Congratulations are in order for Zozibini Tunzi, the South African beauty queen crowned Miss Universe 2019 at the annual pageant Sunday night.
Before a cheering crowd, 26-year-old Tunzi accepted the coveted title after beating out runner-up Miss Puerto Rico Madison Anderson, as well as Miss Mexico Sofía Aragón, who came in third place. She’s the first Black woman to be crowned the winner since the 2011 competition.
Tunzi, a public relations professional, has made her mark as an activist and leading voice in the fight against gender-based violence, according to her contestant bio.
“She’s devoted her social media campaign to changing the narrative around gender stereotypes,” it adds. “She’s a proud advocate for natural beauty and encourages women to love themselves the way they are.”
The South Africa native joins the ranks of three other notable Black beauty queens. For the first time in history, Miss USA (Cheslie Kryst), Miss Teen USA (Kaliegh Garris), Miss America (Nia Franklin) and Miss Universe are all Black.
“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 in a statement during Sunday’s pageant. “And I think that it’s 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.”
Earlier this year, the pageant queen was criticized for her fresh-faced look, which some argued was “too basic” for her historic win as Miss South Africa this summer. Still, Tunzi, had fans singing her praises when she became the first Miss SA pageant winner to be crowned while rocking her short, curly natural hair.
Tonight a door was opened and I could not be more grateful to have been the one to have walked through it.
May every little girl who witnessed this moment forever believe in the power of her dreams and may they see their faces reflected in mine.
I am #MissUniverse2019. pic.twitter.com/gMkjmVCabo
— Zozibini Tunzi (@zozitunzi) December 9, 2019
It it was a stunningly similar moment at Sunday night’s contest, which aired live from Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, and featured a remarkable roster of contestants from countries across the world. Tunzi beat out 89 other contestants for the coveted crown.
“Our brown skin girl! #MissUniverse2019,” a fan tweeted after Tunzi’s Sunday night win.
“SHE DESERVES THE CROWN!” another chimed in.
Another critic reflected on what the win meant for South Africa: “We’re going through the most as the country but we have so much to celebrate. [Tunzi] is proving to everyone that girl’s dreams are valid. Your own hair [is] your crown. Your brown skin is truly like pearls. We’ve achieved a lot.”
“Yasssss! The most eloquent answers, and what an incredible presence!” someone else wrote. “Congrats to the new stunning #MissUniverse2019.
For many, it was Tunzi’s inspiring answer during the pageant’s Q&A portion that sealed the deal.
“I think the most important thing we should be teaching young girls today is leadership,” she told host Steve Harvey. “It is something that’s been lacking in young girls and women for a very long time, not because we do not want to, but because of what society has labeled women to be.”
She continued: “I think we’re the most powerful beings in the world, and that we should be given every opportunity. And that’s what we should be teaching these girls, to take up space.”
Watch more in the video below.
The new #MissUniverse2019 is… SOUTH AFRICA!!!! pic.twitter.com/gRW8vcuT3A
— Miss Universe (@MissUniverse) December 9, 2019