South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi has been crowned Miss Universe 2019 at an event in the United States, winning over judges and the audience along the way by declaring that the most important thing to teach young girls was leadership.

Tunzi, who recently completed her university studies in public relations and sports short, natural tightly curled African hair, said she wanted to help shatter racial stereotypes about beauty.

“I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me, with my kind of skin and kind of hair is never considered to be beautiful and I think that it is time that…stops,” she said to rousing applause during the pageant, broadcast live on Monday morning South African time.

(c) Instagram

Dressed in a gold and blue designer gown, the 26-year-old who grew up in rural South Africa wept as Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray placed the crown on her head.

“We are delighted and not in the least surprised. She shone in every way during the pre-process in the run up to Miss Universe,” said Stephanie Weil, CEO of the Miss South Africa organisation.

“Zozi has such a unique look, she was a front runner from the start. We are so very proud of her. She is beautiful both outside and in.”

Zozibini Tunzi, of South Africa, is crowned Miss Universe by her predecessor, Catriona Gray of the Philippines, at the 2019 Miss Universe pageant at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. Photo: REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

Tunzi is the third Miss South Africa to be crowned Miss Universe, after Margaret Gardiner in 1978 and Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters two years ago.

People took to Twitter to congratulate her. 

-ANA, editing by Stella Mapenzauswa