South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe 2019. She is an activist for gender based violence and has devoted her social media platform to change the narrative around gender stereotypes. Tunzi is also an advocate for natural beauty and encourages women to love their natural selves. She was the first black woman to be crowned since 2011 and made history alongside Miss America, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA since it’s the first time that black women hold all four major titles.
Growing up, I rarely saw people that looked like me: multiracial, having tan skin with frizzy, curly hair. Society has set an unrealistic beauty standard for people around the world to follow. If you don’t have white skin, blonde hair, light-colored eyes and a slim, hourglass body, you are automatically labeled as “not beautiful.” This has led to thousands and thousands of women and men around the world to not love their natural selves and to alter their bodies in order to fit the unrealistic standard of beauty set by society.
I was one of those people that used to straighten my hair all the time because of comments like “Have you brushed your hair?” or “Oh, why don’t you straighten your hair? It looks so much better that way.” I would come home crying to my mom, asking her, “Why can’t I be like other beautiful girls? I wish I was white, mom.” My mom would try to tell me that my skin was beautiful and that I shouldn’t wish these things, but I couldn't help myself. All I wanted was to be like the other beautiful girls on my TV screen. As I grew older, my standard of beauty changed, largely due to the fact that beauty has changed on screen too. As I saw more diverse women not only in beauty pageants, but also in movies, advertisements and in the workforce rocking natural curls and dark skin, I started to slowly accept myself, because if they can do it, why can’t I? This is the power that representation has for women and men around the world.
“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,” Tunzi said during the Miss Universe competition. “I think that it is time that that stops today.” Accepting your natural self in our world is an arduous path, but it is also the most rewarding. No matter the color of your skin, the shape of your body or the texture of your hair, you are beautiful and you are worthy.