Credit to Author: Christina Alpad, TMT| Date: Mon, 09 Dec 2019 12:01:24 +0000
The rainbow nation of South Africa made a huge comeback this year at Sunday night’s 2019 Miss Universe pageant in Atlanta City, USA (Monday morning in Manila) with Zozibini Tunzi declared the winner.
It will be remembered that when reigning Miss Universe Catriona Gray won the 2018 title, it was 2017 Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa who turned over the crown to the Filipina candidate. Going back a few years, the Miss Universe crown has therefore gone from the Philippines’ Pia Wurtzbach in 2015 to France’s Iris Mittenaere in 2016, then South’s Africa’s Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters in 2017, the Philippines’ Gray in 2018 and now back to South Africa with Tunzi’s coronation.
Tunzi bested 89 other candidates, including the Philippines’ bet Gazini Ganados, whom the country had hoped would deliver a back-to-back win for the country. But while Ganadoz went through the Top 20, she failed to make it to the next cut for the Top 15, mostly due to what many observed was the visible pressure of being Gray’s successor.
[Related story: PH’s front seat for Catriona and Gazini’s back-to-back win]
Tuzni beat Puerto Rico’s Madison Anderson Berrios who was hailed First Runner-up and Mexico’s Sofia Aragon as Second Runner-up.
Tunzi’s triumph is also a breakthrough in the Miss Universe pageant since she is the first woman of color to represent South Africa in most prominent beauty pageant in the world, and consequently the first black South African to win the title.
Tunzi on top
The 26-year-old South African went in strong from start to finish in the pageant which culminated with the grand coronation at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia.
Tunzi has always been among the top candidates experts had been predicting to win the crown, and come pageant night, she was indeed first to be called to the semi-finals from the African and Asia Pacific cluster. From a group of 30 candidates, the group was whittled down to five, led by the stand out South African.
Through the rest of the competition, Tanzi exuded grace and elegance especially in the swimsuit and evening gown categories, earning top marks from the judges.
But ultimately, it was the moving closing and opening speeches and powerful Q&A performance that won this “passionate activist… engaged in the fight against gender-based violence” the crown.
Asked, “What is the most important thing we should teach young girls today?”, Tunzi confidently, articulately and profoundly replied, “The important thing we should be teaching young girls today is leadership. It is something that has been lacking in young girls and women for a very long time not because we don’t want to but because of what society has labeled women to be.
“I think we are the most powerful beings in the world and we should be given every opportunity and that is what we should be teaching these young girls, to take up space. Nothing is as important as taking up space in the society and cementing yourself.”
Tunzi’s closing speech just before the final question was asked of the Top 3 finalists was just meaningful. She said, “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. And I think that it is time that it stops today. I want children to look at me and see my face and I want to see their faces reflected in mine.”
Tunzi—who was born in Tsolo, Eastern Cape and raised in the village of Sidwadweni—is the third South African to win the Miss Universe crown after Margaret Gardiner in 1978 and Nel-Peters in 2017. As the 2019 title holder, she further holds the distinction of being the first Miss Universe to wear the “Power of Unity” crown worth $5 million and crafted by Lebanese luxury jeweler Mouawad.
The Philippines outgoing Miss Universe Catriona Gray also bid the pageant a touching and meaningful farewell, both stunning and regal in a blue Mak Tumang gown. Tumang is the same designer who triumphantly dressed Gray in her now iconic Miss Universe “Adarna” and “Mayon” gowns, fittingly naming her farewell gown, “Reflection.”
In her speech, Gray took the opportunity to reiterate her advocacies and thank everyone who played a part in her journey as Miss Universe, especially the Filipino people.
“I wanted my year to be a reign with purpose, from advocating for quality education for all to raising awareness to HIV and AIDS. I’ve started to use my voice for good,” she declared.
She went on to describe the experience “magical.”
“I’ve definitely grown so much this year,” she added.
Gray acknowledged her parents for their faith in her, the Miss Universe Organization, especially heads Paula and Ester for their mentorship as well as MUO’s “Team Catriona” who helped her through her responsibilities from start to finish.
Then speaking in Filipino in the pre-recorded message, Gray adorably mispronounced the word for “honor,” saying, “And to my beloved Philippines, isang karalangan [instead of karangalan] po ito.”
Nonetheless, she touched the nation’s heart with her sincerity, saying, “You endlessly inspire me and give me hope. Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.”
Finally thanking God and lifting her success to Him, she generously shared the following advice in ending: “To everyone with a dream, know that your dreams are valid. And on your path you are never denied, only redirected.”