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. I think that it is time that that stops today. – Zozibini Tunzi
The winner of this year’s Miss Universe pageant is Miss South Africa Zozibini Tunzi, who looks like Egyptian royalty in this picture. I like how–true to her message that natural beauty is best and that Black women should love themselves–she wore her hair short with a small afro on top, and she still looks beautiful, elegant, and feminine in addition to being very eloquent. She did not attempt to straighten her hair, or to lengthen it.
As part of her work in the coming year as the new ambassador to the world on behalf of the women of her country and of women everywhere, she says she will continue to work as an activist to end violence against women.
South African society exhibits some of the worst violent crime statistics in the world. A high percentage of women have been raped at some point, and recent heinous crimes have caused increased activism by women demanding justice against rapists and killers. A World Health Organization (WHO) report in 2016 indicated South Africa had the fourth-highest violent female death rate out of the 183 countries.
What is bizarre about this is that nearby countries like Botswana and Namibia, which otherwise share a somewhat similar history and culture, are considerably much more functional. Namibia (just northwest of SA, and where the population also suffered during apartheid) is known to be one of the safest and friendliest countries in Africa, and Botswana (just north of it) is one of the least corrupt countries in the continent and has been undergoing considerable development as of lately. So why does a country that is surrounded by so many good news offer so many bad news?
I know that Tunzi is “only” a beauty queen, but together with the grassroots women’s activist movement, I think real change may happen, in part, as a result of her winning the crown and the increased attention and resources that will pour towards the causes she defends. Let’s not forget that Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Prize for her environmental work in Kenya and that today Nairobi is the greenest and cleanest city in all of Africa (followed closely by the elegant capital of Rwanda, which has recovered from genocide to become another model good-news country).
People tend to follow those who are great among them. Following Maathai, citizens of Kenya have planted millions of trees in their country and reduced deforestation considerably, reversing dangerous trends that are advancing elsewhere in places like Brasil. If one person can make a huge difference, then a legion of activists joining hands can certainly change the paradigm. South African women desperately needed some good news. All Hail Queen Tunzi!