Miss South Africa 2019, Zozibini Tunzi is from Tsolo, Eastern Cape and grew up in the village of Sidwadweni. She later made the move to Cape Town where she attended the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. With hard work, she graduated with a National Diploma in Public Relations Management.
During her time in Cape Town, she worked as a model and began her pageantry career in 2017. Taking a year-long break, she returned to pageantry to compete in Miss South Africa 2019.
While she is a gorgeous depiction of beauty on the outside, her beauty also resides on the inside. She is an activist for natural beauty and an activist in the fight against gender-based violence and gender stereotypes.
“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,” Tunzi said. “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.”
In this interview with L.A. STYLE Magazine, South African beauty queen and current crowned Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi, discusses everything from fashion to the representation of Black women and people of color, racial injustice and building confidence. Zozibini says, “I want people to look at me and say, ‘I was that person who was not afraid to ever use their voices to speak their truth.’”
LASM: You hold the title of Miss Universe representing South Africa, what does that mean to you?
Zozibini: It means so much. First of all, not only to me but [to] a lot of women of color, a lot of young girls who have not necessarily had an opportunity to be where I am because of racial injustices that have happened in the past. Especially speaking of South Africa, because I’m from there, we have a very deep-rooted past when it comes to racial discrimination. So, for a woman like myself to have been able to go represent my country at a global stage, such as Miss Universe, and actually win it, it means so much because a lot of women and a lot of Black people from where I come from have fought so that I am where I am today. Whenever I think about those women, and whenever I think about those people, when they fought for what we have today, for them, it was just a dream. And they hoped that it’s something that would happen. I don’t think they ever imagined in their wildest dreams that a Black South African girl, who grew up in a village, would be where I am today. And that’s how much it means to me that I was able to be a part of history and to be a part of a more inclusive and a more representative world.
LASM: It’s rare to have a Black woman and multiple Black women as title winners in the pageantry world. Why do you think this is such a unique time and that this has happened?
Zozibini: Yeah, it’s a unique time because, for one, it’s something that has never happened. I don’t think anyone could have ever imagined that it would occur because there’s this whole thing that happens where if you have one Black person, that’s enough. It’s like people are trying to meet certain quota where they’re like, okay, we can have so many people. And then just one Black person at the table, two Black people at the table. And so for me, for us to be there, all four of us to win meant so much. It meant that we’re getting rid of things like tokenism that they can be more than one of us at the table. It doesn’t have to be one. I think a lot of people will relate if you walk into an interview room or if you walk into an audition and you see one other Black girl, you just know, it’s like, “Oh my God, it’s either me or her. It can never be both of us.” And the question is, why?
Why can’t it be both of us? We are so diverse, not all Black people are the same. I don’t speak for every Black person because we are also different. And so that’s why it’s so important to keep pushing people of color and Black people forward. And to say, they can be more of us at the table. You don’t have to have one, but you can have five of us because we represent so many different, beautiful things. And so I think that’s why this moment was so incredible to say, look, it can happen. It can be done.
I live by a quote that says, “We can’t be what we can’t see.” We keep telling young Black girls that they can be, but they keep on not seeing themselves in the media. They keep on not seeing themselves in magazines. And so now that they can actually see it, they can actually believe it. So I just love that I was able to be a part of this movement.
LASM: What’s on your mind in regards to the conversation that is occurring on racial justice?
Zozibini: I’m grateful for social media. I’m grateful for the internet that we’re actually able to show people that this is what is happening. And now people are finally waking up to a realization that things like this are happening in the world. Also, I’m grateful that I’m here at a time like this as a young Black woman who won Miss Universe, particularly this year, so that I could use my platform to actually voice out these issues and to educate where I can.
It’s just that now we have the internet, and people are able to see [it]. The same way that we’re able to expose racism is the same way that we might actually be able to speak about it to make sure that it comes to an end. The same way through the internet, through social media, through speaking engagements, through educating each other on how to look at this from the roots and just try to solve it.
It’s not only Black people or people of color, but let’s engage other people as well, who aren’t Black people and people of color to be a part of the conversation. To learn how to be allies. It’s quite sad that this is happening today, but I am happy that I can help where I can with my platform and my voice.
Specifically for women, because I think we’ve all just grown up in a society where women really weren’t even allowed to say much. We have such things that say a lady should always be seen and not heard. I mean, these are things that we grew up hearing, thinking it wasn’t okay for women to be opinionated, thinking it wasn’t okay for women to be leaders in society.
I want women to know that they can be at the forefront. I personally come from a line of incredible women in South Africa who have always been at the forefront of incredible things —— they have always been leaders. Growing up that way has taught me to be that kind of person too. I hope that my legacy would help other women to know that they should be leaders in society and that they should be listened to and that their voice matters as well.
LASM: What would you say is the accomplishment you’re most proud of?
Zozibini: Well, I think winning Miss Universe is at the top of it right now. I think that is one of my biggest accomplishments. Before that, my first accomplishment was graduating from university. I mean, it’s a very big deal to be able to go to school and become a graduate. I’m the second generation in my family to have been able to go to school and be afforded an education. So, that was my first achievement. And my second one was winning Miss South Africa. Now, ultimately the biggest one is winning Miss Universe and being here.
“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,” Tunzi said. “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.”- Zozibini Tunzi
Check out other pageant stories here