Zozibini Tunzi, a Black woman, was recently crowned as Miss Universe and we are so here for it!
Making Pageant History
Currently, 5 Black women hold the top pageant titles, which is an extremely important and historically significant to begin with. But as always, the number falls extremely short when compared to the many white woman who hold such titles. These amazing women are redefining beauty standards and fighting female objectification. We consider her winning the title as a historical trademark because for the first time, a woman was recognized for her Black beauty in and of itself. She won because she defined a standard of beauty that a majority of the world used to refuse to accept as beautiful.
Miss Universe winner Zozibini Tunzi is using her powerful platform to shatter beauty stereotypes, spread awareness about gender inequality, and stop gender-based violence. Tunzi encourages all women to speak up and be leaders in this world. She is empowering women of all ages across the globe to stand firm and never let society silence them.
“We’re recognizing women that haven’t been recognized before in the past. And I love that it’s not even just about a beauty thing,” she states in her BUILD Series interview, “It’s about 4 brilliant and intelligent women.” (By this she means herself, Miss America Nia Franklin, Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, and Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris.)
Additionally, Toni-Ann Singh of Jamaica just got crowned Miss World after these previous four amazing women. Hitting a historical world record across the board. Pageants, which historically didn’t allow non-white contestants are moving forward in time. They are recognizing the beauty of diversity and in doing so spreading it across the world. Since 1970, pageants are becoming more and more inclusive. There is still a lot that needs to happen. But these winners show that real beauty is finally being recognized! That the White, Eurocentric beauty standards are not the only acceptable definition of ‘beautiful.’
Together, these phenomenal women are a fantastic example of how the world (and the United States) are becoming more inclusive, more diverse, and saying goodbye to hatefulness.
Changing the World
“Whatever it is that I do, I want to make sure it’s purposeful work,” Tunzi tells SABC News, “because there’s nothing more important to me than making sure that I’m doing purposeful work that actually touches people’s lives.”
Tunzi’s platform and message are extremely touching and empowering for all women.
In her BUILD Series interview, she recounts her experience of growing up and feeling like she did not meet the standard of beauty. Especially with her dark complexion and afro-textured hair, she felt like earning the title of Miss Universe would be impossible as she had never seen anyone like her do it before. It is understandable why she felt this way as historically, White beauty standards have always been the “norm” and there has never been any room for a different perspective. And while these beauty standards were being paraded around, there was a parallel campaign going around that women who had kinky hair, dark skin, big lips, wide noses, and curvaceous features were somehow inferior. Now she is an inspiration, showing that there are many ways to be beautiful and societal norms do not get to decide that. “I spoke about breaking beauty boundaries, gender-based violence and gender inequality,” Tunzi shares, “and it’s not only a South African issue, it’s a global issue. It’s a societal issue. And being on a Miss Universe platform will make me amplify it more.”
Tunzi recalls how she was constantly asked about her hair and how she was going to change it instead of keeping it natural. And these questions were the reason why she chose to resist and embrace her natural afro-style hair. And despite her win, many people left comments on her social media labeling her as a “downgrade” and “underwhelming” because of her physical features. But while these words were a hard pill to swallow, Tunzi never let them tear her down because she though of all the young girls out there who were happy to finally have someone who looks like them be crowned Miss Universe.
“I feel beautiful in my short, afro hair,” Tunzi said. “This is how it grows out of my head … and I wanted the world to see it like that.”
When discussing her empowerment of females, Tunzi notes the work that women in her country did for women’s rights in 1956: “I am a product of so many women that came before. They left this baton for me to pick up.”
Eliminating Gender Inequality
Tunzi takes responsibility and leadership in moving females towards self-confidence, entrepreneurship, and staying true to themselves. She dishes how growing up, she felt like the boys in her class had a lot of confidence. And she wanted to have that confidence. So she spoke up like them and never stopped. “One of the things that I have found out,” she shares with BUILD Series, “was that we have about 108 years before men and women can be equal if we continue at the rate that we’re continuing at.”
Tunzi wants to use her platform to shorten that time. She notes that true equality between men and women is unlikely to appear during any of our lifetimes. But she wants to fight that prediction. She wants equality to come in half that time, or even in the next decade. With all the progress that we have seen in the pageant world in the last few decades, hopefully, Tunzi can succeed in her mission for equality.
“We are moving towards a society and a world that’s not racially divided anymore, which, you know, it still is. There’s still a lot of discrimination, racism, a lot of colorism, a lot of racial divide.”
Following Zozibini Tunzi’s win, many Black women won the title of Miss America, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss World competitions. Tunzi is using he platform to empower all women and we’re moving towards a better world where one day, all women will be empowered.
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