Zozi’s Homecoming

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We interviewed South Africa’s own Zozibini (Zozi) Tunzi (25), Miss Universe 2019 (and Miss South Africa 2019), during her homecoming tour. 

She is the third SA woman, and the first black woman since Leila Lopes to win the title. 

You flew home from New York to Johannesburg on SAA’s new Airbus A350s. What was the experience like, travelling in this state-of-the-art aircraft? 

I slept the whole way and that speaks volumes about how comfortable the flight was. I also enjoyed the hospitality of the staff; it was very refreshing to see Ubuntu being practiced on board.

You won both the Miss South Africa and Miss Universe pageants. Why did you enter? 

I felt there was something missing in my life. I was waking up every day going to work and school and that was not enough for me.

I felt like I was wasting away and wanted to do something great and impactful for myself, my family and my community. Miss South Africa gives women a platform to use in whatever way works for them.

My voice is my tool and I knew that that platform would allow me to spread whatever message I want to spread much further than when I wasn’t Miss South Africa.

Personally, I also needed the platform to meet people and to make connections that would help me reach my financial and career goals.

You won both pageants (very purposefully) rocking your natural hair. Did you ever imagine that girls are now requesting your hairstyle, the Zozi, at the hairdresser?  

No, I never imagined that people would take to it so positively as they have. The hairstyle existed way before I even cut my hair. People have been doing it for ages but I’m honored that they now call it the Zozi. That’s quite special.

What do you miss when you’re homesick? 

Mostly my family and friends. They are the people that make up my home. I also miss South African food and our culture and diversity. There’s something special about hearing five different languages in one day.

Zozi aboard SAA's AIRBUS A350-900. Photo: Yolanda van der Stoep
Zozi aboard SAA’s AIRBUS A350-900. Photo: Yolanda van der Stoep

Do you ever worry that one day you may say the wrong thing on social media?

No, I do not worry about that at all. I used to be terrified of Twitter because I have seen how horribly people can be dragged on there.

The truth is, you do not even have say anything wrong on Twitter to be dragged. It doesn’t matter what you do, good or bad, there’s always going to be mean people who just like to troll on Twitter.

For that reason, I don’t worry. Usually the following day it’s forgotten anyway, and they are on to their next victim. I will say this though, I have a love/hate relationship with Twitter.

Even though you find the biggest bullies on there, you also find the most supportive people. I have felt the love and support of South Africans through Twitter and I am grateful for that.

Trifle or Oros? 

I’m not crazy about triffle, it’s okay. Oros, on the other hand I absolutely love. I die for it!

What does the #ISeeMeInZozi hashtag mean to you? 

It means absolutely the world to me to know that my pure intentions are received as they truly are.

When I stepped on the Miss Universe stage, I was very intentional about my message. I needed young girls and women alike to believe in themselves and the power of their dreams.

When they look at me and see a possibility for themselves, I know that my job is done.

Your clarion call is that women should take up space more. Have you seen a difference in SA since your crowning? 

I have seen women tag me on posts about the jobs they went after, about how confident they are feeling about themselves and about how they are not afraid anymore to step into their power.

I am not saying they did that because of my call but it is very beautiful to see and I love that they share those moments with me.

Photo: Sonia Elitz
Photo: Sonia Elitz

What’s on your current bucket list? 

To help build a school, to face my fear of water and learn how to swim, and to travel to as many countries as I can.

What’s your personal mantra? 

There’s no hurdle I haven’t gotten past. This too shall pass.

Your plans after Miss Universe? 

To continue taking up space no matter where I find myself in the world.

Travel befitting a queen: the new Airbus A350-900 

Zozibini flew home from New York in February aboard SAA’s brand-new Airbus A350-900. She charmed passengers aboard the 15-hour journey, as they took pictures with her.

“SAA is more than an airline, we – like Zozibini – are African first. We are a proud carrier of Africa’s hopes and dreams and its unlimited potential, which leaves us bursting with pride as we welcome our daughter back home and celebrate her global success,” said Zuks Ramasia, SAA’s ACEO.

 “Our crew described the opportunity to fly a South-African-born Miss Universe as one of their proudest and memorable experience, one that will remain an indelible highlight in their careers,” said Zuks.

SAA flew Zozi back to South Africa as one of the “Homecoming” partners to showcase pride, patriotism and embrace African heritage. In December, she flew SAA to São Paolo to participate in the Miss Universe contest as arranged by the Miss SA Pageant organisers.

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