists will be working as a unit.
"We already discussed the issue with the girls before they paraded that whoever wins will be a mother to the princesses including all the finalists.
"We want to ensure that these girls work as a team. We have lined up several projects for them. Various stakeholders and individuals, including the First Lady Madam Callista Mutharika, have promised to support the office of Miss Malawi," says the agency's artistic director Vitu Kamanga.
He says in the past the princesses were not recognised because of financial constraints.
"The corporate world only preferred to support the winner, leaving her deputies just idling but that will never happen again since we have already worked out plans on the matter," he says.