Instead of history repeating itself, it is being made as we know it. Joining the ranks of Miss USA, Miss America, and Miss Teen USA, Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa has been crowned Miss Universe for 2019 and has already made a huge impact. Tunzi, 26, is Miss Universe’s first black winner since 2011. From the town Tsolo on the Eastern Cape of South Africa, Tunzi speaks both English and Xhosa and is the creator of a popular social media campaign against gender-based violence.
For the first time, all four major pageant winners are black women, though it’s been a long, tumultuous journey to this moment. Historically, early beauty pageants in the 20s banned women of color from participating and continued to cause opposition as the rules changed.
Throughout the duration of the competition, Tunzi wore her hair in a short, natural style as a “symbol of my firm belief in fair representation.”
“I hope I have inspired people to insert themselves in spaces where they feel that people like them do not belong,” she added, finishing one of her many powerful statements from the evening.
Tunzi tackled the typical swimsuit and evening gown rounds of the pageant with poise, but finished off strong with her responses on issues in the current social climate as well as why she was the right choice for Miss Universe.
Her response to the latter was the quote heard around the world, a heartfelt statement that rang true for so many.
“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,” she explained.“I think it is time that 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 26-year-old winner took to Instagram after her win, continuing with her moving messages to reflect on the Miss Universe title and what the moment meant to her and other young girls in the future.
“Tonight a door was opened and I could not be more grateful to have been the one to have walked through it,” she wrote. “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.”
Tunzi ended her caption on a high, writing, “I proudly state my name Zozibini Tunzi, Miss Universe 2019!”
In addition to the viral response to the final question, during the Top 5 round of the competition, Tunzi tackled the difficult question on social issues in the modern day, tackling the effects of climate change and how young girls and women are treated within society today.
“Since sixth grade, I’ve been learning that the climate is deteriorating and the planet is dying, and it is up to us to keep our planet safe,” she said.
In response to her thoughts on what the youth should be taught today, Tunzi said, “I think the most important thing is leadership.”
“It’s something that has been lacking in young women and girls for a very long time, not because we don’t want to but because of what society has labeled women to be,” she said. “I think we are the most powerful beings in the world and that we should be given every opportunity. And that is what we should be teaching these young girls — to take up space.”
Her spirit caught not only the attention of the world, but also to one woman in particular: Oprah Winfrey. While appearing on Good Morning America, Tunzi revealed that Oprah had congratulated her on Twitter after her win on Sunday evening.
“I fainted for a second there because I was like, ‘Is this Oprah-Oprah?’” she joked. “And they were like, ‘Yeah it’s the real one.’”
Even still, Tunzi is feeling humble after her win, forgetting for short moments that she had won the competition at all.
“People keep calling me Miss Universe, and I keep looking away because I think I forgot that it’s me,” she said.
Beyond a congratulatory message on social media, Oprah went full, well, Oprah, and extended an invitation for her to visit the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in the future.
There’s no doubt that Tunzi and the other three winners of the major pageants this year–Miss USA, Cheslie Kryst, Miss Teen USA, Kaliegh Garris, and Miss America, Nia Franklin–will continue to make history and inspire for years to come.
Photo Credit: @zozitunzi