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We could watch the footage over and over again. Two women hold hands, circled by a camera capturing their emotions. There’s a pregnant pause. Then, her name is announced. The bends of Zozibini Tunzi’s lips curve up toward her cheeks. She gasps as the crown is planted atop her coiled taper cut. In that moment, she became a symbol of beauty for little Black girls who’ve never seen their coarse hair or skin color on the main stage in such a way.

“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,” said Zozibini in one of her category answers.

The pageant queen has dedicated her life to dismantling gender stereotypes and advocating for women’s rights, a pillar on her road to the crown. Combined with her grace, poise and strong answers that reinforced women should be leaders, she was able to sashay her way to the title of Miss Universe.

“I think the most important thing we should be teaching young girls today is leadership. It’s something that has been lacking in young girls and women for a very 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 on the world, and that we should be given every opportunity, and 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.”

Zozibini posted a message to her social media accounts following her monumental win. “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,” she wrote.

Zozibini was crowned Miss South Africa 2019 in August, the win that paved the way to her becoming Miss Universe. Zozibini defeated Miss Puerto Rico in the final segment to win the crown.

More photos of Zozibini Tunzi, below: