MISS South Africa Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe at the pageant’s 68th edition at the Tyler Moore Studios in Atlanta, Georgia yesterday.
Tunzi, 26, from Capetown, is the first black South African to win the title and the third in history after Margaret Gardiner in 1978 and Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters in 2017. She was crowned by last year’s winner, Catriona Gray of the Philippines.
A passionate social media activist for gender equality and a Public Relations and Image Management graduate, Tunzi bested a field of 90 delegates, including first runner-up Madison Anderson of Puerto Rico and second runner-up Sofia Aragon of Mexico.
The top three winners were asked the same question: “What is the most important thing that young girls should be taught today?”
Tunzi replied, “The most important thing we should be teaching young girls today is leadership. 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 labeled women to be. I think we are the most powerful beings in the world and that we should be given every opportunity and that’s what we should be teaching these young girls: to take up space.
There is nothing more important than to take up space in the society.”
For the second straight year, the panel of judges was all-women, including Miss Universe winners Paulina Vega (2014) and Riyo Mori (2007).
Colombia’s Gabriela Tafur and Thailand’s Paweensuda Drouin completed the top five.
The Philippines’ Gazini Ganados made it to the first cut of 20 semifinalists and advanced her cause for elderly care. In her speech, Gazini, who grew up with her grandparents, said: “It is rightful for us to remember that they were the ones who paved the way for us; we should reciprocate that love and no one should be left behind.”
Gazini also won the fan votes for Best National Costume, an award everybody thought was given to Miss Malaysia. The Miss Universe organization issued a statement after a minor confusion during the broadcast that said: “Miss Universe Philippines Gazini Ganados is the winner of the Miss Universe 2019 National Costume competition. As part of the broadcast, we also featured Miss Universe Malaysia Shweta Sekhon’s national costume. No mistakes regarding the national costume winner were made by the host Steve Harvey, the prompter or production.”
The pageant was hosted by comedian Steve Harvey for the fifth straight year with former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo and Fil-Am actress and former Miss Teen USA Vanessa Minillo Lachey.
Malacañang yesterday lauded Ganados for bringing pride and honor to the country.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said Ganados showcased the unique beauty and talent of the Filipina.
“Her experience in joining the prestigious beauty pageant should add further to her development as a beauty queen. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors,” Panelo said. – With Jocelyn Montemayor