How Zozibini Tunzi, The New Miss Universe Won Us Over With An Answer

“I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me with my kind of skin and my kind of hair was never considered to be beautiful. And I think that's time that stops today. I want children to look at me and see my face and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine.” - Zozibini Tunzi

smita singh
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Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi

A new queen has arrived, a beauty queen, and what an arrival. I say hail the new Miss Universe - South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi, not just because she is beautiful but because of her kick-ass final answer that was bound to fetch her the coveted crown.


“Zozibini of the House Tunzi, the First of Her Name, The Brownie, Queen of the Universe, Queen of South Africa, Protector of the Realm(Tsolo), Lady Regent of the Seven Continents, Breaker of Norms and Mother of Blacks,” read a tweet.

It was a historic moment for Zozibini Tunzi, on December 9, when she was crowned Miss Universe. The 2019 Miss Universe pageant was held on Sunday night in Atlanta, the capital of the US state of Georgia. Madison Anderson from Puerto Rico was announced as the first runner-up and Mexico's Sofía Aragon was the second runner-up. The pageant had brought together 90 women to decide who will take home the title. Contestants competed in swimsuit, evening gown and on-stage question rounds.

When asked what was the most important thing we need to be teaching young girls today, Zozibini told host Steve Harvey, “I think the most important thing we should be teaching young girls today is leadership. It is something that has been lacking in young girls and woman for a long time. Not because we don’t want to but because of what society has labelled women to be. I think we are the most powerful beings on the world and that we should be given every opportunity. That is what we should be teaching these young girls. To take up space. Nothing is as important as taking up space in society and cementing yourself.”

Is that powerful or what!

This year each contestant was given the opportunity to make a final statement for the audience and judges, something which hadn't been done previously at the pageant. And this was her finishing thought.

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A role model for women

I love people, especially girls and women, who are articulate, brimming with confidence, smart, intelligent, can speak their mind and weigh what they are saying. South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi, the new Miss Universe embodies all these. Listening to her this Monday morning the first thing that came to mind was - I want my daughter to be like her someday. If this is a modern young woman then we surely are doing something right, was my second thought.

26-year-old Zozibini Tunzi is from Tsolo, South Africa. She is quite active in the fight against gender-based violence. Her Miss Universe biodata says that “She has devoted her social media campaign to changing the narrative around gender stereotypes. She is a proud advocate for natural beauty and encourages women to love themselves the way they are.”

Soon, after Zozibini was announced as the Miss Universe, Oprah Winfrey tweeted to congratulate her. She wrote, “Congratulations Miss South Africa, the new Miss Universe @zozitunzi! Agree with you...leadership is the most powerful thing we should be teaching young women today. We welcome your visit to #OWLAG, our Leadership Academy for Girls (sic).” This is an indication of Zozibini’s impact when other powerful women take notice of a new power centre.

Losing is not the end

Another powerful message that Zozibini has passed on is that losing is not the end of your dreams. Two years ago, Tunzi had participated in the Miss South Africa 2017 pageant.

Although she was selected as one of the top 26 semi-finalists during the contest, Zozibini couldn't make it to the top 12. That didn't deter Zozibini’s spirit as she made a comeback in the Miss South Africa 2019 competition and emerged as the winner. Zozibini, thereafter, represented her country in the Miss Universe 2019 pageant. And won!

This is what she tweeted after her win:

“Tonight a door was opened and I could not be more grateful to have been the one to have walked through it. May every little girl who witnessed this moment forever believe in the power of her dreams and may they see their faces reflected in mine. I am #MissUniverse2019”

Breaking stereotypes

Her win emphasises the fact that stereotypes can be broken. She broke the myth that women of colour are not beautiful enough to win a beauty pageant yet again. Together with her gravitas, poise and her hair (who goes to a beauty pageant like that, she did) she owned her space on the world stage.

Zozibini is, in fact, the first black woman to win the Miss Universe crown since Leila Lopes from Angola, who won the title in 2011. Trinidad's Janelle Commissiong was the first black woman to win the crown in 1977.

Speaking about it, Zozibini said during the pageant, “I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me with my kind of skin and my kind of hair was never considered to be beautiful. And I think that it's time that stops today. I want children to look at me and see my face and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine.”

The view expressed are the writer's own.

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Miss Universe beauty pageant Breaking Stereotype Woman of colour Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi Zozibini Tunzi