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In 2019, Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi stunned audiences when she gave an unexpected answer during the prestigious competition that divided opinion. That year the eyes of the world descended on Atlanta, Georgia, in anticipation of the crowning of the next Miss Universe. But no one could've predicted what would happen later that evening. As the contestants began answering difficult questions designed to trip them up, one woman stood out from the rest. And when her turn came to face the judges. She stood tall, composed herself, and gave a jaw-dropping answer that would end up changing the face of the competition.
Zozibini Tunzi was posed with a tricky question during the beauty pageant. But she didn’t get scared or worried about how difficult the question was and gave a response calmly. Her answer made her stand out from the rest and changed her life forever.
We understand that you are really curious about the question and Zozibini’s reply. So here they are! Let’s begin with the question! Earlier the evening she was crowned, Zozibini was asked: “What is the most important thing we should teach young girls today?” Honestly, such an open-ended question would trip up anyone, but not Zozibini.
All the lights, cameras, and the eyes of millions of people were on Zozibini. The audience was wondering how she would respond to the tricky question. But without skipping a beat, she said, “I believe one of the most important things we should be teaching young girls today is leadership.” And then she went on to explain why she thought that.
Zozibini said that leadership is something that young girls and women have lacked for a long time—not because they wanted to, but because of what society labeled women to be. She also said that she believes that women are the most powerful beings on the planet. But she didn’t stop here!
Zozobini’s approach to the question impressed everyone. And for the event that was often mocked for thoughtless and senseless responses to these questions (If you get time, watch Sandra Bullock's 2000 movie, Miss Congeniality, and you'll get to know why we said that), Zozibini's response stunned the audience. But her response wasn't only about leadership and the role of women in society.
Zozonbini’s words were not only intelligent but also powerful. She reintroduced the idea of empowered feminism to an industry that has profited from women for decades while consistently usurping their powers. And then, she brought up another important point that she believes every young girl should be aware of today.
Summing up her answer, Zozibini said, "a woman should be given every opportunity, and that is what should be taught to young girls—to take up space." Nothing, she said, is more important than taking up space in society. That day Zozibin's answer not only captured the hearts of millions of people around the world but also created history!
As Zozibini finished her answer, the audience burst into applause, and they did so again when she was officially crowned as the Miss Universe 2019. She is the first black woman to win the title since 2011 and the third South African to do so. So what are her plans after the competition?
Zozibini aims to work for the inclusion and representation of women. She wrote on social media that she has always been very outspoken about her mission to break beauty stereotypes, and she intends to continue working towards the goal. Honestly, Zozibini's plans are quite innovative and different! After all, we don't see beauty contestants talking about breaking such stereotypes every day! Also, beauty queens like Zozibini are not only bringing a change to the beauty standards, but they are also playing a significant role in changing the world of pageants. Here's how they're doing it...
Zozibini’s mission stands in direct opposition with many skeletons in the pageantry closet. Or, to put it another way, the changing room. But her goal and concern for women prove that her crowning as Miss Universe is the right step that could usher in a new era of pageants, where beauty and talent will matter equally, and beauty won’t be limited to physical appearance. However, there’s one major problem!
Zozibini’s mission is to improve women's status in society. And when she talks about changing beauty standards, she doesn't mean that she is against people applying makeup. But who knows about these fake feminists? They might demean others in the attempt to promote "inclusivity, representation, and women being powerful and taking up space." But there’s one way to ensure that we don’t fall into the trap of these fake feminists.
And that is to educate! Learn to lift each other and collaborate rather than competing. In Zozibin’s words, we should teach young girls about leadership and encourage them to pursue everything out there. By the way, Zozibini is not the only one who thinks this way. And to better understand the magnitude of her response, it's important to remember that there was a time when beauty pageants were very different...
The first Miss America pageant took place on September 9, 1921, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The idea to organize the pageant came from a local businessman who believed it would attract more visitors to the area. Sadly, the concept didn't go down well with women, and things took an ugly turn.
Since the demonstrations, things changed, and slowly the pageants became a global event. But even after becoming a part of different cultures across the world, they weren’t far from controversies and rivalries. For example, Miss Universe began in 1952 as a publicity stunt by Pacific Knitting Mills, a California clothing company, after the winner of its rival pageant Miss America declined to wear one of the company's swimsuits. However, things are much different today, and Miss Universe 2019 is an example of that.
Miss Universe 2019, the 68th Miss Universe pageant, was held on December 8, 2019. After defeating over 90 participants, the title was bagged by Zozibini Tunzi, who also became the third South African to win the title. But it wasn’t just the good looks and confident attitude that helped her win. The most important factor was the answer she’d given in response to a tricky question.
In the early days of the beauty pageant, women were judged on their evening gowns and swimsuits, and the winner was determined by how well they performed against those criteria. This changed drastically in the 1990s when a new element was added to the beauty pageants. Apart from the fancy dresses and good looks, the competition now had a new dynamic to consider, making it challenging to perform well.
