Zozibini Tunzi - Africa's natural beauty pride

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Colleta Dewa

 

Johannesburg - South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe over the weekend, making her the first black woman to win the renowned beauty pageant since Leila Lopes in 2011 and capping off a triumphant year for black women within the pageant circuit.

 

 It marks the first year Miss America, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA—and now Miss Universe — are all black women.

Tunzi’s crowning is notable for many reasons. For one, she chose to flaunt her natural hair, a chic, cropped, textured cut not uncommon to black women everywhere, but definitely uncommon within the pageant world, taking a stand against antiquated beauty standards for black women.

“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, I think it is 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,” said Tunzi.

Many feel, however, it was Tunzi’s comments on instilling leadership skills in young women today that secured her the Miss Universe crown — they even grabbed the attention of Oprah Winfrey, who tweeted her congratulations and afterward invited Tunzi to speak at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.

“Leadership is something that’s been lacking in young women and girls for a very long time, not because we don’t want to lead, but because of what society has labelled women to be. 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. Nothing is as important as taking up space in society and cementing yourself.”

Although her exact prizes were not revealed by Miss Universe, Zozibini is expected to have won a year's stay rent-free in an apartment in New York - and a salary worth around $100,000 (£76,000).

She will also fly around the world for media and modelling opportunities.

Miss Universe and other beauty pageants regularly come under criticism with some people questioning whether they have a place in today's society.

One person on Twitter wrote: "A beauty contest placing women up against each other is extremely outdated."

The events have tried to move with the times and several now focus on the contestants' achievements and giving women a voice.

But Miss Universe still has a swimwear competition where contestants pose in bikinis - although that part isn't shown on TV.

Another of the world's biggest beauty pageants, Miss World, has come under criticism recently because of its rules banning mums from competing.

Model Veronika Didusenko, 24, was crowned Miss Ukraine 2018 - but she had her title taken away when organisers found out she had a son.

She decided to take legal action against the contest over its policy.

"I want to make them more fit for nowadays and reflect women's reality today - who can perfectly balance between their careers and their personal life," she said.

 

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