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South Africa wins Miss Universe 2019 crown; India s Vartika Singh in top 20

South Africa wins Miss Universe 2019 crown; India’s Vartika Singh in top 20

Agencies South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi (left) won the coveted crown this year, while Vartika SIngh (right) couldn’t make it to Top 10.


ATLANTA: South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi has been crowned Miss Universe for the year 2019, beating more than 90 contestants, including Miss India, from around the globe.

The 26-year-old Tunzi was declared the winner at a televised event, hosted by American comic-turned-TV personality Steve Harvey, held at Tyler Perry Studios here on Sunday.

Indian contestant Vartika Singh crashed out of the world’s biggest beauty pageant after securing a place in the top 20.

Miss Puerto Rico Madison Anderson was named the first runner-up, followed by Mexican contestant Ashley Alvidrez as the second runner-up. Also part of the top 5 were Colombia and Thailand.

The announcement of the winner was made on Miss Universe’s official Instagram account.

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, from the Philippines, presented Tunzi with the crown.

This is the third Miss Universe crown for South Africa, with Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters being declared the winner in 2017.

Miss Universe 2019 Is Young, Gifted And An Outspoken Believer In ‘Black Girl Magic’

Isabella Gomez Sarmiento

Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa takes her first walk as Miss Universe after winning the 2019 Miss Universe pageant.

Yes, the Miss Universe pageant has its share of detractors. There is, for example, that swimsuit competition.

But then there is this year’s winner to consider: Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa.

When Tunzi was crowned as the winner of the 2019 Miss Universe competition on Sunday night, she took a moment to speak about the importance of shifting antiquated beauty standards — and finally celebrating «black girl magic.»

«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,» the 26-year-old said during her closing statement. «I think it is time 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.»

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Tunzi is the pageant’s first black winner in eight years, since Leila Lopes from Angola took home the crown in 2011. In her official Miss Universe bio, the 26-year-old is described as a strong proponent of natural beauty who «encourages women to love themselves as they are.»

She wore her hair in a natural, short style during the competition, which she said was «a symbol of my firm belief in fair representation.»

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Even her outfit in the national costume segment reflected her beliefs. Tunzi had asked South African men to demonstrate their solidarity with the gender equality campaign #HeforShe by writing letters to honor and celebrate South African women. The letters, written on colorful ribbons, were woven into her costume, which was called «Wave of Love.»

Her coronation at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta received a wide amount of social media support and celebration from around the world, with people noting how exciting it is to see that Miss America, Miss Teen USA, Miss USA and now Miss Universe are all black women this year.

In 2019, Miss America, Miss Teen USA, Miss USA, and Miss Universe are all Black women. Excuse us, we're getting emotional. ( : Getty/ Miss USA)

— ESSENCE (@Essence) December 9, 2019

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.
I am #MissUniverse2019.

— Zozibini Tunzi (@zozitunzi) December 9, 2019

She was also applauded for her thoughtful answers during the pageant on climate change and leadership.

During the Top 5 question and answer segment, Tunzi stated that individuals, government leaders and corporations should all be taking action toward protecting the planet, noting that it’s time adults listen to young children who have taken part in climate strikes and protests.

«Since sixth grade, I’ve been learning that the climate is deteriorating and the planet is dying, and it is up to us to keep our planet safe,» she said.

When asked what she thinks is the most important thing young girls should be taught today, Tunzi responded: «I think the most important thing . is leadership.»

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«It’s something that has been lacking in young women and girls for a very long time, not because we don’t want to but because of what society has labeled women to be,» she added. «I think we are the most powerful beings in 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.»

Her response was retweeted by Oprah Winfrey, who agreed with the sentiment and extended an invitation for Tunzi to visit the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.

Congratulations Miss South Africa, the new Miss Universe @zozitunzi! Agree with you. leadership is the most powerful thing we should be teaching young women today. We welcome your visit to #OWLAG, our Leadership Academy for Girls

— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) December 9, 2019

Additionally, a clip of Tunzi addressing gender-based violence during the Miss South Africa competition began making the rounds on Twitter as people congratulated her on her new title.

“I think it is time to stop asking women what to do and start asking perpetrators to do better, to be better, to start treating women the way that they deserve to be treated.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa , our Miss Universe 2019.

