Miss Universe 2019 Zozibini Tunzi is back on home soil for the first time since being crowned Miss Universe in Atlanta in December.
On 26 November, the South African beauty packed three suitcases as she waved goodbye to her home country to take part in the Miss Universe pageant in Atlanta, Georgia (USA).
Zozibini won over the judges, and the world, with her inspiring words, demanding that women "take up space" and be represented in every shape and form. And the following morning after being crowned the winner, Zozibini left her ordinary life in Cape Town behind, and moved into her trendy New York City apartment - unsure of when she will be returning home.
Speaking to Channel24 ahead of her arrival, Zozibini said that she couldn't wait to "feel the energy" when she landed. "This win hasn't just been about me; I share it with South Africans," she said.
Zozi's words rang true when she received an emotional welcome at OR Tambo in Johannesburg on Saturday.
When the 26-year-old PR graduate stepped through the arrival gates, she was met with singing and loud cheers by family, friends and supporters.
Addressing the crowds at the airport on Saturday, Zozi thanked South Africans for their overwhelming support.
"I have been feeling the love of South Africans since I got crowned Miss South Africa, even before going to Miss Universe," she said. "Because of that, while I was walking on the Miss Universe stage, I knew that I was there as one body, but as I stood on that stage, I stood as millions of South Africans," she said.
Zozibini later made her way to her hometown in the Eastern Cape where she stood proud on top of her homecoming float, beautifully designed by Henderson works, waving to her adoring fans.
An emotional Miss Universe praised her maternal grandmother, Cynthia Lawukazi Nadophu from Dayimane village in Dutywa, for giving her her first book and bestowing upon her a love of reading.
She also met Nelson Mandela's grandson Ndaba Mandela and visited the Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha where thousands turned out to meet her.
Jubilation erupted from the crowds lining the streets when Zozibini returned to the school she credits for her success, Canaan Academy in Dutywa, Eastern Cape. And there to greet and surprise her were the young men and women who had been her classmates in grades one and two, as well as headmistress Margaret Kyambadde, who was Zozi's English teacher in the first years of her school life.
Zozi's biggest surprise was when her old classmates and friends she had not seen for years gave her a standing ovation, moving her to tears.
Weeks of preparation included a song composed especially for her and sung by the school choir and the recital of a poem written for her.
MultiChoice City was abuzz with an electric atmosphere as employees welcomed Zozibini to their workplace as part of her official homecoming tour.
MultiChoice has walked this journey with the reigning Miss Universe since hosting the announcement of the Miss South Africa top 16 in July 2019 on Mzansi Magic as well as the live broadcast of the beauty pageant the following month.
Later that evening Zozibini attended a swanky event where she was named Samsung ambassador, alongside Bonang Matheba and Maps Maponyane.
The streets of Johannesburg came alive on Thursday when Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi, made her way through town on an open double-decker bus. "I've been away for such a while, and I could feel the support of South Africans, obviously, on social media. But feeling it in person is so much better."
She added: "I'm feeling very excited to be home. I think I've been homesick for quite a while. People have been commenting on my social media saying that I'm glowing differently now that I'm home. Because my heart is in South Africa. My heart will always be in South Africa."
After her tour, Zozibini boarded a plane to Cape Town where she attended the State of The Nation Address as one of President Cyril Ramaphosa's guests.
The reigning Miss Universe was seated on the Cape Town Carnival's colourful "Sunrise" float alongside dancers, wearing costumes inspired by the South African flag - as she made her way through the busy streets.
"Sunrise" in particular sent a message of waking up one's power, of expressing oneself in whichever shape or form that may be. And given Zozibini's remarkable talent and life story, the two of them couldn't be more aligned.
Compiled by Graye Morkel