The Miss Universe crown is back to South Africa after Zozibini Tunzi bested 89 candidates from around the world at the finals of the 68th Miss Universe competition held at theTyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia Monday morning. She succeeded outgoing Miss Universe Catriona Gray who crowned her with the new $5 million Mouawad crown bejeweled with a 62.83 carat golden canary diamond.
Tunzi, a 26-year-old BTech in PR student from Cape Town became the third South African to win the title after Margaret Gardiner in 1978 and Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters in 2017.
Tunzi is passionate activist fighting against gender based violence. A hard-core Marvel fan and Game of Thrones addict, she named South African Olympic gold medalist middle distance runner Caster Semenya as her role model.
Miss Puerto Rico Madison Anderson Berrios, a 23-year-old Public Relations and Marketing student, and Miss Mexico Sofia Aragon, a 25-year-old visual culture and marketing graduate and author, finished as first and second runners up, respectively.
Facing the judges for the Top 3 final question “What is the most important thing we should teach young girls today?” Tuzin said “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 labeled women to be. I think we are the most powerful beings in the world and we should be given every opportunity. Nothing is more important than taking up space in the society.”
Miss Colombia Gabriela Tafur Nader, a lawyer, and Miss Thailand Paweensuda Drouin, a Kinesiology pre-medical degree graduate, were named in the Top 5.
Miss Philippines Gazini Ganados made it to the magic 20 as wildcard pick continuing the Philippines 10-year consecutive, semi-finalist streak. But the 23-year-old Cebuana failed to make the Top 10 cut, that included Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, Miss Iceland Birta Abiba Þórhallsdóttir, Miss France Maëva Coucke, Miss Peru Kelin Rivera, and Miss Indonesia Frederika Alexis Cull.
Rounding out the Top 20 were from Africa and Asia-Pacific, Miss Vietnam Thuy Hoang and Miss Nigeria Olutosin Araromi; from Europe, Miss Albania Cindy Marina, Miss Croatia Mia Rkman, and Miss Portugal Sylvie Silva; from Americas, Miss Dominican Republic Clauvid Daly, and the Wildcard, Venezuela Thalia Olvino, Miss India Vartika Singh, and Miss Brazil Julia Horta.
The 68th Miss Universe also had its first open gay contestant in Miss Myanmar Swe Zin Htet who followed last year’s first transgender delegate Miss Spain Angela Ponce. Former Miss America Vanessa Williams and Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo co-hosted the live show.