— K Manuel (@theklmanuel) December 9, 2019

In the video, a presenter asked what reason South African women have to keep smiling despite facing challenges like emotional, physical and economic abuse.

«We have absolutely no reason to keep smiling because South African women are dying everyday and mostly people are doing nothing about it,» Tunzi replied. «I think it’s time that we stop asking women what to do and start asking perpetrators to do better, to be better, to start treating women the way that they deserve to be treated.»

Miss Mexico Andrea Meza Crowned Miss Universe 2021

By Kaitlin Reilly • Published May 16, 2021 • Updated on May 17, 2021 at 1:22 pm

And we have a new Miss Universe.

After more than a year delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Miss Universe competition was finally held Sunday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Mario Lopez and former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo, who won the crown in 2012, co-hosted the show, which featured a special performance by Luis Fonsi.

Taking home the ultimate crown this year was Miss Mexico Andrea Meza, who wowed the selection community with her beauty and brains.

During the final statement round, Miss Mexico was asked to address the topic of changing beauty standards.

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«We live in a society that more and more is more advanced and as we have advanced as a society, we have advanced with stereotypes,» she shared via translator. «Nowadays, beauty is not only the way we look. For me, beauty radiates not only in our spirits, but in our hearts and the way we conduct ourselves. Never permit someone to tell you that you are not valuable.»

And just minutes before, Miss Mexico also faced the final question round where she was asked to share how she would have handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

«I believe there is not a perfect way to handle this hard situation such as COVID-19,» she said. «However, I believe that what I would have done, was create the lockdown even before everything was that big because we lost so many lives and we cannot afford that. We have to take care of our people. That’s why I would have taken care of them since the beginning.»

Before the show, Paula M. Shugart, who serves as the president of the Miss Universe Organization, addressed the pandemic and how the pageant was staying safe.

«We have spent months planning and preparing safety precautions to develop this edition of Miss Universe – one that will be memorable, special and totally innovative,» she said in a statement.

Beauty queens from 74 countries and territories competed in the pageant, however just 21 contestants advanced to the final round. After first competing in the swimsuit contest, which you can see photos from here, 10 moved on to the evening gown competition. Five contestants were selected to participate in the question and answer round.

The last time the Miss Universe pageant was held was in 2019, when Miss South Africa, aka Zozibini Tunzi, took home the ultimate prize. Miss Puerto Rico Madison Anderson was the first runner-up and Miss Mexico Sofa Aragn was the second runner-up.

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At the time, Tunzi really impressed the judges with her answer to the question, «What is the most important thing we should be teaching girls today?»

She replied, «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 what society has labelled women to be. I think we are the most powerful beings in the world.»

Of passing the torch to her successor, Tunzi said in a statement, «I always knew that my reign as Miss Universe would be unlike any other. While it was nothing like what I had imagined my year to be, this year has opened doors for me I could never have imagined.I am so grateful for the opportunity to connect virtually with people all over the world and elevate the causes I care most about.»

LOOK BACK: Filipina queens at the Miss Universe pageant

LOOK BACK: Filipina queens at the Miss Universe pageant

Most Filipinos – whether they mean to or not – know a thing or two about the Miss Universe pageant. And why wouldn’t they? In the Philippines, beauty pageants are a big deal. For the biggest fans, it’s something of a passion.

Each year, a select group of Filipinos vie for the chance to represent the country at the annual pageant. Each year, she carries with her both the honor and pressure to do well.

Ahead of the crowning of yet another new Philippine representative, let’s take a look back at the women who’ve brought home the crown and those who did not – but left an indelible mark in Philippine pageantry nonetheless.

Gloria Diaz, 1969

The country’s first ever Miss Universe is Gloria Diaz, who won the crown when she was only 18. Diaz, in the book The World of Miss Universe, said she didn’t expect to win.

“I joined the pageant for the fun and experience – I never thought I would win – not even my primary pageant in Manila,” she said then. Diaz could be considered a dark horse in the race – the beauty queen would look back at her Miss Universe run and recall that in the lead-up to the coronation, she didn’t get much attention, even from the press.

