Miss South Africa Zozibini Tunzi has just been crowned Miss Universe 2019, and it’s a moment about which many people, especially girls and women, can be proud.
Tunzi is the first black South African to win the Miss Universe crown, and many people online are celebrating her win as a victory for girls across South Africa and Africa more widely.
With her dark skin and natural, unstraightened hair, Tunzi can be a role model for girls across the continent.
Tonight a door was opened and I could not be more grateful to have been the one to have walked through it.— Zozibini Tunzi (@zozitunzi) December 9, 2019
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
In her speech, Tunzi said she knows what her presence on global stages like Miss Universe represents. She also spoke about the value of teaching girls about leadership.
“I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me; with my kind of skin, and kind of hair isn’t considered beautiful,” she said.
Her words are as powerful as they are affirming. Colourism (the discrimination of black people with darker complexion), representation, and inclusive definitions of beauty have become a global conversation in recent years.
The pens we’ll use to scribble stories that we’ll tell our daughters; will leave an indelible mark for generations to come. Because, instead of ink, they’ll be powered by sweet melanin. Brown, Beautiful & Boundless. This is our Tunziverse now. #missuniverse#zozibinitunzipic.twitter.com/gqy2pDdbep— IG: Slaying.goliath (@SlayingGoliath) December 9, 2019
In October, the Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o published a children’s book called Sulwe, which is about a girl who wishes her dark skin was lighter.
Meanwhile, skin lightening is still popular in Africa with a reported 40% of all women bleaching their skin. This is despite health dangers that include the risk of skin cancer and psychosis, according to warnings from the World Health Organisation.
Other reports state that as many as 77% of Nigerian women, and 35% of women in South Africa use skin-bleaching products.
“I think that it is time that stops,” Tunzi continued. “I want children to look at me, and see my face, and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine.”
As well as being an inspiration for many girls and women who feel unseen, Tunzi won hearts with her powerful talk on leadership.
In fact, when asked what’s the most important thing we should be teaching girls, Tunzi said leadership.
Congratulations Miss South Africa, the new Miss Universe @zozitunzi! Agree with you...leadership is the most powerful thing we should be teaching young women today. We welcome your visit to #OWLAG, our Leadership Academy for Girls 🇿🇦🇿🇦🇿🇦 https://t.co/YL0NeO40QU— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) December 9, 2019
“It’s 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 labelled women to be,” she said.
“I think we are the most powerful beings in the world and we should be given every opportunity.”
She went on to say that the Miss Universe and Miss South Africa platforms are “some of the few platforms that actually give women the ability to lead, and the sooner we start looking at it as a leadership position, the less it’s something that’s taboo and the more we can start moving forward as women.”