Cape Town - YOU spoke to newly crowned Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi, before she left to compete at the Miss Universe competition in Atlanta, USA. In the interview, Zozi reveals the special bond she has with her father.
This is the interview:
When she steps onto the stage at the Miss Universe pageant she can be sure of one thing: her beloved father will be there to cheer her along every elegant step of the way.
To Miss South Africa Zozibini Tunzi, her dad, Lungisa, is many things: a devoted chauffeur, her biggest fan, her rock. He’s been her unfailing pillar of support since she was a little girl taking part in her first pageant and he’s here today as she chats to us in her stylish Sandton apartment.
“I’m always there for her,” says Lungisa (55), who works in the department of higher education and training in Pretoria. And Zozi (26) wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m a daddy’s girl,” she says.
Lungisa will never forget the day his daughter’s name was called out on the night of the Miss SA pageant in August.
“I recorded the show and often replay it to remind myself of how incredible it was.”
Now he hopes her name will ring out again in the early hours of Monday 9 December if she’s announced as the new Miss Universe. Lungisa and Philiswa, Zozi’s school principal mom, will be in the audience at the pageant, which will take place in Atlanta in the USA.
And even if she doesn’t win, the achievement of competing on a world stage is enough to make this dad’s heart light up with love.
It’s hard to believe the dazzling young woman seated before us exuding poise and charm was cripplingly shy as a girl. In a bid to boost her confidence, her parents persuaded her to enter her first beauty pageant when she was just six years old.
“You can’t be anything in this world if you don’t have confidence,” Lungisa says.
Little Zozi took to pageants like a duckling to water – she won her first contest and has been taking part in pageants ever since. Still, growing up in the village of Tsolo in the Eastern Cape, she kept pretty much to herself.
She didn’t have many friends and her sisters, Yanga (now 30), Sibabalwe (24) and Ayakha (13), were her “everything”, she says.Zozi didn’t take part in sport and was far happier with her nose buried in a book.
But she loved to look pretty, her dad says. Her mother used to design Zozi’s pageant dresses when she was young then get a seamstress to make them.
Her parents split up in 2011 but the family remained warm and loving. After school Zozi enrolled at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) to study public relations and continued taking part in pageants.
She was crowned Miss CPUT and Miss Mamelodi Sundowns and dreamt of making it all the way to Miss SA – which is now mission accomplished. It’s been an amazing ride since her August crowning, she says.
“One minute I was a PR intern, the next I was Miss South Africa.”
Zozi was a graduate intern at marketing company Ogilvy for a few months earlier this year, working in various fields from digital marketing to communications. Now, instead of having a nine-to-five job, she sometimes begins her day at 3am to prepare for promotions and social media shoots.
Then it’s sponsorship work, appearances, interviews and gym. She’s also announced her social cause of choice, the #HeForShe campaign – a United Nations initiative through which men and women are invited to stand together to create a gender equal world.
What’s been the standout moment of her reign so far? Tough question, she says. There have been so many high-lights – but if she had to choose, walking the runway for New York Fashion Week soon after the start of her reign takes the cake.
Zozi’s signature feature is her close-cropped hair. Lungisa says he was a bit sceptical when she decided to ditch her wig and go for the natural look. But this is something Zozi feels strongly about.
She believes her look is a true representation of South African women and she wants to break beauty stereotypes.
“Society has been conditioned for a very long time to see beauty as something that’s been westernised,” she says. That’s why she didn’t take it personally when she was mocked by some people on social media soon after her crowning.
“It did affect me just a little in a negative way, but I bounced back.”
She’s had more positive feedback than negative, however. “I never realised how overwhelming it could be to be loved by people who don’t even know you.” She’s now taking her Afrocentric look international.
About a billion people are expected to tune in to watch Miss Universe and Zozi is already standing out: she’s the only contestant whose profile picture on the competition website shows her with her head covered. She’s wearing an emerald green head wrap and says the “risky” move has been well received.
“The doek is the story of many South African women. It’s considered beautiful to us, so why not introduce it to the universe?”
As the big day draws nearer, are the nerves kicking in? “Not at all,” she says.