The first Filipino Miss Universe queen happened to win the crown during a historic time for humankind: As the Miss Universe pageant took place, the Apollo 11 mission was just about to land on the moon. Of course, Diaz was asked about it during the Q&A: “In the next day or so, a man will land on the moon. If a man from the moon landed in your hometown, what would you do to entertain him?”

The coy Diaz answered: “Oh, just the same things I do. I think if he has been in the moon for so long, I think when he comes over he wants to change, I guess.”

FIRST. Gloria Diaz is the country’s first ever Miss Universe.

Her win was even referenced by then US president Richard Nixon, who happened to visit the Philippines after her win.

“I think it is significant to note that the first world capital that I am visiting, after having greeted the first men to have set foot on the moon, is Manila, the capital of the Philippines…. And I am not unaware of the fact that a very lovely lady from the Philippines, Miss Gloria Diaz, has been named Miss Universe,” he said in a speech.

Like many beauty queens before and after her, Diaz joined show business after her reign and went on to receive several acting awards throughout her career. To this day, Diaz is a working actress.

In 2019, Diaz had a guest role in Netflix’s Insatiable, a series about a bullied teen who later enters the pageant scene. She recently starred in the sitcom Oh My Dad!

Margie Moran, 1973

Four years later, another teenaged Filipina beauty would bring home the Miss Universe crown. Margie Moran, then only 19, won the title in Athens, Greece.

Moran, already a working model in high school, didn’t really plan on joining pageantry, but the designers she was working with egged her on. Her grandmother, a former Pangasinan Carnival Queen, acted as her guardian when she finally joined her first pageant.

“I joined it without any plan to win. But when I was there already, [I told myself], ‘Of course I was going to win this,’” Moran said in a 2017 interview with Rappler. Her father, a lawyer, didn’t even know about her pageant career until after she won Binibining Pilipinas.

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Moran, during the Miss Universe Q&A, was asked: “Let’s make believe that all of a sudden you had a million dollars. What’s the first thing you would buy and why would you buy it?”

Her winning answer was: “A house and lot, because it’s the most expensive thing and I can’t afford it. If I had a million bucks, I’d buy a house and lot and live by myself, and other people of course.”

PEACE ADVOCATE. Margie Moran won the Miss Universe crown in 1973, when she was just 19.

Arguably more iconic than her answer, however, was her reaction right before the winners were announced. As Moran and Miss USA waited at the center of the stage, she caught a glimpse of the host’s cue card and rolled her eyes. She’d later clarify that she wasn’t actually sure who won and that the eye roll was borne out of both excitement and uncertainty.

Years after her reign, Moran finished her college degree and later on, a master’s degree. In the ’80s and ’90s, Moran focused on growing their businesses while also hosting Margie on Mindanao, a magazine TV show that featured different parts of the island group. It was also through that show that Moran would find herself pursuing a new advocacy: peace in Mindanao.

Moran was president of Ballet Philippines for nearly a decade until she was appointed a member of the board of trustees of the Cultural Center of the Philippines by President Rodrigo Duterte. She currently chairs the board.

Pia Wurtzbach, 2015

It would be a long and painful wait before the Philippines could again claim to be home of the most beautiful woman in the universe. Unlike the two queens before her, however, Pia Wurtzbach’s journey to the Miss Universe stage was anything but easy.

Wurtzbach joined the Binibining Pilipinas pageant thrice before finally earning the right to wear the Philippine sash at the Miss Universe pageant. The longtime actress, then 26, was crowned in the most unconventional of manners, following a live, on-air mistake by Steve Harvey.

The veteran TV host had mistakenly called out Colombia’s Paulina Vega as the winner before shocking the pageant world. He apologized and announced that Wurtzbach, in fact, was Miss Universe that year.

Wurtzbach’s win would end 42 years of a Miss Universe title drought.

QUEENS. Gloria Diaz and Margie Moran flank Pia Wurtzbach, the queen who brought back the Miss Universe crown to the Philippines after 42 years.

She handled with ease what was arguably a tricky and politically-loaded question about US military presence in the country. The beauty queen said she welcomed their presence, citing the “good” relationship between the Philippines and the US, longtime military and political allies.

But it was her answer during the last Q&A that would really make a mark on pageant fans both here and abroad. Asked why she should be the next Miss Universe, Wurtzbach said she’d use the title to raise awareness on causes like HIV awareness. She then concluded, “I want to show the world – the universe rather – that I am confidently beautiful with a heart.”

