Miss South Africa named Miss Universe as Irish datanaut gives stiff competition

Miss South Africa was crowned this year’s winner of the Miss Universe title.

Zozibini Tunzi, a 24-year-old from Sidwadweni, became the first black woman to win the international title since Leila Lopes took the crown in 2011. Ms Tunzi will now move from her base in Cape Town, where she works in public relations, to New York City, where she will spend a year as an ambassador for the Miss Universe organisation.

Her passion for activism, in particular related to gender-based violence, helped establish her as the lead in the competition on Sunday night in Atlanta, Georgia. “Tonight a door was opened and I could not be more grateful to have been the one to have walked through it,” she said after.

“May every little girl who witnessed this moment forever believe in the power of her dreams and may they see their faces reflected in mine. I am #MissUniverse2019.”

When asked by host Steve Harvey what her goals for teaching young girls today, she answered leadership.

“It is something that has been lacking in young girls and woman for a 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. Nothing is as important as taking up space in society and cementing yourself.”

“I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me, with my kind of skin and my kind of hair, was never considered to be beautiful, and I think it is time that that stops – today,” she added. “I want children to look at me and see my face, and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine.”

Meanwhile, Miss Ireland Fionnghuala O’Reilly, who was early favourite to feature in the top 10, did not place in the top contenders last night.

Her work as a NASA datanaut, with aspirations to become an astronaut, gained headlines globally. This, coupled with the fact that she is the first woman of colour to represent Ireland in Miss Universe, made her a strong candidate to take home the crown, but competition proved exceptional this year.

Earlier this week, she told PEOPLE that she developed a passion for engineering while studying at George Washington University, which would eventually lead to her role at NASA, where she works remotely from Dublin.

“Genuinely, I thought it was something that you have to be a genius to do,” she said. “I’d never seen anyone that looks like me doing a job like this, and if there were people that looked like me doing a job like this, you didn’t see it often.”

“In the beginning, I definitely kept both of the careers separate. I didn’t think I’d be able to bring my two passions together. … But the world is so different now. You can be a Renaissance woman and you can have multiple passions.”

Celtic Swan ?This costume meant so much to me because it tells the story of faith and transformation. I was named after the Irish folklore The Children of Lir and last night I got to share the historical and cultural importance of Irish storytelling through my national costume. Thank you so much to everyone who helped my vision come to life ?. The trinity knot crown represents the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Obstacles always arise journeying through life but you always can overcome anything with faith. Costume by @joeygalon @missuniverseireland #MissUniverse2019 #MissUniverseIreland #nationalcostume

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