A PORT Elizabeth-born man is in the running to be named Mr South Africa 2013, after initial interviews by judges with hundreds of hopefuls around the country that whittled the field down to 50 semifinalists.
The top 50 were announced on Friday and Harshil Mitha, 25, secured the No 1 spot on the list.
Mitha, who describes himself as an "Indian-looking gentleman who speaks Afrikaans and plays rugby", said getting this far in the competition had been a blessing. "I am grateful and amazed at the greatness of God and this opportunity He has given me."
Mitha, who matriculated from Grey High School in 2005, said he entered Mr SA to show South Africans, and the world, what he had to offer. "I believe in myself, who I am and that I can be the brand and image that would honour the prestigious title of Mr South Africa. It is a platform for someone normal, someone like me, to be able to reach out to many people from all areas of life and make a difference where I can," he said.
The humble Mitha believes his purpose is to break perceptions. "I enjoy challenging myself and pushing the boundaries."
Mitha, who works in Mpumalanga as an agricultural adviser at Standard Bank, said he had always enjoyed being different.
"As Trevor Noah describes himself as 'other', I am also the same. I was the first person in my family to venture to Stellenbosch, a predominantly Afrikaans university. When I got here, I fully embraced the Afrikaans culture, including the language, the cooking, and the dancing [sokkieing]."
Mitha, whose parents still live in Malabar, enjoys working with children.
"There are so many kids in the world today who grow up with no guidance, hope, faith or love. I know I have not had the hardest upbringing but also not the easiest. But I feel blessed by the Lord for what I do have and am so grateful for that, and if I am capable of returning love to the world, then why not?"
The contestants for Mr SA, which is mostly run online, will be judged on a combination of public (SMS) votes, the sale of benefit cards and the judges' vote.
To vote for Mitha, SMS MRSA25 to 47439.