On this day (December 8) three years ago, Zozibini Tunzi made history by being the first black South African to be crowned with this title. We reflect on her journey to success
Take us back to your childhood, what sparked your interest in pageants?
Through pageants, I’ve met inspirational women from different backgrounds doing amazing things for themselves and their communities.
The first misconception people have about beauty queens is that they have no depth, which is why they don’t find relevance in beauty pageants. This is far from the truth.
You have aligned your cause the UN’s #heforshe campaign. What do you hope to achieve during your reign when it comes to gender-based violence?
To make the perpetrators of violence against women accountable. I want to ask men to be better, to do better.
Tell us about your natural crown, why did you decide to enter the pageant with your natural hair? What message had you had the intention of spreading from the onset?
I entered Miss South Africa and Miss Universe with my natural hair as a symbol of my firm belief in a fair representation of any shape and form. And so, through my win, I hope I have inspired people, even if just one person, to be themselves at all times and to never compromise their identities, and to insert themselves in spaces where they feel people like them do not belong.
Who (apart from your mother) do you look up to and why, and if you had the chance to receive advice from them, what is it?
Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela… they inspire me because they were selfless and put the greater good before their own needs. I would ask their advice on how they managed to achieve balance in their lives.
What is your definition of success and do you feel you have reached it?
Success is following your dreams. So yes, I feel successful in that I am doing that.
Who do you dream would invite you for lunch or dinner and what would you tell them or ask them?
Harriet Tubman, an American abolitionist and political activist who was born into slavery. She escaped and went on to rescue about 70 enslaved people, including family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. I am totally inspired by such courage and selflessness. I’d just listen to her – every word would be advice.
What is your favourite meal?
Definitely umngqusho (pronounced “oom-nqoo-shoh” which is made from stamp mielies and sugar beans) and a beef stew.
Lastly, what are your success tips to young people?
I only have one, simple tip to young people reading this: follow your dreams!