Triumphant Shirley: Now she is aiming for the world

The Herald, 19 September 1980
STANDING backstage at last Friday’s Miss Zimbabwe finals, Shirley Richard Nyanyiwa listened tensely to the results being called.

The two runners-up were named and Shirley turned to slip away from the stage and the excitement.

“I was halfway to the dressing room when I heard Number 22 called. My number. I just froze.

“I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to cry because I didn’t think it was real, that it was just a dream.

“I was Miss Zimbabwe.”

But it was no dream and 22-year old Shirley is slowly waking up to the fact that in eight weeks, she will join the world’s most beautiful women on the stage of the Royal Albert Hall as a live television audience of a couple of hundred million people watch the Miss World finals.

“My brains numb when I think of it,” confessed the willowy model. “But with the backing of my people, I hope I’ll get somewhere in London.”

London… so remote from the girl whose roots belong in Buhera.

Shirley, whose Shona name Kudzai, means respect was born at Harare Hospital. The eldest of three children of a doctor and nursing sister, she was brought up by her grandmother in  Buhera District while her parents were working abroad.

The children came to Salisbury in 1967 when their mother returned from Britain. Two years later, their father died.

Shirley went to Mhizha Primary School in Highfield and then Highfield Secondary School.

She wrote her O Levels at a commercial college and planned to continue to A Level, but found education too expensive.

Instead, she did a commercial course and entered commerce.

Five months ago she joined British Airways as a reservations clerk and telex operator — a job which she hoped would provide her with the opportunity to travel.

Shirley started modelling about three years ago. The head of a Salisbury modelling school saw her, believed she had potential and encouraged her to take a modelling course.

Two years ago she entered Miss Flame Lily and came second. A few weeks later, she entered Miss Salisbury and won the title.

Quietly spoken with a soft, shy smile, Shirley is a homespun girl who has infinite time and consideration for her family.


  • Beauty pageants have opened windows of opportunity for many young women, and they have become influential in society.
  • Well-managed beauty pageants have seen the winners becoming good-will ambassadors for the country.
  • Beauty plus brains make a perfect match.

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