Ready to take on the world: Mr South Africa, Werner de Waal

Mr South Africa, Werner de Waal, says he’s “insanely excited” about representing the country at the Mr Gay World contest in Rome this week.

De Waal left for the Italian capital on Sunday, where he will compete against 32 delegates from around the world for the top prize.

“I’ve never been out of the country, so this is a dream come true,” the 26-year-old Capetonian told Mambaonline just before he left. “I’m looking forward to representing South Africa and holding our name high as a progressive and colourful nation.

“We have made amazing progress in the past few years regarding acceptance for all, but of course we do have our obstacles, and it is a work in progress,” de Waal added.

“I’ve done everything in my power to be prepared to bring home the crown of Mr Gay World to SA. I’m going into the competition with the mindset of having fun and making new friends and special, lasting memories,” he said.

De Waal revealed that he’s been thoroughly researching LGBT issues and has taken part in practice panel interviews (the interview in Rome will count towards 25% of the score in the competition). He’s also been training consistently at the gym to ensure that he’s in tip-top shape.

His national costume, which he’ll wear on stage, has been designed by acclaimed South African fashion label Black Coffee. While he wouldn’t reveal too much about the outfit, De Waal said that “it looks spectacular, it definitely represents South Africa well. Black coffee did an amazing job.”

He has a lot to live up to: South Africa has twice won the Mr Gay World competition, in 2010 and 2011, and came second in 2012. Last year’s winner, New Zealander Chris Olwage, was born and bred in South Africa.

After a week of various challenges, tests and appearances, the contestants will appear on stage for a final show on Saturday night, in which the winner will be announced. De Waal urged his South African supporters to vote for him online (voting is open for another four days).

In addition to competing for the international title, De Waal is also backing a bid by South Africa to host the Mr Gay World contest in the Western Cape next year. The country previously hosted it in Johannesburg in 2012.

“I definitely think we should be allowed the opportunity to host Mr Gay World again in SA,” he commented. “We have a breathtakingly beautiful country with so much to offer. We are also one of the few countries with the right infrastructure to host such a prestige event.”

The Mr South Africa contest was recently bought out by businessman Thinus Van Der Walt. He told Mambaonline that he has big plans for the competition, including a complete overhaul of the event, which will be announced in the weeks following Mr Gay World.

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