The former Miss South Africa was crowned as Miss Universe 2019 on Sunday, joining the ranks of three other incredible black women holding the biggest pageant titles in the world for the first time ever. But, despite making history and doing her part to redefine beauty standards, Zozibini Tunzi says that there’s “so much more” to be done.
“I’m so honored to be a part of three amazing women. And I think it’s the beginning,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle on the BUILD Series stage. “This was just to show the world that we’re here and finally change is happening. And we are moving towards a society and a world that’s not racially divided anymore, which it still is. There’s still a lot of discrimination. There’s still a lot of racism, a lot of colorism, a lot of racial divide.”
The 26-year-old, who originates from Tsolo, South Africa, spoke to her own experience of growing up and being unable to find people who looked like her in magazines or on television shows, making her feel like she didn’t belong. Now, as she wears her new crown atop her “kinky coarse hair,” she hopes to be an inspiration for young girls like her to take up space.
“Representation and inclusion is something that’s so huge that people like to take for granted,” she explained. “I want young girls and women to look at me and feel like they could be represented as well in society.”
Tunzi went on to explain that her win is representative of more than just changing beauty standards. It also gives hope to a future that provides young, black women with more opportunities in all arenas, including the corporate world. In fact, she says that women like Oprah and Michelle Obama, who have given Tunzi shoutouts on their social media pages, have already offered their support to enforce that message.
Congratulations Miss South Africa, the new Miss Universe @zozitunzi! Agree with you...leadership is the most powerful thing we should be teaching young women today. We welcome your visit to #OWLAG, our Leadership Academy for Girls 🇿🇦🇿🇦🇿🇦 https://t.co/YL0NeO40QU— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) December 9, 2019
“They’re helping me spread this message of positivity and confidence and self love,” Tunzi said. “These are the women that have really cemented themselves in society by doing bigger things. I’ve always been inspired by women like that and people who live beyond themselves.” She adds, “If I’d get an opportunity to be able to work with them, I think that I could just quit now.”
In the meantime, Tunzi is excited to take on her new role and to continue exemplifying the importance of diversity and inclusion.
“I don’t think it’s a thing for only black people to celebrate,” she said, “but it’s for everyone to celebrate because then we’re unifying. It’s like a unity, and we’re moving towards a more democratic world that we really need.”
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