Miss South Africa hopes to inspire girls who look like her after she was crowned Miss Universe 2019.
"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 said.
The newly-minted Miss Universe beat 89 other contestants to nab the coveted title at a ceremony held at the recently opened Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta on Sunday.
"Tonight a door was opened and I could not be more grateful to have been the one to have walked through it. 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," Tunzi shared on Instagram.
The 26-year-old is an activist against gender violence and a "proud advocate for natural beauty and encourages women to love themselves the way they are," according to the Miss Universe organization.
Zunzi takes the crown from Catriona Gray of the Philippines, who won Miss Universe 2018. Miss Puerto Rico, Madison Anderson, and Miss Mexico, Sofia Aragon, joined Zunzi in the top three at this year's pageant. Each provided insightful responses to the final question: What should we be teaching young girls today?
"I think the most important thing that 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," Zunzi responded. "That is what we should be teaching these young girls - to take up space."
Steve Harvey returned to host the event, which once again came with a few hiccups. The five-time host of the pageant suffered grave humiliation at the 2015 Miss Universe competition when he announced the wrong winner. At last night's event, Harvey declared Miss Philippines as the winner of the national costume contest and gestured towards the contestant standing next to him on the stage. "This is it right here," he said, before he was promptly corrected by the surprised contestant. "It's not Philippines, it's Malaysia," the Malaysian contestant Shweta Sekhon said.
Harvey quickly responded, "I just read that in the teleprompter. Y'all got to quit doing this to me. I can read," he said. "See, this what they did to me back in 2015. Played me short like that. This is Malaysia. I really love this national costume of Malaysia. This is crazy."
The Miss Universe organization took to Twitter to clear up the situation, tweeting that Harvey "had it right" ?— Miss Philippines was the correct winner of the national costume competition.
Other mishaps of the night included a contestant's worst nightmare ?— falling on the stage. Miss France, Maeva Coucke, had just that happen as she competed in the swimsuit competition. But, in true Miss Universe fashion, she turned the mishap into an uplifting message.
"A lesson must be learned from each experience, and the lesson I draw from it is that falling and standing up is the very essence of a woman's life, the main thing is to move forward regardless of obstacles. If you fall 9 times raise 10 times and keep your head high! Our experiences make us grow, mature and make us stronger," she wrote on instagram.
The contest also welcomed its first openly gay contestant. Miss Myanmar, 20-year-old Swe Zin Htet, came out publicly before the pageant even though she was representing a country where homosexuality remains illegal.
"I came to a full realization about my sexual orientation over a long period of time. I knew I was 'one of them' way back in 2015. It is personally quite challenging but I feel that I have a greater voice and the best position to promote this cause," she disclosed in an interview with Missosology, a pageant blog.
Last year's Miss Universe competition included its first transgender contestant.
And earlier this year, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America made history together with the first three black women to wear those crowns at the same time.