She looked in the mirror and, for the first time in her life, she didn’t know what to think of the reflection she saw. She cracked a smile and her bright white teeth emerged. She had a bright smile, but what good was the smile if it didn’t have a good figure to compliment it? That is a question always asked in the modelling industry, right?

For a second time she cracked a smile, but this time it didn’t have the same radiant quality as before. She drew closer to the mirror for an in-depth look at her teeth and gums. Then, she stood up straight and did all poses models do for photographers. The last one she did was one where she was standing with her hands on her hips and her shoulders at an angle, so that her left elbow came forward and her right one went back, her face still facing the mirror.

She felt like she did the pose wrong and tried again, over and over, with her face changing from pouts to kisses to wide smiles. Suddenly, it felt like a heavy, invisible object was pressing down on her. And then, all the happy emotions faded from her face. She went into the bathroom, sat down on the closed toilet seat and started to cry.

“Why can’t I just get it right…why?” She thought. She stood up, wiped her eyes and went back to her bedroom again. She looked around for something. Finally, her eyes landed on what she was looking for. She reached over and grabbed it. It was a photo album. She rested it in the palm of her hand. She hesitated as she was about to open it and brushed her hand over the front cover of the album, feeling the letters engraved on it.

A wave of emotion registered on her face as she slowly opened it. The first picture was that of a young girl, who could be estimated to be about eight or ten years old, smiling shyly in school uniform. She looked like she was in the park and it had been a sunny day as she was, by the looks of things, lubricated in petroleum jelly and her face was reflecting the sun. She ran her index finger along the outline of the child’s face.

“So innocent,” she said to herself.

She went on paging through the album until she came to one photo. This one had not been put into the photo pocket yet. She took it out, throwing the album on the bed. She held the photo with both her hands and sat, carelessly, on the edge of the bed. It was a photo of three girls, all in bikinis, two were smiling and one was doing something that could only be described as a grimace.

The emotions she had felt in the bathroom emerged again. She opened the album to that first photo of the little girl and then, with a hiss, said, “What have I done to you? I am so sorry.” Then abruptly, with a determined look, she said, “No! I have to do this. I am going to do this. Come what may, I am not going to give up!”

She looked back at the photo of the three girls in their bikinis. She reflected on the events that had ensued in the days after the photo had been taken.

It had been a party organised by one of the societies at Good Merit College. Mpho, Keke, and Palesa had attended it. Amongst the guests was a member of the colleagues’ newspaper’s editorial team. During the event they took pictures of people enjoying themselves at the pool. In some cases they would ask students for few minutes of their time to pose for the camera. Mpho, Keke and Palesa, being first year students, didn’t know that gatherings of this sort could be both detrimental and beneficial to one’s advancement within social circles.

Good Merit College was a college that put too much value on qualities not worthy of consideration. And if you didn’t have a back bone, they would mould you into whichever shape they wanted you. So, it was then that the photographer asked the trio enjoying themselves to pose, and they did. The results were horrid. The following Monday the issue was circulated. The front page was very upsetting for the girl in the middle of the photo that had made headlines. The editorial read:


The glitz and the glamour organisers have had the tenacious tendency of hosting quality events with attendants that meet their standards. Guests usually range from elegant, rugged and, at the very least, acceptable. As for the guest seen in the centre of the photo above, one wonders how she got past the entrance. This trivial act of negligence on the part of the society could steadily prove injurious to its status in future…

After reading the paper, Palesa had rushed quickly to the nearest bathrooms. She had stayed in there for a very long time, with teary eyes. As she was sitting there, some girls came in to apply make-up and she heard them mocking her. Her heart bled. Soon, she was the talk of the college and, when people passed her, they would hiss and laugh. She was crushed.

Her friends kept their distance and she heard via hearsay that they claimed to never have known her; that they allowed her to join them because she looked like a loner. They implied that theirs was an act of mere compassion and not of friendship.

“I am going to show them. I am Palesa and I can be as beautiful as anyone,” she thought to herself.

From then on, for weeks on end, she had been trying to prove herself beautiful in the eyes of the world, without success. In fact, the more she tried to prove her beauty, the worse the mocking became. She was determined to prove everyone wrong, but fate had it the other way round. But she was determined that she would never rest, not even a tiny bit. It became her college life mission.

She couldn’t stand the idea of being in the archives of the ‘no-no’s’ of the college for years to come. The more she envisaged it, the more desperate she became for a breakthrough. She couldn’t demand that people see her as beautiful, for such reverence can only be earned. God, if only she could earn it… but how?

She became a fan of the college’s newspaper, not for entertainment per se, but with hope that someday they would publish another humiliating story about another student who was careless in her conduct. She hoped it would be so humiliating that it would eclipse hers. She hoped against hope. Her aspiration never faltered; instead it evolved – she was obsessed!

She had prayed for a breakthrough, and indeed a breakthrough came. While she was walking across campus, reading posters on the pillars in the corridors, one caught her eye. The poster advertised the second best and biggest event on the college precinct:


The contest was one of its kind. Here the contestants didn’t have to go through a formal procedure of application and be published upfront. Instead they showed up on the day of the event. The event was graced by variety of DJ’s, who would be entertaining the crowd. There was no high level pre-requisite for one to attend; if you had the application fee, you were in. And so Palesa decided that she would enter the contest.

For days before the contest she indulged in research of her own; finding out what qualities the previous winners of the event possessed that had warranted them winning. Most of them had big alluring bosoms, the kind a man’s jaw would drop over, and the obvious – a very good smile. This was a once off opportunity to prove she was beautiful and, if she was going to do it, she had to do it right.

“I am Palesa and a pruned flower is the most beautiful. Indeed I can do with a little of that,” she had said to herself.

And now, here she was sitting in her dormitory. She glanced at the clock. It was time for her to go. She threw the photo album on her bed. As it landed, it displaced two loose pieces of paper, causing them to float up into the air. They landed on the bed again, forming a cross – they were both doctors’ notes; one from a surgeon and one from a dentist.

She took a deep breath and left the room. She approached the venue sooner than she would have liked. Outside, from a distance, she heard some noise when one contestant took the floor. She walked on and was soon in the venue. Some people turned to look at her. The line-up went on and the music played on. Contestant after contestant climbed the stage.

Then, the big moment came. The moment Palesa had been waiting for. The MC shouted,

“Anyone else, the floor is vacant?”

She sat there watching, confined to her seat by an unknown force. She shut the voices in her mind up and fear was silenced. She stood up and made for the floor, ready to strut her stuff. She wore stilettos and was clad in a white dress which exposed her shoulders and dragged along the floor behind her. She got to the floor and did her thing. So far, so good. From here and there you could hear a, “Wow, she is good!”

Then, something happened. How it happened, no one could tell for sure. Perhaps someone stepped on her dress. But her stilettos bent and caught on the end of the dress. It all happened so fast, without time for comprehension. Suddenly, she was on all fours, her knees hurting. While facing down she opened her mouth to say “Ouch” and her dentures fell out, landing on the floor. She stretched out her arm and tried to reach for them, but her dress tugged down even further, exposing her bosom. She crossed her arms over her chest, trying to protect her dignity, but a nipple showed itself where the denture was lying. The music came to an abrupt halt.


Have you ever had an embarrassing moment? What was it and how did you recover?