Zozibini Tunzi: The third beauty queen from South Africa

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Zozibini Tunzi, Miss Universe 2019, wins through her powerful message of inclusivity. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – Miss Universe 2019, Zozibini Tunzi, wants people to stop measuring beauty just by looks. “I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me — with my kind of skin and my kind of hair — would never be considered beautiful,” she said in her last response. “I think it is time that it stops today. I want children to look at me and see my face, and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine,” Tunzi said as quoted by CNN. 

Tunzi was finally nominated as the 2019 Miss Universe. She beat more than 90 contestants from around the globe in the 68th instalment of Miss Universe, which was held in Atlanta’s Tyler Perry Studios on Sunday night. The 26-year-old woman was born in Tsolo, a town in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, to a family of educators — her mother is a school principal and her father works at the Department of Higher Education and Training in Pretoria. She is the second of three girls. A Public Relations officer, she is a graduate of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town. 

She was an early favorite, but it was her powerful message of inclusivity that eventually clinched Tunzi the Miss Universe crown at Atlanta, Georgia, on Sunday night. The question posed to Tunzi and the two other finalists — Miss Puerto Rico and Miss Mexico — by host Steve Harvey was: “What is the most important thing we should teach girls today?” “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,” she said. “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.” 

Tunzi has been actively using her platform to talk about gender-based violence. Before the Miss Universe pageant, her campaign as Miss South Africa included partnering with the UN organization HeForShe. Even her national costume, which received mixed reviews from online critics, had a message. Called The Wave of Love, the ensemble, designed by Lloyd Kandlin, was embellished with ribbons in the colors of the national flag. Each ribbon contains love letters from South Africans pledging their support to South African women in the fight against gender-based violence. “The campaign is intended for good and the positive feedback has been my main focus. I appreciate every single message of support,” Tunzi told The Sowetan before jetting off to Atlanta. 

With her win, Tunzi becomes the third beauty queen from South Africa to win the crown: The first was Margaret Gardiner in 1978 and Demi- Leigh Nel-Peters in 2017. She is the first black South African to win the Miss Universe crown. (rp)