Zimbabwe’s ‘Mr Ugly’ contest marred by cheating accusations

Supporters of former title-holder riot after coronation of new winner

Newly crowned ‘Mr Ugly’  Mison Sere, poses at the  contest in Harare, Zimbabwe. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Newly crowned ‘Mr Ugly’ Mison Sere, poses at the contest in Harare, Zimbabwe. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images


Pageant judges have crowned a new winner of Zimbabwe’s fourth annual “Mr Ugly” contest - upsetting supporters of the crowd favourite and prompting rioting at the event.

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 has 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 was not natural since it was based on missing teeth.

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

“Do we have to lose our teeth to win? This is cheating,” shouted another contestant, Patrick Mupereki.

While no-one was injured in the scuffle, 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 prize.

“They should just accept that I am uglier than them,” he said, adding that he makes his living showcasing his ugliness to local schoolchildren in his neighbourhood on the outskirts of the capital, Harare.

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 reporters that he began the contest to remove the stigma of ugliness.

He maintained: “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 .