This is no ordinary beauty contest. It is neither glamorous nor elegant. But it is "hugely" entertaining.
The "Groot Gat Godin" competition, translates (politely) from Afrikaans as the "Broad Bottomed Beauty."
It is a first in the small South African mining town of Cullinan, east of Pretoria, where large women with dress sizes starting at 18 (16 in the US, 15 in Japan, 48 in Europe) compete for the regional title.
A school hall, complete with old wall paintings of ox-wagons and Afrikaner trekkers, is the setting for the ground-breaking event. It sports a specially built and very solid catwalk adorned with purple flowers and silver glitter.
Backstage, the 21 nervous participants add finishing touches to their make-up.
"Are we stressed?," a plump blonde in a sparkling red and silver evening dress asks mockingly, pointing with her chin to the cigarette in one hand and the beer bottle in the other.
Next to her sits Rensia O'Reilly, clasping a cigarette between her long, red, fake nails, and cooling herself with a small battery-operated fan.
O'Reilly is probably the most striking -- and heaviest -- of them all; a brunette with green cat's eyes. She is not shy about showing off her full bosom encased in an enormous Victorian-style purple dress with a tight bodice, accompanied by a golden shawl and matching lace umbrella.
Organizer Elize Kotzee waves her large arms frantically as she deals with last-minute crises.
One of the contestants is late because the family car has been stolen, another has severe stage fright, and Kotzee suddenly realizes she has misplaced the telephone number of the mayor, who needs to be called when the winner is announced.
"This is a historic event. Please forgive us if small mistakes slip in, but we are awfully nervous," Kotzee pleads to the audience.
The master of ceremonies, Koos Pretorius, a skinny man wearing a black bow tie, tries his best to boost the contestants' confidence.
"Will the men in the front row please fasten their seat-belts, we are about to start," he announces to the packed hall, where young and old, some clutching beer glasses, others with babies on their laps, have gathered to show support.
A loud Afrikaans hit song starts to play, and one by one the women, notably quieter than they were backstage, introduce themselves to the audience.
Most solemnly pledge their commitment to AIDS, orphans and the disabled, but Amanda Botha, wearing a cabaret mask and black feathers in her hair, wins substantial support for promising to ban low-fat yoghurt if she wins, and, more importantly, to build larger prisons for criminals.
"Good! Good!" shouts an elderly woman from the back of the stuffy room.
Motseng Moela, from a township outside Pretoria, one of two black contestants, dressed stylishly in a colorful traditional outfit, receives cheers from the mainly white audience when she greets them in Afrikaans.
Perhaps Annesta Mulders has the worst day. Her tiny stilettos fail to support her heavy body swaying enthusiastically to the music, causing her to fall with a loud thump and an even loader groan from the empathetic audience.
With shaking hands and a brave smile she promptly takes her shoes off and throws them dramatically over her shoulder, continuing the rest of the contest barefoot.
But nobody stands a chance against Elize van Zyl, an attractive schoolteacher from Cullinan, obviously the number one favorite among the locals, who whistle and scream whenever she appears on stage.