After her reign, Wurtzbach would continue to be a celebrated personality in the Philippines. She pursued an acting career and is among the top endorsers in the Philippines. She continues to support several causes and charities, including Save the Children, WWF Philippines, Love Yourself, and UNAIDS. She’s an ambassador for both WWF Philippines and UNAIDS.

In 2020, Wurtzbach launched the podcast Queentuhan, which she hosts alongside fellow Binibining Pilipinas alumnae Bianca Guidotti and Carla Lizardo. The trio later launched another podcast, Between Us Queens.

Catriona Gray, 2018

Thankfully, the Philippines didn’t wait too long for its next queen.

Catriona Gray was crowned Miss Universe during the pageant finals in Thailand. She was easily a favorite heading into the competition, even as her batch is remembered by fans as one jam-packed with strong contenders.

Gray is the first Filipina to win both Miss World Philippines and Miss Universe Philippines; the two pageants are considered to be among the most prestigious in the world.

Her first foray into pageantry was in 2016 via Miss World Philippines. She went on to compete in Miss World, ending her journey as the 3rd runner-up. Despite the heartbreak from her Miss World run, Gray would go on to join Binibining Pilipinas in 2018.

Her Binibining Pilipinas run is one for the books, which ended with her iconic pageant finals look: a Mak Tumang gown, styled with a 3 Stars and the Sun ear cuff. Mak Tumang and standout jewelry would become her signature look at the Miss Universe.

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But it was her Miss Universe campaign that truly amazed even the most veteran of pageant observers. Gray and her team – a mix of designers, trainers, and hair and make-up experts – produced videos that highlighted the beauty of the Philippines, curated an impeccable wardrobe, and released one pasabog photoshoot after another on social media even as she was charming fans from all over the world while in Thailand.

STANDOUT Catriona Gray in the same Mak Tumang gown she wore to the Miss Universe finals in Thailand.

There are a lot of highlights from Catriona’s Miss Universe campaign – the slow-mo turn, the Mak Tumang gowns, an original song that was released in the lead-up to the finals – but it was her answer during a casual tête-à-tête with Steve Harvey that really hyped fans up.

Asked to give a title of a song to describe her pageant experience, she said: “Well, you know what, Steve, as a Miss Philippines, I’ve always felt the love and the support of the Filipino people, and I think I brought half of my country here tonight. So, I would name the song ‘Raise Your Flag’ because I stand here not as one, but as a hundred and four million Filipinos.”

“Raise Your Flag” would later become the title of Catriona’s homecoming song which, in turn, she’d cover herself.

After her reign, Catriona pursued a career in entertainment. She’s been busy hosting shows both in the Philippines and abroad and has launched a music career in between.

Paving the way

While the Philippines “only” has four Miss Universe crowns to its name, the other women who represented the country between those wins no doubt deserve special mention. Among the most memorable Philippines representatives include Miriam Quiambao, whose 1st runner-up finish in 1999 was the closest the country got to the crown in a long time.

Of course, in 2010, Venus Raj as 4th runner-up would break a decade-long dry spell – years when the Philippine representative wouldn’t even place in the pageant. After Raj, all of the country’s representatives have finished their Miss Universe stints as finalists, helping establish the country as a powerhouse in international pageantry.

The full list of recent Miss Universe Philippines representatives and their placements is as follows:

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This could get ugly.

A contestant in the Miss Universe pageant has tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Israel.

She was already fully vaccinated, organizers said.

But the show will go on in Israel, which sealed off its borders to travelers Sunday after the Omicron variant was detected there.

The infected contestant was not immediately identified by pageant organizers, and it was unclear whether she had tested positive for the Omicron variant.

Organizers said the fully vaccinated woman was tested upon her arrival to Israel and subsequently taken to a government-run hotel to quarantine.

Most of the 80 contestants have already arrived in Israel for the pageant, which is scheduled to begin Dec. 12 in the southern city of Eilat, the Miss Universe Organization said. Strict COVID-19 protocols have been established for all involved, the organization said.

