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On My Radar

Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi is an inspiration to many, but who inspires her?

The beauty queen on artists that have a permanent spot on her playlists, the continent she can't wait to explore, and more

09 February 2020 - 00:00 By Sanet Oberholzer
Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi says she loves a mixture of music.
Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi says she loves a mixture of music.
Image: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for IMG

Zozibini Tunzi captured the hearts of South Africans when she won the title of Miss Universe in December. Now, almost two months after being crowned, she's back in Mzanzi for her homecoming tour.

We met her recently to find out what life as Miss Universe has been like so far. Tunzi is as regal, poised and graceful in real life as she appears on screens and in magazine pages and, not only is she beautiful, she's a genuinely lovely person.

Although inundated with media interviews, she says her reign has been exciting. "Everyone wants to hear the story, we've all been celebrating in the moment."

She says that one of her favourite pastimes is challenging the status quo - after winning Miss South Africa she believed that a South African could be crowned Miss Universe.

"And I won! It's something I didn't think could happen. Now little girls who look like me know there are possibilities for them - not only in terms of winning pageants but because it's possible for them to break through all kind of moulds and enter spaces that they've been told they're not supposed to be in."

Tunzi says she wants to use her platform as respectfully, purposefully and responsibly as possible.

"Whatever I do, I want to make sure that it impacts lives, that it's not just about me. I want to leave a mark and be influential even after stepping down from Miss Universe."

She tells us about the artists who have a permanent spot on her playlists, the continent she can't wait to explore, and more:


I haven't travelled a lot because I haven't had the opportunity before. I'm looking forward to travelling this year as Miss Universe because that's one of the things that I'm going to be doing quite a lot of. I'm looking forward to travelling around Africa mostly.


I love a mixture of music - I think it sets the mood. I listen to a lot of pop and hip hop. I also listen to South African music.

Everyday when I wake up and I'm doing makeup I play a song, whether I'm bumping to Beyoncé's Brown Skin Girl or I'm listening to Shekhinah, who's one of my favourite artists to come out of South Africa.

I also love Rihanna. DJ Black Coffee is another favourite who's been making incredible music.


I'm looking forward to watching Harriet, the new movie about Harriet Tubman, starring Cynthia Erivo.


I'm reading Becoming by Michelle Obama. There are some parts I've read that resonate with me. Speaking about stepping into something new, stepping into a spotlight and all of a sudden people having access to some parts of your life through social media, through newspapers. It's something new to me. Michelle writes about this in her book. She shares her own experience of how her life was thrust into the limelight when her husband got into politics.

I'm looking forward to reading Basetsana Kumalo's book, Bassie: My Journey Of Hope.

You can see I'm interested in strong women who have made a success of their lives. I want to learn how to emulate them. 

WATCH | Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi on her new role, fashion and missing home


There's a restaurant in New York called The Rue 57 and we have a door that connects from where I live to the restaurant, so it's convenient. They have great steak, which is one of my favourite things to eat.

I'm exploring New York food but there's nothing like South African food. A home-cooked meal by my mom is my favourite.


Mama Miriam Makeba is an inspiration. I love how she became world famous through her music but also fought for the liberation of South Africans, and Africans, wherever she went.