Werner Wessels, creative consultant for Miss SA, had no doubt that Zozibini Tunzi would be crowned Miss Universe because “South African women have so much to say and give to the world”.
Wessel was referring to Tunzi’s response to the question of what we should be teaching young girls today.
“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 labelled women to be. I think we are the most powerful beings in the world and that we should be given every opportunity ... that is what we should be teaching these young girls, to take up space,” she responded.
Wessels, who worked with Tunzi from the top 16 of the national beauty pageant, said he was humbled to have been part of her journey to stardom and he believed in her.
“I did not want to make her something she was not, but more of what she [already was].”
Wessels’ magic touch has previously given us the likes of Rolene Strauss (Miss World 2014), Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters (Miss Universe 2017), Tamaryn Green (Miss Universe runner-up 2018) and now the newly crowned Miss Universe Tunzi.
The secret to Wessels’ streak is teaching self-sufficiency.
“It is different with every woman. It’s not a one-stop shop, but rather looking at each woman’s strengths and weaknesses and not imposing anything on them.
“Zozi was truly authentically herself. She came with the vision and purpose of changing the narrative of beauty. That’s what made her stand out,” Wessels said passionately.
His words were echoed by legendary hairstylist Jawad Maphoto, owner of hair and beauty salon Lajawi, who worked on her hairstyle.
“Zozi was aligned with herself and never detached from who she was,” he said.
Wessels describes his job as a gift for which he is truly humbled.
On the role of beauty pageants in society, he said: “If beauty pageants weren’t relevant then a young woman with fewer than 3 000 followers, who worked as an intern at a public relations company, would not be in New York, US, right now, with Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks and Viola Davis all aware of who she is and spreading the message that she gave on stage about women and leadership.”
He went on to mention the successes of Basetsana Kumalo and other former beauty pageant winners who had created businesses, careers and platforms for themselves.
Maphoto, who has styled Nel-Peters and Miss SA 2000 Joan Ramagoshi, among many others, also spoke about representation in pageants.
“Back in the day, natural hair was seen as an attribute of people who didn’t take care of themselves but this has changed and the pageant world is trying to break even.
“This year the Top 16 finalists of Miss SA included girls who rocked their natural hair, dreadlocks and braids. We’re setting our own trends and it’s so exciting!”
This thread of beauty queens who are social activists is carried through by Miss SA runner-up Sasha-Lee Olivier, who is passionate about inclusivity and fighting against gender-based violence.
Olivier took her Beauty With A Purpose campaign to the global stage at Miss World in London, UK, last night.
“It is time for us to stand up for those who are vulnerable, at a time when they need our love and support the most,” she said.
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