By Surihe Gaomas and Lesley-Anne van Wyk WINDHOEK – Nick-named cockroach when she was small? Enjoys Dolly Parton songs every now and again? Rides next to you on the taxi and has the occasional interesting conversation with the driver? Miss Namibia too? NEVER? Believe it. Maybe you think that Miss Namibia is a haughty title to be worn with a stuffy nose and a heavy dose of arrogance, well maybe the ordinary beauty queens have made it seem that way in the past. But 22-year-old Anna Na-shandi carries her newfound fame with a ready smile and modest demeanour. No regular wild nights out on the town for this beauty. You’re probably more likely to find her curled up on her bed, roasting in the mid-afternoon sun relaxing and reading a novel – the latest being The Colour Purple by Alice Walker. And guess what else she likes to do? “My free time? You’ll find me cleaning! I find it relaxing, whether I’m stressed or happy. I guess you could say I’m almost obsessive compulsive that way!” She inherited this characteristic from her mother Monica Nashandi, whose neat touch can be felt from the first moment you walk into her house. Anna, sitting in a lounge chair in black slacks, thick woollen jersey and a pair of bedroom slippers was all too eager to talk about herself. When asked how she would describe herself, she looks away and carefully but energetically lets you know “That’s a very broad question! There are so many aspects to who I am, but I’ll say that I’m very analytical, but sensitive too. And definitely that I have a colourful character.” Leaning forward, in a cross-legged position she’s letting out a warm laugh while her big silver hoop earrings shake in tune. She continues to tell about the difficulty she had deciding what to study. “I have two major passions: Psychology and Fashion. When it came to time to study I really didn’t know what to do. So I asked my family and friends to tell me what they thought I should do and they kept saying you would make a great psychologist. So I read up on the subject and thought, ‘hey, I would make a good psychologist!'” But this doesn’t mean she’s neglected her love for fashion. “I actually make most of my clothes, and I always change or style what I buy.” One look at the collection of shoes packed out on her bedroom floor that have spilled from the cupboard, and you’ll see just how much she loves shopping and her tasteful style! With her studies in Middlesex London currently on hold, Anna says, “I had to take some time off and just see what else I could do for a year, and besides I had been thinking about doing it for a while and just decided to follow my heart. And look what happened!” Staying at home with her mom and brother 15-year-old Iyambo, Anna is a lovely daughter and older sister. Family really matters to this February 23rd Piscean and as she shows us her favourite childhood photos, there are plenty of affectionate references and a smile of fondness for each person she describes. Remember that cute little cockroach running around when she was younger? Well, the nickname came from when her parents were in exile in Angola and her mom, while pregnant with Anna, would go around the house killing cockroaches with her shoe. “Someone said that if that baby’s a girl we’re gonna call her cockroach!” Even though she doesn’t have a traditional name, this tall Namibian lady has a Russian one. “I think I must be the only African with a Russian name! My father gave it to me, Svetlana, and it means ray of light.” Lieutenant Colonel Martin Nashandi is currently in service in Outapi, but it is her mother that’s had most of an impact on Anna’s life. “I’m going to be really boring and say it: my mother is my role model! If in 20 years’ time I could be just half the woman she is, I would consider myself very successful and blessed. I think any mother, being the backbone of the family, dealing with all the joys and the sadness of each family member, should be admired for their strength.” And how did country and western music appear in Anna’s childhood, you ask? “When we drove to Owamboland growing up, my mom would play that Randy Travis and Dolly Parton tape over and over again! My brother and I didn’t have a choice but to learn to like it.” Aside from old country crooners, you’ll find the soulful jams of Erika Badu and D’Angelo moving Anna’s slim hips. So, being born in Angola, growing up in Namibia, Sweden and the UK as a diplomat’s child has to mould your life in a different way to most other people. “Being a diplomat’s child, even though you’re not really able to do everything most kids or teenagers get up to, you learn to embrace responsibility at a young age because it instils discipline in you and we got to meet people that we otherwise never would have met.” As for finding herself in a beauty contest she lets us in on the driving force behind that. “You could say that my cousin Netumbo was my ‘Campaign Manager’. She called me and told me about all the prizes I’d win, but at first I just shrugged the idea off because I thought ‘its not me’.” With prizes including a car, free petrol (even though she doesn’t have a licence), a gigaphone, sponsored holidays and a diamond – who could blame anyone for wanting those benefits? But we are glad for Netumbo’s encouragement because as soon as Anna comes back from Miss Universe in Los Angeles, she has a few surprises for Namibia. “I’ve always loved art! And while doing my A-levels I really developed a passion for it. That’s what I want to do with my reign, bring a new twist to Miss Namibia and really let my personality shine through! If I could do a big art project with lots of kids, I’d be really happy,” she said excitedly stroking her long braids. And just which qualities does she favour the most about herself? Well, that’s a tricky one because over the years this modest young lady has learnt to use her strengths and weaknesses to her advantage. “I’m a very impulsive person, but that’s what makes my life very exciting. I’m very emotional too. And at the same time straightforward, but diplomatically so. Experience has taught me how to tone these down and play them up when I need to,” said the happily single Miss Namibia. With her clear voice and fluent words she says that plans for the future don’t always turn out the way she plans. “But that’s life for you; I have a vision of where I want to be and the uncertainty and adventure of the journey is just as important as the destination.” How’s that for maturity and level-headedness? Is she concerned about what people think about her in these beauty pageants? “I don’t compare myself to other people. I’d go crazy if I did! People can either like me or not, that’s just something we all have to face. And I’ve also learnt from the training I’ve had in Cape Town and my experiences in the pageant that it’s okay not to know the answer to a judge’s question, you just need to have a firm substantiation for what you think and be able to express it confidently. I’m giving you Anna, and that’s all I have to give.” With an intuitive and caring nature it is no surprise that she could appreciate all of the positive qualities in her Miss Namibia pageant counterparts. Anna didn’t think she would win and constantly wondered whether she would make it to the top five. “The whole experience was enjoyable, but the highlight was going to Sossusvlei and having that opportunity to bask in nature’s beauty and do some soul searching and self evaluation before the final competition.” And as for her immediate future, Miss Universe holds a completely different set of challenges. A smile creases her smooth skin as she tells us that she will be un-chaperoned to the contest. And as we gasp in disbelief, she has a look of latent expectation and intrigue at the prospect of being trusted to herself for such a large task. After all, could Anna do anything other than make every Namibian proud and hopeful that she’ll be a noble Ambassador for her country?