“Young people don’t know the power that they have” – Zozibini Tunzi on Black History Month

29 Feb 2020 | Camilla Suarez

Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa was crowned Miss Universe 2019 on 8th December 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. Zozibini is the third woman from South Africa to win the title of Miss Universe and the third black woman to win the title after Leila Lopes from Angola was crowned Miss Universe 2011. Trinidad's Janelle Commissiong was the first black woman to win the crown in 1977.

Zozibini’s win was considered as a historic moment because 2019 was marked as the first year where Miss America, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, Miss World and Miss Universe were crowned to black women. Zozibini’s win was personally a historic win because she was crowned when she chose to flaunt her natural hair a chic, cropped, textured cut not uncommon to black women everywhere, but uncommon within the pageant world taking a stand against antiquated beauty standards for black women. On her closing statement after winning the crown, Zozibini stated, “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. 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.”. The diva has claimed that she sees her crown as an opportunity to uplift other people and not as a privilege.


“Young people don’t know the power that they have” – Zozibini Tunzi on Black History Month


Since winning the crown, Miss Universe 2019 Zozibini Tunzi has been travelling all over the world and fulfilling her queen duties and responsibilities. Under the same, she travelled to her homeland South Africa recently and she was later invited by the University of Pittsburgh to advocate the students about the importance of Black History Month.

The diva came onto stage of the Willian Pitt Union Assembly Room for ‘An Evening with Miss Universe’ to speak with Pitt students about her life as Miss Universe and the work she’s doing while holding the title. Tunzi said she expects to pursue activism in race and gender issues during this time. The diva explained that “When I walked out of those doors and saw all those girls with crowns, I realized it’s not just about me, it’s about everyone. People who’ve felt different in these spaces”. Tuzni was the first black woman to wear her natural hair and win the beauty pageant with such ease. She takes immense pride and honor to have helped uplift the status of women in her home country and for black women across the globe. She expressed her happiness on receiving so much support and love from the home country as soon as she landed back.

At the beginning of the month, Zozibini Tunzi emphasized on the importance of black people knowing their history and said she is not African American, she shares an understanding of the struggles experienced by black people. “I think it's important for us to understand where we come from because it is through that that we can know where we are going”.


Zozibini Tunzi Miss Universe 2019


Miss Universe 2019 Zozibini Tunzi was also invited to Pittsburgh Today Live to have a little chat with David Highfield and Heather Abraham about what importance does Black History Month holds for her. The diva explained black women have always demeaned by the society but now, things are changing for everyone across the globe and she’d glad that she is a part of such movement or change.  She has mentioned she wants to be a role model for the women who look like her and believe that they can be something in their life.

She went onto explain that she focuses on advocating the youth for a reason which is for the fact that they are the future of the world. ‘I think sometimes young people don’t know the power that they have, and sometimes they shy away from their power because they are the future of the world,” said Tunzi.

The diva went ahead and explained that adults should and could benefit from this if they listen to what youth has to say. She stated the example of Greta Thunberg, who talks of climate change, and learn from that as well. The host of the show Heather, asked Zozibini about the answer she gave during the Miss Universe 2019 finale night; ‘to take up space and not be afraid of being a leader’ to which Zozi explained, “When you enter a room, enter a boardroom, when you enter anywhere, as a woman, as a young girl, remember that you belong there”.

Zozibini Tunzi who is a representative of black woman stated what black woman means to her, “It means absolutely everything because in the past we haven’t really been able to have all these opportunities.”. The diva who always had a voice is very honored to have a platform where she can use her voice to advocate people all over the world especially young women to believe in themselves and ‘take up space’.  Encouraging women to speak their truth is one the things Tunzi believes in and strongly advocates.

During the national costume segment, she also emphasized this belief by asking South African men to show their support and solidarity with the gender equality campaign #HeforShe. The men wrote letters to honor, celebrate, and stand with South African women, which were then woven into her costume, called “Wave of Love.” 

Miss Universe 2019 Zozibini Tunzi’s life has changed after crowning as she is travelling all over the world, talking to people about their advocacies and telling them about hers. She has been a role model for not only black women but women across the globe who have dealt with racism and discrimination under beauty standards. The diva aims to irradiate this taboo from the society till she can and bring a positive change in the society.