South African beauty queen Zozibini Tunzi had the world singing her praises this week after becoming the first Miss SA pageant winner to be crowed while rocking her natural hair.
The epic moment was a first in the beauty contest’s nearly 60-year history, according to OkayAfrica, and has sparked renewed discussion around the politics of Black hair. For many, Tunzi’s weekend win also highlighted the need to continue embracing the beauty and versatility of our hair — curly, straightened or otherwise.
“Today is the beginning of the rest of my life. I’ve dreamt about it so many times but the reality of it all is much greater,” Tunzi wrote in an Instagram post after being crowed in Pretoria on last Friday. “So, here sits the crown, beautifully so on my kinky coarse hair.”
“I hope I make South Africa proud,” she added.
Proud was an understatement, as many South Africans, including a few celebrities, took to social media to revel in the crowning of a Black woman rocking her hair in its naturally curly state.
“Congratulations to the Naturally Gorgeous Zozibini Tunzi|your Miss South Africa 2019,” one Facebook user wrote. “Take note that she worn the Crown with her natural Hair. Who says you need Brazilian [hair] look to look Good and be amongst the Best…? Lesson for Women’s Day 👉 African Ladies, the world will still respect you with your natural Hair. Your ancestors recognise you better with your natural Hairs. ❤🌻👏”
“For the First time after 60 years, we have an authentically Pure South African Black, Natural, Intelligent, Compassionate, Real & Confident Queen,” another chimed in, adding: “No foreign hair. No fake accent. No plastic nose.”
One woman expressed how much she adored the “stunningly natural look” of Tunzi, describing it as “beauty exemplified.”
The South African native, who admits she was terrified of going natural after cutting her hair short a few years ago, told the Sunday Times in a recent interview that she hopes to “show the world our natural African beauty” with her win “because I believe that is what makes us incredible”
“I want this to be a win for all South African women,” Tunzi said. “I want to show that you can be beautiful by simply being yourself, by wearing your own natural crown, and not be ashamed.”
The debate over her hair took a divisive turn, however, after some critics argued that Tunzi was “too basic” to hold the title of Miss South Africa and characterized her hair as “too nappy,” according to the outlet.
There were also those who criticized pro-naturalistas for fawning over the beauty queen’s edgy short cut at the expense of the contestants who chose to compete while wearing weaves or wigs.
“I’m super happy Zozobini Tunzi was crowned Miss SA, but is it really necessary to make th women who don’t do th natural look feel bad about wearing weaves/wigs?” one Twitter user opined. “Y’all are trash. Y’all can’t celebrate someone without making another person or people feel kak. Y’all are TRASH.”
Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni faced similar backlash last year after chiding the newly crowned Miss Uganda for wearing “Indian hair” instead of her natural hair.
“[She] is indeed a tall, beautiful Musoga girl,” he wrote of winner Quiin Abenakyo. “My only concern is that she was wearing Indian hair. I have encouraged her to keep her natural, African hair.”
Amid the naysayers were those who suggested Tunzi had only won the crown because of her natural hair. Critics highlighted that the 25-year-old Tsolo native entered the Miss SA pageant for the first time in 2017 sporting flowing faux locs, and failed to advance past the semi finals.
Now, with her short natural hair, she was crowned the queen.
Many social media users balked at the “bullsh-t” theory and accused critics of “reducing Zozibini’s success to just her hair choice.”
Despite the haters, Tunzi said she could only laugh off the naysayers.
“I am aware that social media can be a dark place,” Tunzi told the Sunday Times. “I am not too worried about it, though. I just don’t take it to heart. I don’t google myself or look at social media comments to validate me. I know that I am beautiful. That beauty is from within and not everyone has the same ideas of what beautiful is.”