New Miss SA Zozibini Tunzi is turn­ing heads

New Miss SA Zozi Tunzi shares her joy at win­ning, and tells us why she’s proud of her nat­u­ral hair


WHAT a dif­fer­ence a day makes. When she woke up on Women’s Day it was with butterflie­s in her stom­ach and a dream in her heart. Fast for­ward 24 hours and Zozibini Tunzi finds her­self in a lux­ury ho­tel suite, the woman of the mo­ment, her beau­ti­ful face plas­tered all over news­pa­pers and news sites.

She’s also be­come an overnight so­cial me­dia sen­sa­tion.

“Wak­ing up as Miss South Africa meant wak­ing up to 44 000 [new] In­sta­gram fol­low­ers, which is in­sane, but I guess it shows just how big a plat­form this is,” the newly crowned beauty queen tells DRUM from her suite in The Maslow ho­tel at Time Square, Pre­to­ria. “I think that was when it first dawned on me how much my life has changed.”

The 25-year-old is wear­ing a crisp white robe af­ter hav­ing her makeup done. Zozi, as she’s af­fec­tion­ately known, has been up since 5am with her team, in­clud­ing pageant coach Werner Wes­sels, pre­par­ing for a full day of en­gage­ments.

Her shoes from last night’s pageant lie strewn on the floor as she sips a cup of tea, Pre­to­ria spread out through the win­dows be­hind her.

It’s a long way from the tiny vil­lage of Tsolo where she grew up, she ad­mits.

“It’s very strange. I’m just a girl from the Eastern Cape. I re­ally didn’t think I’d make it, but I some­how al­ways knew my life would be bet­ter. Ev­ery­thing is fi­nally com­ing to­gether.”

It was a case of sec­ond time lucky for Zozi, who en­tered Miss South Africa in 2017, the year Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters took the crown. Zozi only made it as far as the top 26 but in­stead of be­ing dis­cour­aged she saw it as a step­ping stone to try again.

And this time there was no stop­ping her. Out­go­ing Miss SA Ta­maryn Green placed the crown on Zozi’s head as she shim­mered and daz­zled in a sil­ver gown by lo­cal de­signer Anel Botha.

But one aspect of Zozi’s look was dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent to her first Miss SA out­ing: in­stead of a weave she came out loud and proud with her short, nat­u­ral hair.

This is part of who she is, she says, and isn’t go­ing to change for any­one.

“When I en­tered this time, the first thing some of my friends asked me was if I was go­ing to wear a weave. But this is my hair. It’s been this way for the past two years and I plan to keep it this way.

“I came into this com­pe­ti­tion with my nat­u­ral hair as a sym­bol of my firm be­lief in be­ing your­self,” she adds. “When I jumped off my flight to meet the first group of fi­nal­ists, I saw two girls – one had a chiskop, one had dread­locks.

“I thought I was go­ing to be the strange one, with my short, curly hair, but it wasn’t like that at all. Ev­ery­one was cel­e­brat­ing who they were. That’s when I knew this plat­form had changed – and for the bet­ter. We’re called the rain­bow na­tion be­cause of how dif­fer­ent we are.”

ZOZI’S love for the stage started when she was a lit­tle girl. She was just seven when she took part in her first pageant at a Methodist church in Tsolo. Zozi says she was timid as a child but ven­tur­ing on stage al­lowed her to open up and be her­self. “When I say I was shy, I don’t mean it in a cute way. I had no friends, I didn’t want to play sport. I was scared of peo­ple. Then there was a pageant in church and my mom took me there. That’s when I started mak­ing friends and com­ing out of my shell.”

Her con­fi­dence grew and at But­ter­worth High School she joined the public-speak­ing and de­bat­ing teams. Af­ter school she en­tered pageants and in 2013 she won the ti­tles of Miss Cape Penin­sula Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (CPUT) and Miss Mamelodi Sun­downs.

Her big­gest sup­port­ers are her par­ents, mom Philiswa, a school prin­ci­pal from Idu­tywa in the Eastern Cape, and dad Lungisa, who works for the depart­ment of higher ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing in Pre­to­ria.

The pair split up in 2011 but were right by their daugh­ter’s side at the pageant along with Zozi’s sis­ters, Yanga (30), Siba­balwe (24) and Ayakha (13).

“I have no words. It’s un­be­liev­able,” Lungisa said back­stage af­ter his daugh­ter’s crown­ing. “A ru­ral boy like me hav­ing a child as Miss SA . . . It’s so amaz­ing. We’ve been pray­ing for this mo­ment and here it is.”

“It’s awe­some,” Philiswa added. “I thank God be­cause we didn’t do this on our own. It’s by God’s grace.”

NOT only has Zozi earned a glit­ter­ing ti­tle, but she’s also R1 mil­lion richer and will rake in a fur­ther R2m worth of spon­sor­ships and prizes, in­clud­ing the use of a lux­ury Sand­ton apart­ment and a Mer­cedes-Benz cabri­o­let for a year.

“Funny thing is I now have a car but I don’t have a driver’s li­cence yet so I def­i­nitely need to sort that out.”

She plans to put some of her win­nings

to­wards pay­ing her stu­dent debt. Be­fore the run-up to the pageant be­gan, Zozi was study­ing part-time to­wards a BTech in public re­la­tions at CPUT while work­ing as an in­tern at a PR firm.

Back in 2016 she was forced to drop out of her un­der­grad PR stud­ies af­ter be­ing fi­nan­cially ex­cluded. She man­aged to se­cure a bur­sary and com­pleted her de­gree – now her win means she can af­ford to pay her debt.

Zozi is ex­cited for the year ahead. She’s es­pe­cially look­ing for­ward to rep­re­sent­ing SA at the Miss Uni­verse pageant later this year.

“I feel blessed be­cause my first time abroad is go­ing to be as Miss South Africa and that’s not some­thing ev­ery­one gets to say. It’s very spe­cial,” she says.

Her mag­i­cal night may still be a bit of a blur but Zozi is clear about one thing right now: she plans to use her reign to touch the lives of oth­ers.

“I al­ways knew I had to find a way to be a catalyst for pos­i­tive change. Fi­nally, ev­ery­thing has come full cir­cle and I find my­self ready to de­liver on the prom­ises I have been mak­ing since I was a child.”

Zozibini, who is al­ready mak­ing her mark as Miss SA, with her proud par­ents, Philiswa and Lungisa Tunzi.

She oozed con­fi­dence as she took to the stage.

ABOVE: Zozi has a de­gree in public re­la­tions and will use some of her prize money to pay off her stu­dent debt. RIGHT: She stayed in shape in the run-up to the pageant to strut her stuff on the Miss South Africa stage.

Zozi was once a girl with a dream and now that it’s been re­alised she hopes to show other young peo­ple that their dreams are valid too.

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