More than meets the eye - An interview with Anthony Churchyard

Words: Tracy Knox

The Mr South Africa pageant is underway and after some tough questioning and numerous elimination rounds, only 50 of the 118 gorgeous contestants who entered remain. Among the top-50 finalists is photographer and volleyball enthusiast Anthony Churchyard, who sees this competition as a fantastic platform to make a difference and inspire others to share love.

DO IT NOW spoke to Anthony to find out more about what drives him, the competition and what it takes to win.

Tell us about yourself
I’m 26 years old and a freelance photographer who is passionate about extreme sports and events. I really enjoy being on missions with athletes where we just flow with ideas and images. I compete in a competitive two-a-side beach volleyball league in Randburg, but live in Pretoria. I started Ballroom and Latin dancing this year and have learnt so much about myself through it. It's been a great challenge filled with good laughs.

What prompted you to enter Mr South Africa, and have you entered any other contests like this?
I entered Mr South Africa to challenge and push myself out of my comfort zone. Essentially, I’m a person who likes to give and thought that a title like Mr South Africa would empower me to help those in need. If anything, this competition has taught me that you don’t need a title; some imagination and heart will go a long way.

I was Mr Varisty College 2009, not sure if that counts though.

Tell us a bit about the competition and selection criteria you had to go through to get into the top 50?
First, you had to enter online. From all the contestants who entered, 100 were selected based on their initial presentation. We were then given our first challenge to plan, execute and host a practical and appropriate fundraiser, with a target to raise R10,000 after expenses. My strategy to raise the money was twofold: 1) Selling raffle tickets and 2) Hosting a Café Cruze, an event where anyone who enjoys coffee or awesome cars and bikes can get together, socialise, and then take a drive between three preset locations. The Café Cruze was a great success and everyone had a wonderful time.

With the full R10k raised, I was proud to hear that I had made it into the top 50. The use of challenges in this competition is awesome, proving that it's not just a beauty pageant. You can be the best model, but if you don't push your boundaries you won't make it.

Now that you are in the top 50, what happens next?
Our current challenge is media and social media. Since we are our own brands, it is our responsibility to share our journey and expand the Mr South Africa brand. The top 25 will then be selected and they will be part of a 13-episode reality TV show on e.tv, to be broadcast towards the end of 2014. Twelve episodes will be filmed over 12 days, with one of the 25 finalists being eliminated each day.

What makes you stand out from the other contestants?
There are a lot of unique men in this competition, so it's difficult to say what makes me unique. I’ve been told I have a Colgate smile and a voice for radio, so I hope they help me to stand out.

I definitely prefer being behind the camera instead of in front of it. Being a model and looking good isn't me. I dig being outdoors and would prefer an overall to a suit and tie.

What does the 2014 concept of 'Men of Honour' mean to you?
It means to have the courage to fight for love and kindness, the strength to be gentle, the wisdom to know when and how to act and the character to do what's right. This is what the 'Men of Honour' concept is busy teaching me. The ‘Men of Honour’ campaign is brilliant. In a time when scandal is the name of entertainment, I’m happy to see that the Mr South Africa brand promotes a honorable lifestyle.

It's also been an inspiration to have the J9 Foundation as the official charity for 2014 Mr South Africa. The J9 Foundation was formed by rugby legend Joost van der Westhuizen in aid of those suffering from motor neuron disease. Joost is a great man striving to help others, even while he is fighting his own battle.

What are the most important qualities you think the Mr South Africa title holder needs?
Straight off the bat, kindness. If he can't show kindness then he can't provide what this country and so many are in desperate need of - love. Without going into a long list, I also think he needs a sense of joy, good public speaking skills, a sound mind, the ability to turn ideas into realities, humility, confidence and a strong moral character.

If you won Mr South Africa, what would your priorities be?
Besides doing a little boogie on stage, I’d like to start at the top and meet with political leaders and people of influence. It's important they know who I am so that we can work together because there will be projects and missions where I will need their help and direction.

My next goal is simply to serve those in need, and there are a lot of people in need. While being present at functions and balls is important, I’d prefer to be hands on and helping where I can.

Girls are known to be quite nasty in pageants, is this the same for the guys?
Actually it's been really nice. While there is the reality of the competition and an underlying desire to win, all the guys have been very encouraging. Some guys have even joined up on various charity initiatives. We all want to win, but we also want to make a difference, so there is a sense of camaraderie as we strive towards this dream. But we’ll see what happens in the TV show ;)

Who is the most influential person in your life?
I’d love to say someone famous, but it would simply be my best friend, Darryl. He’s a man with a serving heart and he always influences and challenges me to be better, and for this I am very grateful.

Do you have a motto that you live by?
"Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

DO IT NOW wishes Anthony all the best in his quest to become this year's Mr South Africa. 

If you would like to see Anthony as your next Mr South Africa, then vote for him by smsing MRSA 006 to 47439 (vas rates apply, R3 per sms).

More information
The 25 semi-finalists will be announced soon and they'll go on to compete in a reality show broadcast on e.tv, where the 12 finalists will be chosen for the grand finale of Mr South Africa 2014 to be held in December.

To check out Anthony's FB page or Instagram and keep up with his adventures, visit www.facebook.com/pages/Anthony-Churchyard-Photography
Instagram – @I_AM_LEGACY | [email protected]_AM_LEGACY