With the longest reign of any other Miss Universe titleholders, South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi officially passed the crown to Mexico’s Andrea Meza during the 69th Miss Universe competition on Sunday (May 16) at Florida’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood.
Crowned in 2019, Tunzi reflected on the time during her reign in a recent interview with Fox News. The 27-year-old opened up about her experience being Miss Universe during the coronavirus pandemic, how she dealt with social media trolls, and what to expect next from the former queen.
Although most of Tunzi’s traveling plans and speaking engagements were canceled due to safety restrictions, Tunzi told Fox News that she was still able to use her platform virtually in an impactful way.
“Everyone knows that a huge part of this job is traveling to different countries and getting involved with work. It was tough at first when I came to the realization that I wouldn’t be able to fulfill that part of my job. But with this platform, we still can make a positive change in this world. And that part wasn’t taken away. My voice wasn’t taken away. I was able to do it from home and virtually. And in that way, I was all around the world. I did all the things I wanted to do, share the messages I wanted to share. So it was a different experience, but an impactful one,” Tunzi said.
Throughout her reign, the former pageant queen shared that the biggest challenge was being away from home and not being with her family.
“I had to mentally prepare myself to do the job while being isolated in an apartment and not being able to really go out and interact with people. I think that was one of the hardest parts for me. And just wishing I could be out there doing more in person,” Tunzi continued. “That was frustrating for me as well. The pandemic in itself was my biggest challenge. But I wanted to create a virtual network of people where we can be together at home.”
With a strong desire for human connection, Tunzi became inspired to create a platform through Instagram. She invited different individuals such as lawyers and medical doctors to discuss various topics about mental health and provide information about the coronavirus.
“I wanted to create a platform where we could all come together and share our experiences, share what we were going through. I felt people were lonely and frustrated and going through so many things. It quickly grew into this talk show thing happening on Instagram where I would bring in different people from different countries and workspaces. I had psychologists in where we would discuss mental health. I had medical doctors, women from the United Nations, lawyers – just so many people to educate all of us during this time. I think that’s how I dealt with it. I thought, “If I can’t go out there, I’m going to bring people to be here with us,” Tunzi told Fox News.
As Tunzi interacted on social media more, she faced criticism about her appearance. Tunzi admitted that the negative comments bothered her, but she used that negativity as motivation to continue with her work.
“When you enter a space, you need to open the door, even if it’s just a little so that other women can come after you and occupy the space. Then eventually, it won’t be so new and shocking to people. Some trolls did want to push me back because they felt I’m not supposed to be here. But that’s exactly why I am supposed to be here,” Tunzi told Fox News.
“I belong here as much as anybody else. And as much as I had trolls, I had even more supporters. So I had to remind myself that I was making an impact, and there were so many people who appreciated my being here. That’s what really kept me going during that time, reminding myself why I started, why I wanted to be Miss Universe,” Tunzi said.
With the end of Tunzi’s reign, the former queen described the moment as bittersweet. She told Fox News she was sad but excited to move on to the next chapter of her life.
The 68th Miss Universe plans to return to South Africa to continue her humanitarian work, television appearances and get involved in the music scene.
“I’ve been Miss Universe for a year and a half now, the longest-reigning Miss Universe. And so I feel like this title has been with me forever. It started feeling like it’s a part of me. Therefore, I’m feeling like I’m letting go of that part. So that does feel a little sad. But I’m also excited because now I get to move on to the next chapter of my life. It’s like putting a period on the end of this chapter and jumping onto a fresh page and doing something new. It is bittersweet, but I’m more excited than I am sad,” Tunzi said.