Op-eds

Tunzi the ambassador we didn’t know we needed

  • DawnNathanJones (3)
I was privileged to meet Zozibini Tunzi at the FAIRLADY Women of the Future 2019 Awards, where I was one of the judges. She had just been crowned Miss South Africa. It’s no surprise to me therefore that just four months later, she would meet the world as Miss Universe.
by DAWN NATHAN-JONES | Dec 12, 2019

When we were introduced, I was awestruck by her humility and softness. So often, women turn to masculine qualities of assertiveness, arrogance, and independence to feel like they take up space in a room. She uses her femininity with pride, a strength that reveals the power of her vulnerability, compassion, and gentleness.

Since her win, I have noticed many opinions on her title. Some believe Miss Universe exploits female beauty, while others applaud her grace and hard work throughout the pageant. Although society has accepted the format and benefits of these events to a large degree, they are still not without controversy.

While it’s easy for us to focus on the negative, as a businesswoman, I’m more interested in the leadership possibilities Tunzi brings not only to the South African rainbow nation, but to the rest of the world.

As a black woman hailing from the Eastern Cape, she literally represents inner (and outer) beauty in diversity. By choosing to keep her natural hair as a symbol of her belief in “fair representation of any shape and form”, she isn’t only giving a voice to those who have been sidelined in the past, she is actively creating a platform for others to follow suit.

While so many women are struggling to find their place in society, Tunzi is a shining beacon, giving permission to millions that they too can blaze their own way forward.

The messages she advocated throughout the contest were rare in their accessibility, encouraging women to “take up space” and “cement” themselves.

The aspiration of Miss Universe therefore comes not from demonstrating unattainable beauty standards, but from unapologetically exuding a quiet confidence that permeates the entire competition.

I believe that the only way we are going to create systemic, positive change in South Africa is by enabling more people to show up as themselves, like Tunzi is.

Having a status is one thing, using it to better the world is another. Tunzi is using her newfound popularity for good. Not only is she changing the narrative around gender-based violence – she even incorporated the subject into her Miss Universe national costume. This, in conjunction with her call for more female leaders, is yet another reason she is a force for good.

Yes, beauty pageants have dated elements, but I am behind her zest for life, her intelligence and articulate views on women abuse, femicide, and inequality. These, along with many other wonderful qualities, have made her the ambassador we didn’t know we needed.

I can’t wait to see her use this platform to educate and influence young women, and raise awareness that being beautiful is not just an externality – but the building blocks of one’s character.

  • Dawn Nathan-Jones is passionate about contributing to economic growth in South Africa. Following an illustrious 35-year career in business, she now assists entrepreneurs to build successful businesses.

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