At 26 years old, Zozibini Tunzi from South Africa has made history with her monumental Miss Universe 2019 win.
Over the weekend, the indomitable Miss South Africa Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe 2019. There is much to be said about whether a beauty pageant like Miss Universe even belongs in the year 2019. After all, it relies on all those archaic practices that we thought we would've gotten rid of by now. Nonetheless, when someone who subverts everything the pageant has stood for wins the competition, it is undoubtedly a call for celebration. In her closing statements, Tunzi affirmed what her win meant for women everywhere, but especially strong, Black women, NPR reports.
Her address highlighted the importance of breaking down beauty standards and appreciating those who don't fit into the Eurocentric ideal. "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 stated. "I think it is 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." At just 26 years old, Miss South Africa has made history with her monumental win. She is the first Black winner in eight years; in 2011, Leila Lopes from Angola was crowned Miss Universe.
Tunzi, in addition to now being a world-recognized name, is a gender rights activist and fervently fights against gender violence. Of course, she is also a strong proponent of women empowerment, a characteristic of hers that she highlighted when she was asked during the pageant what we should be teaching young girls today. The pageant winner responded, "I think the most important thing that we should be teaching young girls today is leadership. It's something that has been lacking in young girls and women for a very long time — not because we don't want to, but because of what society has labeled women to be. That is what we should be teaching these young girls — to take up space." Tunzi added that she is a "proud advocate for natural beauty and encourages women to love themselves the way they are."
This was accentuated by the fact that she wore her hair natural, which for a Black woman is, unfortunately, a controversial move. The choice to not wear a weave of straight hair really did drive her point home. Tunzi claimed the decision to do so was "a symbol of [her] firm belief in fair representation." In addition to this, her outfit during the national costume section of the pageant also depicted her strong beliefs. Her costume, called "Waves of Love," had letters written on colorful ribbons woven into it. These letters were penned down by South African men as a way to showcase their solidarity with the gender equality campaign #HeforShe as well as honor and celebrate South African women. Miss South Africa's win is particularly special because she now joins Miss America, Miss Teen USA, and Miss USA - all Black women, just like her. This year has, without a doubt, been a great one for diversity, inclusivity, and representation.