SA EXCLUSIVE: Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi is loving life in New York City and shares what she misses most about home


2020-01-15 15:26

Graye Morkel

Zozibini Tunzi

Miss Universe 2019 Zozibini Tunzi.(Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

At 23:00 on a warm Tuesday evening in Cape Town, Channel24’s Graye Morkel talks to Miss Universe 2019 Zozibini Tunzi in New York, where temperatures drop to a low 4 degrees Celsius, about what she misses most about home, and when she will be returning to South African shores. 


Cape Town – “I love looking out my window in my living room and seeing the people go about their day – chasing dreams and chasing deadlines. It is beautiful to watch,” says a friendly Zozi over the phone from New York City.

The South African beauty bid farewell to the vibey streets of Woodstock and has embraced the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple with open arms. The day after her crowning she moved into her luxury apartment which only two years ago Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters called home.

Now, Zozi, who only a few months ago was working as a public relations intern in Cape Town, says one of her favourite things is looking out the window of her apartment at the busy streets below and catching a glimpse of Central Park.

When 26-year-old Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe in Atlanta on 8 December, she says that her mind went completely blank as adrenaline rushed through her body.

“The crowning moment was a complete out-of-body experience,” she tells Channel24 as we manage to nab a 15-minute interview with the public relations graduate, between her back-to-back meetings.

Reflecting on the night that would change her life forever she explains that during rehearsals, the contestants are shown what to do when their country is called as the winner. From how to walk, and wave, to where to look as they take their first official steps as Miss Universe.

But Zozibini says all the preparation, flew out the window and she “forgot everything” when Steve Harvey announced “South Africa” as the winner.

Zozi is the third woman from South Africa to win the title, and the first black woman to take the title since Leila Lopes was crowned Miss Universe 2011. Margaret Gardiner brought home the title in 1978 and Demi-Leigh was crowned Miss Universe in 2017.

The following day after being crowned, Zozibini caught a flight to New York, where she now resides for the duration of her year-long reign.

About relocating, she says: “When you leave home, then you leave with the possibility of not returning. When I was on that flight to Atlanta, I don’t think that I took in the magnitude of it. Only a few days closer to the pageant I realised that I might not be returning home.”

Although she misses her family, she adds: “It is one of the most exciting things I have ever done in my life, and I have no regrets.”

Zozi, who experienced her first-ever New York snowfall in December, says the weather took some getting used to. “It was a struggle for me at first because it is summer back home and we don’t get these extreme temperatures.”

She mentions several times, how envious she is of the warm weather I was describing, although I would have swapped the hot Cape Town summer evening for a cool breeze in a heartbeat.

Zozibini, who has now experienced her first snow, and New York hot dog, says next on her bucket list is seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway.

Three months before her Miss Universe journey started, Zozibini travelled to The Big Apple and watched Wicked on Broadway, which she describes as one of the most memorable and exciting experiences in her life.

But one thing she misses most about her home might surprise you…

She explains: “Whenever I have to put a grocery list together, I realise how much I actually miss home – when I can’t find the things I really want. The other day I wanted Aromat, and I wanted Aromat so bad. Nobody could understand what I was going through. Being surrounded by my culture, and my people is something that I will always miss the most.”

Another highlight has been speaking to local comedian Trevor Noah on The Daily Show. “Speaking to Trevor was one of my favourite interviews, and you could feel the South African energy in the studio. It felt like catching up with an old friend. And it was wonderful to share that moment with him – and the rest of South Africa.”

About her upcoming hometown visit she says that she “can’t wait to come home” and is excited to see everyone. “I know that everyone is just as excited as I am to hit home ground. I can’t wait to feel the energy, when I get home, which will be the first week of February. This win hasn’t just been about me; I share it with South Africans.”

Although her family misses her, Zozi says that they are more excited than anything else: “They are so proud of me, that I can do things that I love. I have the opportunity to travel the world, speak about things I am passionate about, meet new people and learn about things I would never have been able to experience back home.”

To her supporters, she says: “Every person has truly touched me in so many different ways. I never thought that I would be in this position where I would be receiving messages from the whole country. It is such an honour and it is such a privilege to be in this position.”

During her reign, Zozibini will be working with Smile Train, a nonprofit organisation and charity providing corrective surgery for children with cleft lips and palates.

She will also continue using her platform to speak about and create awareness around gender-based violence.

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