Zozi Tunzi hopes to pursue music after handing over her Miss Universe crown

The Eastern Cape beauty talks future plans as she reflects on the funniest and most challenging moments of her 'fantastic' reign

13 December 2020 - 00:04 By Jen Su
Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi was one of the judges at the 2020 Miss SA Pageant, which was held in Cape Town.
Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi was one of the judges at the 2020 Miss SA Pageant, which was held in Cape Town.
Image: Gallo Images/Die Burger/Jaco Marais

It’s been a year of laughter and tears for Zozi Tunzi, who this week celebrated the anniversary of her Miss Universe crowning.

From being inundated with tonnes of toilet paper from concerned coronavirus hoarders to an embarrassing chair incident in Indonesia and a few cyberbullies who kept her up at night, the Eastern Cape beauty has had an eventful year.

But despite the pandemic keeping her mostly in lockdown for the past nine months, Tunzi told the Sunday Times in an interview this week that her reign so far had been “fantastic”.

She celebrated the milestone in her New York apartment with a jam-packed schedule of Zoom calls and virtual events. And she could soon be celebrating a new record as the longest-running Miss Universe after Leila Lopes, who holds the current record of 464 days.

As Covid-19 continues to surge at alarming rates across the US, the next Miss Universe pageant remains on hold, with organisers set to announce new dates early next year.

FAVOURITE AND FUNNIEST MOMENTS

One of Tunzi’s favourite moments was during her homecoming tour back to SA in February.

“When I won I remember everyone being ecstatic and feeling like I wasn’t the only one who had just won but the entire country was celebrating together. When I finally had my homecoming tour in February, it was so emotional for me to see so many people celebrating through videos and social media — and that positive impact was truly incredible.”

Meeting fellow South African-turned-New Yorker Trevor Noah was also a highlight, as was sharing an apartment with Miss USA 2019, Cheslie Kryst.

“Cheslie and I really bonded. We did so many things together, like ‘Pizza Fridays’, and we’d dress up and go out to beautiful restaurants, just the two of us — especially during the pandemic. It’s more of a sisterhood and it’s quite amazing. Asya [Branch], the new Miss USA, has just recently moved in, so we’re getting to know each other.”

Miss USA, Cheslie Kryst, who competed against Zozibini Tunzi in the Miss Universe pageant, has been be her roommate over the last year. The pair have been sharing an apartment in New York city.
Miss USA, Cheslie Kryst, who competed against Zozibini Tunzi in the Miss Universe pageant, has been be her roommate over the last year. The pair have been sharing an apartment in New York city.
Image: FOX via Getty Images

Tunzi recalled her funniest moment, which involved toilet paper.

“When the pandemic started ... people couldn’t buy toilet paper as the shelves were bare. Cheslie and I were making little jokes [on social media] about running out of toilet paper ... and the end result was that so many people started sending us boxes and boxes of toilet paper!”

And, of course, there were a few embarrassing but fun moments.

“We had this event in Indonesia in a hotel, where fans of Miss Universe would come in for a more personal opportunity to chat. There were about 50 or 60 people there. I was speaking while sitting on a chair. It was a little unstable but I thought, ‘Nah, I’m lightweight, I can do this’. All of a sudden, the chair just moved forward and I fell down!” she says, laughing.

“I fell off the chair, but my immediate instinct was, ‘Oh my goodness, don’t break the crown!’ I can break my face but I can’t break this [R75m Mouawad] crown! It was so embarrassing because everyone had their cameras and cellphones out.”

Despite her hectic schedule, Zozi was able to travel back to SA five times during her Miss Universe reign to spend time with her family and judge the Miss SA pageant.

“My family has been fantastic, I’m so blessed because they are all healthy and safe,” she says emotionally. “Especially with Covid-19, a lot of people have lost so many loved ones, a lot of people have lost jobs, fallen into depression, and I’m so grateful that my family is still standing, both financially and health-wise.”

CYBERBULLING

With millions of followers on social media, Tunzi, like many public figures, has had to deal with cyberbullying and negative comments.

“If I cared about every nasty comment, I wouldn’t survive — so I’ve come to a point where if I make a decision, and I’m happy with it, and I think it’s the right one, then that’s OK. As long as I’m able to sleep at night, then I’m going to be fine.

“[But] there have been moments when I’ve woken up and thought, ‘Oh my goodness, why?’ And I cry and call my family in SA to talk it through with them. As strong as I am, I think that emotionally and mentally, there are days when I feel that I’m only human. Those are the days where I have to log off social media, where much of the frustration and stress often comes from, and try to prioritise in my mind what is important to me right now.”

As strong as I am, I think that emotionally and mentally, there are days when I feel that I’m only human. Those are the days where I have to log off social media
Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi

She hopes to be back in SA for Christmas.

“We’re still working out the logistics. It’s tradition for us and we always come back home [the Eastern Cape] to celebrate together.

“We go to church, then have a huge Christmas ‘pot luck’ lunch. Everyone comes over, bringing a dish they’ve learnt to cook over the past year and show they have something new to share. It’s such a fun variety of food. My sisters will always be where I am. As my mom and dad are not married any more, I divide my time between them, but my sisters are the one constant who are always there with me. My family and I are on a WhatsApp group and so we chat every day.”

FUTURE PLANS

Tunzi is excited about future opportunities, when her reign eventually ends. She hopes to pursue music, which is her passion. An Instagram post last week of the beauty queen singing a Beyoncé song surprised hundreds of thousands of fans with her vocal talent.

“I’ve come to fall in love with music all over again. I’ve always loved music but I never thought it would be something that I would pursue as a career. I feel like music is a space that I want to occupy next. I’m fascinated by television as well, so people will definitely find me there as well. Humanitarian work is also close to my heart, something I’m hoping to continue.”

She hopes to pursue a career in both America and Africa. “When I hand over my crown I will be coming back to SA. But will I be there forever and ever? I don’t know.

“There are so many opportunities out there in the world that I’m not scared to take. The world has become so small now that we can literally be everywhere at the same time.”


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