Who is Zozibini Tunzi? 8 things you need to know about Miss Universe 2019
Zozibini Tunzi — the winner of Miss Universe 2019 from South Africa — represents more than just a title. Here's why Zozibini Tunzi's Miss Universe win is historic.
Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe 2019 on Monday, making her the first black woman to win since Leila Lopes (Angola) in 2011, and one of only six black Miss Universe winners since the competition started in 1952. The South African contestant won the title at this year’s pageant in Atlanta, USA, after taking part alongside more than 90 women. Tunzi is only the third woman from South Africa to ever win Miss Universe. Her eloquent and informed answers on social issues propelled her to the winning title followed by Madison Anderson from Puerto Rico and Sofia Aragon from Mexico as first and second runners up, respectively. Tunzi’s win, in particular, is a vital moment for the representation of black women, given the history of international beauty pageants routinely excluding them.
Zozibini Tunzi is a queen of many firsts. She became the first black woman from South Africa to be crowned Miss Universe and the first to wear the new crown, called 'The Power of Unity,' which celebrates women and their strength. During the Miss Universe 2019 gala, contestants were asked questions on a variety of topics, ranging from social media to climate change to what they hope the future holds. Tunzi’s answer stood out when she was asked what young girls should be taught today. Her answer was leadership — she encouraged people to give women opportunities and to teach girls the importance of taking up space.
"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," she said in her last response. "I think it is time that 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." So, who is this powerful new voice, now crowned Miss Universe 2019? Zozibini Tunzi is a public relations specialist and model who grew up on the East Cape of South Africa.
Before entering the Miss Universe pageant, she was working on her masters’ degree in public relations and campaigning against gender-based violence. As part of her campaign for Miss Universe, Tunzi partnered with HeForShe, a United Nations-run organization that encourages men to get involved in the fight for gender equality. Tunzi asked men from South Africa to write messages of support to women which were later printed on pieces of ribbon and made into her national costume for Miss Universe:
Despite Zozibini Tunzi's victory, Miss Universe has received criticism over the years for what people believe are outdated practices. Many question whether Miss Universe and pageants in general, have a place in today’s society. Attempting to assume a more modern position, Miss Universe places more focus on the contestants’ achievements. This year, the panel of judges was made up of seven women. The selection committee included Latin American actress and TV host Gaby Espino, US businesswoman Bozoma Saint John, Miss America 2018 Cara Mund, US social media and TV personality Sazan Hendrix, Miss USA 2008 Crystle Stewart, Miss Universe 2014 Paulina Vega, and Miss Universe 2007 Riyo Mari. This is the second time that the Miss Universe judges panel is comprised entirely of female judges; the first was last year, for the 2018 Miss Universe pageant.
Zozibini Tunzi hopes to reinvent the Miss Universe title, not only encouraging representation, but fully embodying it. Tunzi reflected on her win in an Instagram post on Tuesday, saying she felt a door has been opened adding, "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.”
Here are eight things you should know about Zozibini Tunzi:
1. She's 26 years old, born on 18th September 1993.
2. She's 5 ft 10 in (1.78m) tall.
3. She was born in Tsolo, Eastern Cape of South Africa.
4. She studied at Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
5. Her first pageant was in 2017, when she was a semi-finalist of Miss South Africa 2017.
6. She is a proud activist who speaks out about gender-based violence on her social media. She promotes the UN's #HeForShe campaign.
7. Tonzi is only the third woman from Africa to win the title, and the first black woman since Leila Lopes was crowned Miss Universe in 2011.
8. She will now move to New York City, USA. She'll take part in events and appearances internationally that advocate her values and those of the Miss Universe brand.
(All photos courtesy Zozibini Tunzi's official Instagram handle)