Miss Universe 2019 Zozibini Tunzi’s challenging yet incredible virtual reign

09 Dec 2020 | Camilla Suarez

The 68th edition of Miss Universe was held on 8th December 2019 at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, and history was created as Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa was crowned as the new Miss Universe 2019. Zozi’s win was South Africa’s third win at Miss Universe stage and the first black woman to wear the Miss Universe crown after Miss Universe 2011 Leila Lopes. She took to her social media account to share her sheer happiness as she completes one year as Miss Universe 2019. She mentioned, “And so there it was! A moment orchestrated by the heavens. A moment manifested by my ancestors and brought to life by the union of those who created me. This! The beginning of the rest of my life. Happy 365 days Miss Universe.”

Zozibini was born in Tsolo to parents Philiswa Nodapu and Lungisa Tunzi, and raised in the nearby village of Sidwadweni but later moved to Cape Town to attend Cape Peninsula University of Technology where she graduated with a National Diploma in public relations management in 2018. Zozi started working as a model in 2017 and as a graduate intern in the public relations department of Ogilvy Cape Town.



The diva participated in Miss South Africa 2017 where she was placed at Top 26 but she retuned back on-stage and participated at Miss South Africa 2019 where she was confirmed as one of the 16 finalists and competed for the national crown. She was crowned by her predecessor Tamaryn Green as the new Miss South Africa 2019 which allowed her to represent her home country at Miss Universe 2019 stage.

With her win, 2019 became the first year that all four major United States-based pageants were won by black women; other titleholders were Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin, Miss Teen USA 2019 Kaliegh Garris, and Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst. Additionally, 2019 would also become the first year that black women won the two most prestigious international pageants after Toni-Ann Singh of Jamaica later won Miss World 2019.

But with the pandemic set in the picture, the queen’s reign was put to a halt but being a queen she is, Zozi found a way to stay connected and carry on with her advocacy which is against the gender-based violence. She decided to take the help of technology and carry on with her reign and went on some live session with the former Miss Universe queens to understand the changing notions of beauty along with their advocacies.



A post shared by Zozibini Tunzi (@zozitunzi)


Zozibini raised her voice when it was needed; Black Lives Matter movement along with owning up and apologizing for a mistake she made in the past unknowingly about how much it could affect the LGBTQ+ community. Zozibini is a person who has always emerged as a leader and someone who could be able to change the stereotypes of a beauty pageant. She had mentioned one incident where she was asked to put on a wig before stepping onto the stage at Miss Universe 2019 finale but she refused to do so because she was assured that if she wants to make a change and win the title, she wants to do it with her real self and that is why she stepped onto that stage with her real afro hair and mesmerized everyone with her confidence and grace.  

The diva always aspired to be a role model especially for the young girls like her who had no one to look up to in terms of beauty pageants and during one of her live sessions with Leila Lopes, Zozi mentioned that it was her win that she felt proud and decided that she wants to be like her. Similarly, when she visited her home and saw the faces of young girls looking at her and seeing a possibility that their lives too can change was a heart-warming experience for the diva.

In one of her interviews, Zozi explained that even though her reign is challenging she has been able to carry out her work via technology. She mentioned, “I have still done most events virtually. I have used all my social media platforms to continue championing gender equality and issues of race and racism using a hashtag we created #UniverseUnited. With this hashtag, we have been able to open conversations about different social issues, we have been able to educate and entertain each other from every corner of the world.”



A post shared by Zozibini Tunzi (@zozitunzi)


Zozibini’s focus and determination is largely based on how black people are presented to the other sections of the world and she urged everyone to showcase the positive side of them so that the young people could see a possibility of what they can become. She added, “To see a woman leading a nation or company is enough for women to recognize the power that they have within them, it is enough for them to not be scared to step into their power and take up space.”

The diva is a positive human and accepts criticism with utmost respect as she explained in one of her interviews where she was asked that what is her opinion on beauty pageants being labelled as ‘anti-feminist’ to which she replied that everyone is entitled to their opinions and views. But she added, “I have seen women come on this platform and champion a variety of social issues. I have seen them being empowered and empowering other women. As a Miss Universe, I have been able to amplify my message of gender equality and gender-based violence through incredible partnerships and relationships. I have been able to challenge and open conversations about beauty stereotypes that have been pushed on to women for many years. For me, it has always been about what I can do with this platform to influence positive change, not only in my community, but throughout the world.”

On asking about why is female empowerment important to her, Zozi has explained that it is important for every gender to have an equal space in the society and she wants to live in a world where there is no discrimination based on gender or race and the society is not bound by patriarchy and inequality. The diva has been able to travel back to South Africa for the grand finale of Miss South Africa 2020 where she served as one of the judges and mentioned, “I am looking for someone who has a voice and an aura about her that makes almost everyone feel at ease when they come in contact with her because she will be engaging with a lot of people in the year.” Shudufhadzo Musi?a was crowned as the winner at the end of the event finale; she is also someone who looks up to the queen and mentioned that she wants to take forward what Zozi has been doing till now.

The finale of the Miss Universe 2020 has been shifted to the first quarter of next year due to the Covid19 until then, Zozi gets to stay the queen holding onto the crown. But she is always going to be a trailblazer who had a massive role in changing the set notions of beauty standards in the society and the beauty pageant world.