by Thinus Ferreira
As Qiniso Van Damme starts her love journey as South Africa's first bachelorette in The Bachelorette SA on M-Net (DStv 101), she says that she hopes that especially "brown girls out there" will see someone like them on television whose journey seeking love, is deemed important.
After her experience during the second season of The Bachelor SA as one of the women, Qiniso is no longer one of those waiting to be given a rose but handing out the roses, and she says she will be honest and open with empathy for the men vying for her hand. She hopes that they will be too.
As you start this journey, what are you most afraid of?
Qiniso Van Damme: I'm definitely afraid of rejection. I'm afraid, also, of putting myself out there and not finding someone - even on a show like this where M-Net has gone to extreme lengths to try and make sure that I find a person.
Why did you agree to become the bachelorette and want to do this?
Well, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Even though I'm obviously afraid of rejection, it's important that we as women put ourselves out there. We can't wait for men to come find us. This is the stone ages.
We need to put ourselves out there and go and get what we want and that's what I'm going to do and did with The Bachelor SA as well. I'm doing the best to go out there and to try and find the best person out there that I want.
What are you most excited about?
I'm very excited to share my love journey with South Africa. I'm looking forward to meeting some incredible men who just capture my heart and show me that there's still hope for girls like to find someone incredible.
You've said and alluded to that you're done "dumbing down" your emotions or "dimming down" who you are for the sake of others. What do you mean by that?
So everybody knows that I am a very bubbly person and I go for what I want and I don't apologise for my laughter or the bubbles that are just inherent in my personality.
I got to a point in my life where I found myself just choosing to silence that shine and dimming down my glow in order to make my partners feel comfortable. In The Bachelor SA house I gained the perspective of just not having to compromise, not having to minimise myself in order to make somebody else feel better.
I'm want to meet my equal and someone who appreciates me for what I am and who I am rather than who and what they want me to be.
From having been one of the women in the second season of The Bachelor SA you know the anxiety and bravado and keeping-up-appearances and the pretence of some of the women, and I don't think the group of men will be different in their behaviour.
Knowing how people behave on that side where they put up the "Instagram best" side, how do you think you will figure out who's there for you and who they really are?
I'd just like to ask them all to be authentic and to be themselves.
If, in my intuition, I can feel that they're not being themselves, then I'm going to have to let them go. In starting this journey I'mpausing my life for the second time to try and find love and I have no time for chancers.
I'm putting myself out there and I'm coming from the perspective that I trust all of the men I'm going to meet until they prove otherwise. I'm going into this with the feeling that they're going to meet me where I'm at, they're here for the honest reason that I'm here for. If someone is inauthentic, that is his fish to fry.
I think it's really just so terrible when someone makes you fall in love with a version of themselves that's "created" rather than who they really are.
I want to choose someone on this journey who I know both their flaws and their perfections and where I can make my own decision as to if I want to accept those flaws, or not. But hiding that kind of stuff is not fair.
Also in myself, I will come forth with honesty. I want the men to also know that they have power, and they can choose whether or not they want to be with me and whether they want to accept my flaws just as much as the things that are beautiful about me.
What did your family members say when you told them that you might be the bachelorette in The Bachelorette SA, and when you decided to do it?
The only one who was really surprised was my mom because she had no idea what The Bachelorette is.
I was worried about my sister, Phumzile Van Damme in terms of the fact that she works in a very serious job that basically decided policy and decides how the country might be, and now here is her sister starring in a reality television show. I didn't want that to negatively impact her in any way.
But my sister just said, "you know what, go for it, go for it, go for it. You have your own life and do what you've got to do to live that life to the best that you can".
You've been and are a model and you have been in the public eye and also from The Bachelor SA you would have experienced the fame factor and how to handle fame.
Now with you in The Bachelorette SA the fame will be even more focused around you specifically. What do you think you've learnt in terms of managing being a public person and being famous and how do you think it might be different this time?
I've been really lucky with my sister being a spokesperson for the Democratic Alliance (DA) political party and just taking her advice on what to do with trolls, what to do about people who are racist or problematic.
Her approach and advice just really guided me in my own career. Now with this, I know that she's going to support me and just show me how to dim down the "haters". I understand that it's unconventional.
Also, because the public is involved in my love journey, they are going to have some things to say but at the end of the day it's not about them as much as it is my journey and about reigniting everybody's journey with love - for instance, those who have given up on love.
I hope this gives them hope. I hope that those who have decided that South African men don't have potential anymore and who have given up rediscover that South African men are beautiful. I hope that brown girls out there see another brown girl who is bubbly and loud and see that she has a right to love too and a right to have her love story be seen as something important.
So, at the end of the day, I feel that the positives so greatly outweigh the negative. The Bachelorette SA is about love and at the end of the day, I'm the one who's going to be settling down with someone or not.
What did you learn from your time in the house that you think will give you insight into the process? Knowing how the women behaved, what will you specifically look at and try and observe about the men?
With Marc it also happened that the women told him that he's not aware of what's happening when he isn't around. What will you try and see or puzzle out when you are around them that they might not realise?
I think men generally don't know what I'm observing when I'm trying to date them.
Honestly, for me the thing that I'm taking away from my experience in the mansion is empathy and a compassion for those guys. Marc and Lee were not in a mansion at any point before they became The Bachelors.
They didn't know what it felt to have a date or not have a date, to be chosen for an experience or not chosen, that all of these people are on you constantly, all the time, who you don't know. It's just a lot.
I want to enter this journey with compassion and let these guys know that I know what they're going through, I know what they are sacrificing to be on this journey with me, and I respect that and that I'm grateful for that.
I will definitely be open with all of these men because whoever is here for the right or wrong reasons, that is their own thing to bear. That will be their own problem. I just need to be there - honest and open.
The Bachelorette SA is on M-Net (DStv 101) on Thursdays at 19:30, starting on 11 February 2021.