‘I’m the one who came and took up space’: Zozibini Tunzi on her legacy

17 May 2021 - 07:16 By Toni Jaye Singer
Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe in December 2019. She set the record as the longest reigning Miss Universe of all time after the 2020 pageant was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe in December 2019. She set the record as the longest reigning Miss Universe of all time after the 2020 pageant was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Image: Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images

SA’s Zozibini Tunzi passed the Miss Universe crown to her successor, Mexico’s Andrea Meza, on Sunday.

Tunzi has reflected on her legacy as the longest-reigning Miss Universe in history in an emotive statement on the prestigious pageant’s website.

When the Eastern Cape beauty queen clinched the title in 2019 while flaunting her now signature fade, she sparked conversations about the need to challenge society’s outdated definitions of beauty.

“Beauty never looked like me. I was not the standard,” she recalls.

She elaborates that winning Miss Universe was a “solid reminder” that, if she works hard, there’s no limit to what she is capable of achieving regardless of her social class, race or gender.

“I hope becoming Miss Universe means the same to others watching my journey as well: They, too, are capable,” she adds.

Tunzi concludes her note by echoing the words she spoke on stage shortly before being crowned, when she encouraged young girls to “take up space in society and cement themselves” — a quote celebrated on social media by celebs including Oprah Winfrey and Gabrielle Union, and became so famous it was emblazoned on a T-shirt.

She says: “When people think of me, I want them to know that there is no such thing as dreaming the impossible.

“There is no-one exempt from greatness; we are all born with it inside us. The only thing we have to do is find what it is that we are great at — our purpose — and take up that space.

“That is my legacy: The one who came and took up space.”


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