HARARE, ZIMBABWE —
Pageant judges have crowned a new winner of Zimbabwe's 4th annual "Mister Ugly" contest, upsetting supporters of the crowd favorite who called the winner too handsome and prompting rioting at the event.
Judges on Saturday chose 42-year-old Mison Sere, citing his numerous missing front teeth and a wide range of grotesque facial expressions, over William Masvinu, who had held the title since 2012.
Masvinu and his supporters mobbed the judges upon hearing their decision, claiming that Sere was "too handsome" to win and his ugliness wasn't natural since it was based on missing teeth.
"I am naturally ugly. He is not. He is ugly only when he opens his mouth," maintained Masvinu, gesturing at his rival.
"Do we have to lose our teeth to win? This is cheating," shouted another contestant, Patrick Mupereki. While no one was injured, there was a great deal of pushing and shoving as the results were announced and insults were hurled at the judges.
Beauty pageants are popular in this southern African country and even though they are typically for women, scandal is not unusual. Earlier this year, Miss Zimbabwe winner Emily Kachote faced a backlash on social media, with Zimbabweans calling her ugly and undeserving of the crown.
She was later forced to step down when just two weeks into her reign, images surfaced of her posing nude — which incidentally also brought down her predecessor.
Sere dismissed the critics as just "sore losers" as he pocketed the $500 in winnings.
"They should just accept that I am uglier than them,'' he said. "I hope to get a TV contract. I already moved around schools performing and showcasing my ugliness so this is a chance to make it on TV."
The complaints of Masvinu and the other contestants may have a degree of validity. Organizers had previously announced that disabilities or enhancements would not be accepted in the competition which should focus on "natural ugliness."
Pageant organizer David Machowa originally told the Associated Press that he began the contest to remove the stigma of ugliness. "Looks are God given. We should all be proud of who we are."
The pageant involved three rounds of modelling, with individual and group struts down a catwalk of a Harare nightclub.
"Sere made tremendous effort to enhance his ugliness by pulling facial stunts," said judge Abigail Mataranyika, a university student. "Masvinu thought he is so ugly that he didn't need to try hard. That cost him the crown."
This year's competition attracted a record number of 36 entries, compared to just five in 2012 when Masvinu began his winning streak. The competition was suspended in 2014 due to a lack of sponsorship, but this year the owners of a string of Harare nightclubs donated $1,000.