Johannesburg – From a village in the Eastern Cape to queen of the universe – Zozibini Tunzi's road to success may seem sudden, but the beauty queen has been working toward this moment for years.
As we leave 2019 behind us, we take a look at Zozi's rise to the Miss Universe crown.
Where it all began
Zozibini was born in Tsolo, eSdwadweni in the Eastern Cape on 18 September 1993. Her mother is a school principal in the Eastern Cape, and her father works at the Department of Higher Education and Training in Pretoria, Gauteng.
She graduated with a national diploma in public relations management from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and was completing her B.Tech at the same institution when she won the Miss South Africa title in August 2019.
Though she lived and worked in Cape Town, Zozibini's love for her hometown was unmatched. It shone through at her national costume reveal in November when she was surprised with video messages from friends, family and neighbours back home wishing her well for the Miss Universe pageant. The beauty queen was brought to tears by the clips, leaning on her dad as she took it all in.
Of course, the feeling of love and admiration is mutual for the village of Tsolo. Community members took to the streets to celebrate in December when Zozi bagged the Miss Universe crown.
From dream to reality
Scroll through Zozibini's Facebook page for a while, and you'll soon realise just how amazing she is. The 26-year-old has been voicing her opinion, sharing thought-provoking and inspirational messages on her social media platforms for a while.
Not only that, a look through her Facebook will reveal that her Miss Universe win may not be the big coincidence you think it is.
Nope, Zozibini had her eyes set on an international pageant title for a few years now.
After winning the Miss Universe crown, an old post she shared in 2012 resurfaced on social media.
"One day is one day," it reads. Attached to that is a picture of a former Miss World winner being crowned.
Okay, so she did not win the Miss World crown, but she managed to score a title that's just as big. Many fans took this as an example that hard work and perseverance always pays off in the end.
If at first you don't succeed…
You may not know this, but 2019 was actually not the first year Zozibini tried out for the Miss South Africa pageant.
She was part of the 2017 top 12. In that year, the crown ended up going to Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters who later won the Miss Universe title.
Speaking to Channel24 in a previous interview, Zozibini said 2017 was just not her time.
"The only difference between now and then is that then was not my time. Then  was Demi-Leigh's year. There was nothing wrong with me then; I was always the person that I am. It's just that it wasn't my time, so that's the difference. Now, the world needed to hear my message. The world needed a Miss South Africa that is me, that looks like me."
In 2018, Zozibini tried once again to establish herself in the entertainment industry. This time the public relations graduate entered SABC 3's Presenter Search on 3 competition and made it into the finals but did not manage to grab the number one spot.
While many may have given up at this point, Zozi knew her story was only beginning.
Claiming the crown
In 2019, Zozibini decided to try out for the Miss SA crown once more. This time, at the age of 26, she had changed a look, opting to show off her natural hair. Zozi was a standout candidate from the beginning and sealed the deal on the night of the show when she wowed the judges in the question and answer portion of the pageant.
When asked if SA women still have a reason to keep smiling with the amount of violence against women and children in the country, Zozibini's answer was a firm no. The beauty queen made it clear that men need to be brought into the conversation surrounding gender-based violence. A concept which the audience agreed with and applauded.
This conversation would fuel Zozibini's interest in the matter, and later on form part of her national costume for the Miss Universe pageant.
Making the decision to embrace her natural hair was one that also got Zozibini noticed around the globe. She became a firm favourite for the Miss Universe pageant long before she even landed in Atlanta.
Queen of the universe
On Sunday 8 December, Zozibini Tunzi became the third South African to win the title of Miss Universe.
In her interview with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, Zozi said the most significant part of winning is that she will now be able to use this platform to build generational wealth for her family.
The next year will be a whirlwind for the 26-year-old – from travelling the world to speak on issues she is passionate about, to attending red carpet events alongside Hollywood's elite, she will have it all.