On Sunday night, Zozibini Tunzi made history by being crowned Miss Universe, capping the sweeping year Black women have had in top beauty pageants around the world.
According to CNN, Tunzi, representing South Africa, earned her win by excelling in rounds of evening gown and swimsuit struts, answering questions on social issues and expressing why she wanted to be crowned the winning title.
“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,” she said. “I think it is time that that stops today. I want children to look at me and see my face and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine.”
Tunzi joins an impressiveroster of Black women who have been owning the pageant world this past year. Eighteen-year-old Kaliegh Garris won the crown of Miss Teen USA, while 28-year-old Cheslie Kryst took home the title of Miss USA 2019. Finally, Nia Franklin won the title of Miss America.
This year’s Miss Universe was held at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta and Steve Harvey hosted once again. Although the event was successful, it wasn’t without some controversy and slip-ups.
First, Harvey had another mixup, although it wasn’t as disastrous as his 2015 confusion where he called out the wrong winner. This time, Harvey — who sported a very memable bedazzled green and gold suit jacket — commented on a costume from earlier in the week, saying Miss Philippines won the National Costume Contest. However, the woman standing next to him corrected him saying it was Miss Malaysia who won that contest. “Y’all got to quit doing this to me,” Harvey, ever the comedian, responded.
Prior to Sunday night, controversy also occurred because Miss Jamaica wore a dress named after an infamous slave owner. Nineteen-year-old Iana Tickle Garcia was photographed in a white feathered dress and the Rose Hall Jamaica Twitter page tweeted, “Miss Universe Jamaica’s Costume Name: Annie Palmer – Legend of Rose Hall. Iana Tickle Garcia is rocking this!”
The dress got immediate backlash. Tourism website Jamaica Travel And Culture explained that Annie Palmer was a white woman who was deemed the “White Witch of Rose Hall.” She is described as “an accomplished practitioner of Haitian Voodoo and during her reign at Rose Hall murdered three husbands and countless slave lovers. Her reign of terror was ended when she was murdered by one of her slaves and a ritual was carried out to banish her spirit from earth. However, it is rumoured that the ritual was not carried out correctly and that Annie still haunts the Rose Hall estate.”
Eventually, the Miss Universe Jamaica Organization issued a statement saying it “never sought to glorify slavery, nor promote witchcraft or any of the folk tales Annie Palmer has been accused of.” Instead they just wanted to “tell the story of another part of Jamaican history without endorsing, glorifying or celebrating her deeds or the atrocities of slavery.” Many people were still upset that the organization didn’t issue an actual apology.
Despite the missteps, a celebration was to be had for Miss South Africa’s major win. Check out some gorgeous photos of the new Miss Universe Winner below!