Live interviews were the latest addition to the beauty pageants. Now, the crown contenders faced questions in front of millions of people, including the attendees and television viewers, and their responses played a crucial role in their victory. Unfortunately, not everyone made it through the new addition to the beauty pageant.
See, looking stunning and gorgeous is one thing, but sounding calm and composed and informed while flashing a million-watt smile is a completely different thing. After all, not everyone performs well in a different setting. But someone confident and determined never loses their calm no matter how difficult a situation gets. And Zozibin's reply proved that. But she's not the only beauty queen who aims to break stereotypes.
Just like Zozibini Tunzi, even beauty queen H'Hen Nie has won several hearts—from her signature cropped pixie cut to the media statements she has given. Another similarity between her and Tunzi is their belief in themselves and their determination to make the world a better place. But Nie’s journey has not been an easy one!
Nie has broken several barriers by becoming the first ethnic minority crown holder, representing an extremely proud small group. Born into the Rade ethnic group, she belongs to a community that follows matrilineal culture. In a matrilineal culture, the mother's lineage is prioritized, with husbands taking the names of their wives and women inheriting all lands, and that sort of created pressure on Nei to get settled early.
People in Nei's community expected her to marry around the age of 14 and raise her children in traditional multi-family homes, just like other women in her community did. But Nei was different, and for her, Vietnam’s capital, Ho Chi Minh City, was more her style. To survive in the busy metropolis and pursue an education, she worked various jobs such as housecleaning, nannying, and waitressing. Then in 2014, a better opportunity knocked on her door.
Given Nei's extraordinary beauty, she pursued modeling and was ultimately accepted into the reality television show Vietnam's Next Top Model. Her appearance on the show presented her with an invaluable forum, allowing her to be heard by millions of people. Sadly, the show also exposed her to criticism for the first time. Critics chastised her for her darker skin tone and athletic frame, and they labeled her too thin. In addition to that, they criticized her runway walk as “not particularly outstanding.” However, these things couldn’t discourage her, and she walked out of the show determined to prove them wrong.
Nei somewhat shifted gears and pursued the pageant circuit in addition to modeling. When she walked across the stage, she stole everyone's hearts, and the 2017 Miss Universe Vietnam judges were equally impressed with her. Finally, she stole the crown and made history, much to the delight of her supporters back in Dak Lak. The victory represented a new form of beauty, but Nei had a different focus now.
At first, Nie had planned to donate 70 percent of her $10,000 pageant winnings to charity. However, after talking to her mother about it, she concluded it was the right decision to donate the entire sum to philanthropy. Because of her social work and Miss Universe fame, she became an internet sensation. Opportunities and large paychecks poured in, and all of that money went straight to improving the country. That year, she also paid off all of her family's debts and founded a library in her homeland to support education. So what was Nei’s next step? Did she plan to give up modeling and devote her time to philanthropy?
Nope, that was not her plan. The next stop was the larger Miss Universe 2018 pageant, where contestants from all over the world compete for the title, benefits, and an open-ended monthly paycheck on a global stage. When Nei's fans got to know about her participation, they showered support on social media. Delighted with the direction her career was taking, nothing could have prepared Nei for the next bombshell.
Nei stood out among the many competitors for her hilariously amusing take on the national costume category, walking the runway in a garment that paid homage to Vietnam's famous Banh Mi sandwich. It was a quirky display of courage and personality that was unusual in the pageant world. Nei was happy with her performance, and so were her fans, but someone couldn’t stand the fact that she was happy.
Nei’s critics couldn’t see her happy. But one of those critics went after her as if she had harmed them personally in the past. Even after unforgettable Miss Universe success and a huge fan base, she was faced with unnecessary criticism. This time it was an unpleasant attack from a rival queen.
In the Miss Universe 2018 pageant, Nei added another feather in her cap. She came fifth in the competition, gaining a first for her country and the highest finish ever by a Vietnamese contestant. On the other hand, Miss USA secured the 20th position, and she got to know how wrong she was for judging Nei. After this contest, Nei continued with her philanthropic work, and she fulfilled the promises she’d made in the past.
Nei kept her word and donated all of her fifth-place prize money to several charities, including Room to Read, for which she was a global ambassador. Room to Read is a non-profit organization for improving education for young girls in Asia and Africa. Like a real-life superhero, Nei believed it was her responsibility to help young girls. After all, no crown or number of social media followers compares to the satisfaction of making a difference in the world. Also, even after achieving so much in life, Nei never forgot her roots.
Nei took a trip to her home before heading to the Miss Universe competition. “One of the greatest loves is the love you get from your people,” she said in a video about her visit, ”No crown or wealth will ever take it away from you when you have this love.” Oh, by the way, Nei is not alone on her mission to make this world a better place.
She has the support of her fans and her community people. Inspired by her actions, several people from her community now realize how important it is to educate young girls and let them live life on their terms.
“With great powers comes great responsibilities” Don’t you think this is quite true for people like Nei and Zozibini? Do let us know! And if you liked reading the story, don’t forget to share it with your friends and family. See you soon. Until then, keep reading!