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Zozi on her biggest lesson of the year and the road to living her dream

Dress, R10 400, MaXhosa; Joani Groenewald earrings, R5 250, Tinsel Gallery; stilettos, R1 299, Steve Madden
Dress, R10 400, MaXhosa; Joani Groenewald earrings, R5 250, Tinsel Gallery; stilettos, R1 299, Steve Madden
Image: Steve Tanchel

Tall, graceful, elegant, and confident, a gorgeous young, black woman hit the runway at New York Fashion Week, rocking the hell out of SA designer Laduma Ngxokolo’s latest collection.

That young woman was one of the most famous women in our country —Zozibini, the reigning Miss South Africa. The show was themed “We Are Kings and Queens”, so it made perfect sense that Tunzi would strut down the catwalk.

The 26-year-old from the village of Sidwadweni in the Eastern Cape says she is still filled with gratitude after becoming one of the most high-profile and influential women in the country — and she doesn’t take her role lightly. Zozibini caused a stir after being crowned Miss SA, all because of her fabulously unapologetic, natural mane. During the pageant, she had a massive social-media following rooting for her — but she also had some detractors. As difficult as it was for her, she’s come out on top to become one of the figures who rocked and ruled 2019.

2019 was a year of blessings. There was something easy and peaceful about it from the beginning. I had previously been unlucky in things I pursued. As much as I dreamed and worked hard, things just wouldn’t click. Going into this year, I had just graduated and was applying for internships. I had anticipated it being difficult, but I got offers from three of the most influential advertising and public relations agencies in the country.

Life as Miss SA has been a dream. I wake up every day to do something that I love. I am working harder than I have ever worked in my life. Sometimes it’s challenging — just like anything great in life— but it is worth it. I have the privilege of a platform where my voice can actually be listened to and I am using that platform to speak on issues and challenges that face a lot of South Africans. There is this horrible stereotype that boxes women in: it says we can’t be multifaceted. If you are beautiful, you can’t also be smart. Peggy-Sue Khumalo, who won Miss SA in 1996, proves that notion wrong every day. Her greatest asset is not her physical beauty but her mind and intelligence. Today she is the head of Standard Bank Wealth SA— she is what I like to call a boss. Remembering my purpose and why I do what I am doing gives me energy and inspiration. Every morning I practise self-affirmations and that helps to keep me going. My family and loved ones give me calm and stillness. They are at the core of everything and they ground me.

Social media is an extreme at both positive and negative ends. I have seen people being cyberbullied, myself included, and I have seen people get the most overwhelming love and support, myself included again.

I spend the festive season at home. I love being with my family. I could have had the craziest year but towards the end of it, I want to be surrounded by the calmness and love of home.

2019 has taught me that nothing in life just comes to you. You must get out of your comfort zone and work for it. Also, if you ask for something you must be ready to step into it.

This article first appeared in print in the Sowetan S Mag December 2019 edition.