The positive Miss Universe contestant wasn

The positive Miss Universe contestant wasn’t identified, but it was revealed that she is fully vaccinated. Photo by Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images

Israel shut down its borders over the weekend after a traveler from Malawi tested positive for the Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa but appears to be rapidly spreading across the globe from Hong Kong to the Netherlands to Canada.

The upcoming pageant has been surrounded by controversy amid calls to boycott the event over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Malaysia, which supports the Palestinian cause, said it declined to send a contestant over COVID-19 concerns.

The currently crowned Miss Universe, Andrea Meza of Mexico, told the Associated Press earlier this month in Jerusalem that she believes the contest should not be politicized.

The pageant is taking place in Israel where the borders are closed to travelers after a person tested positive for the Omicron variant.

The pageant is taking place in Israel where the borders are closed to travelers after a person tested positive for the Omicron variant. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

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“Everyone with different beliefs, with different backgrounds, with different cultures, they all come together, and when you are in there, you forget about politics, about your religion,” the 27-year-old said. “It’s just about embracing other women.”

Meza, who was crowned at a ceremony in Florida in May, is expected to present the crown to this year’s winner in Eliat.

Miss Universe Is Breaking Barriers With Its First Openly Gay Contestant

Miss Myanmar in a gold dress.

It’s taken 67 years, but when 90 beauty pageant hopefuls strut their stuff across the stage for the Miss Universe competition this Sunday, December 8, they will be joined by the pageant’s first openly gay contestant—and it’s about time.

The pageant world isn’t especially known for its inclusivity. Contestants have historically been overwhelmingly thin, white and model tall. But times are changing. Last year Miss Universe had its first openly trans contestant, and this year, for the first time ever, Miss America, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA are all black women.

By being the first out gay woman in Miss Universe’s history, Miss Myanmar Swe Zin Htet is helping to write the next chapter in pageant representation. She’s also leaving a lasting and hopefully change-inducing mark in her own country, where same sex relationships are illegal. “A majority of people in Myanmar are not accepting of this,” Zin Htet says of her sexuality. “But my goal is to make them look at me and others that are like me just the same.”

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According to the Myanmar Times, members of the LGBTQ+ community can still be prosecuted for being who they are and loving who they love. They are verbally teased and beaten, and being gay is, “punishable with a lengthy stint in prison.”

That’s what makes Zin Htet’s bravery so impressive. “LGBTQ people in Myanmar do not have equal rights and I want to change that,” she says of her decision to come out despite knowing it could create a backlash in the country she calls home. “I feel like if I am open about my sexuality, others will open up too.”

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By choosing to come out on such a public stage, she is opening the door for increased inclusivity—while also putting herself at risk. Of course, coming out so publicly wasn’t easy. “This decision was a little bit difficult for me because I’m shy,” she said, recognizing that coming out would increase the public’s interest in her private life.

Zin Htet, whose fans have aptly nicknamed her Superman, didn’t let that stop her, though. After she was crowned Miss Myanmar, she realized it was time to be her whole self—both publicly and privately. “I thought it would help me more than hurt me by coming out as a lesbian and being true to who I am,” she says. Adding, “The LGBTQ community in Myanmar and across the world have been so supportive of me since coming out.”

So, it’s baby steps. In Myanmar, the pageant circuit, and the world as a whole.

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Zin Htet hopes to use her platform to help another at-risk marginalized group: victims of child abuse. “Childhood rape is very common in my country,” she says. “My platform allows me to make sure that the people who are committing these crimes will be punished.”

UNICEF is working with Myanmar to address these issues, training judges and local police officers in how to respond to cases of child sexual abuse. But it’s a country where children are still very vulnerable, and Zin Htet wants to do everything in her power to change that. “I want perpetrators to be punished and for parents to be aware of the problem,” she explained. “But most important, I want to make sure people are more aware of this issue by spreading awareness across social media.”

If Zin Htet is crowned Miss Universe on Sunday, she will certainly be one step closer to achieving that goal. And she’d be making a real splash in the pageant world as the first openly gay winner to be crowned at that level.

Whether or not Miss Universe is ready for that remains to be seen. But crown or no crown, Zin Htet has no regrets about her decision to come out. “I feel like myself now that I’m open about being a lesbian,” she says. “I will work hard for the LGBTQ community to be accepted not only in my country, but across the world.”

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