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It's a queenly thing – Zozibini prepares to host Bridgerton soiree

Former Miss Universe relied on David Tlale for her outfit

Emmanuel Tjiya S Mag Editor-in-chief
Former Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi channels Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) from Netflix show Bridgerton.
Former Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi channels Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) from Netflix show Bridgerton.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Playing dress up with her Royal Highness Zozibini Tunzi at the tuscan-style The Palazzo Hotel in Johannesburg is the most fashion fun I have had in a long time.

It plays out like the iconic Carrie Bradshaw closet dress-up scene in Sex and the City.

With only a day to go before the much-anticipated season two premiere of Bridgerton, the former Miss Universe is getting ready to host on Saturday what is expected to be the year’s hottest soiree, A Bridgerton Affair.

When Tunzi strolls in, she looks like one of the characters from the cult classic Clueless rocking a plaid little number – it’s giving Y2K redux vibes. 

Tunzi has invited SMag for an exclusive preview into her final fitting as she will suitably channel at the party Her Majesty Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) – loved by fans of the show set in the Regency era for her towering Afro wigs, expensive taste, chic style and poise. 

With 400 guests expected to attend, Netflix is pulling out all the stops for the lavish jamboree billed as the biggest on the African continent to be hosted by the global streaming service since Queen Sono premiere on the eve of the pandemic in 2020.

Comedians Lesego “Coconut Kelz” Tlhabi and Donovan Goliath, musician Zakes Bantwini as well as fashion designer Palesa Mokubung are also at the hotel doing press. Tlhabi will slip into character as the show’s Lady Whistledown (Penelope Featherington), while Goliath will portray the queen's righthand man Brimsely (Hugh Sachs). The Osama hit-maker will keep the guests on their feet with the entertainment.

Former Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi channels Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) from Netflix show Bridgerton.
Former Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi channels Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) from Netflix show Bridgerton.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

For her transformation as Queen Charlotte, Tunzi relied on the queen-maker David Tlale to create a high fashion ensemble perfect for the theme. Two of Tlale’s assistants help Tunzi get into the garment consisting of multiple layers. 

Tlale is in New York City, but he’s getting live visuals each second. His presence is felt when one of the pearls jewellery is put on Tunzi incorrectly and he instructs the assistants via text to fix it. Tlale later tells me in text that the outfit still has a long way to go before it’s complete on Saturday.

“The inspiration behind the garment was solely celebrating our craftsmanship. I love construction and corsetry,” Tlale inform me on WhatsApp via voice message.

“We thought a lot about making it fashion forward with the shorts that we have designed inside and paired them with heavy corsetry, plus big dramatic skirt. The print and fabrication we chose was a collaboration with artist Jean du Plessis to develop our own print. 

“But beyond everything else it’s about celebrating the power of a woman and Zozi.”

As soon as Tunzi dons the garment, she is the total embodiment of a Regency queen. The room filled with cameramen and PR team gasp in admiration. The tight-lacing of the corset is seemingly solid, but who cares about breathing when you look that stunning?

Former Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi channels Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) from Netflix show Bridgerton.
Former Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi channels Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) from Netflix show Bridgerton.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Below Tunzi takes us through her transformation into Queen Charlotte.

Did you watch the first season?

Of course. I think the whole world has seen the show. Even if you haven’t, you have seen it on social media or people just talking about it.

What did you think of it?

It was an incredible season. It was very romantic and tapped into all these women as well. I’m a women’s girl, so it was nice seeing all their journeys – whether it was with the queen, Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) or the mother (Ruth Gemmell). I loved everything about it. 

Who was your favourite character?

The Duke (Regé-Jean Page). I loved Daphne as well, plus Queen Charlotte. I loved that the Duke was easy on the eye [laughs]. But such a strong character as well. Charlotte was strong in her conviction in being a leader and I love that she’s a woman of colour in a position where you wouldn’t see black women lead. 

How did Queen Charlotte resonate with you?

On a personal level, just being a homemaker and having to be a public figure in that time. As women we try to divide ourselves and it’s difficult to be many things at once. But she was all those things, having to deal with her private and public life is something that I resonated with the most.

What was your reaction when you were asked to host the party?

I love the concept. When I first heard I thought why wouldn’t I do this. It was a queenly thing to do and that’s what we associate Miss Universe with. I felt it was fitting. I couldn’t wait to try the clothes and character.

Former Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi channels Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) from Netflix show Bridgerton.
Former Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi channels Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) from Netflix show Bridgerton.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

How did you prepare for the moment?

I rewatched the first season because I wanted to get into the feels again and I enjoyed that. I enjoyed the process of designing the dress. The event will probably be the most favourite moment of this experience. 

Take us through the design process of the garment?

The garment is obviously regency era, but with an African interpretation of what that would look like. Playing dress up was fun because I love clothing and fashion. Having that exchange of creativity with David Tlale was a fun process.

What was your brief for DT?

It had to be fabulous. I wanted it big with a royal feel suited for a queen. It’s a beautiful creation. I have worn a piece by David before, but I had never sat and created with him. The first thing he did was ask me what I wanted and I liked that because sometimes you can find yourself in a situation on being forced to wear something. 

How do you give the Regency era an African twist?

Having an African designer on its own is African in itself because when we think African we think beads, prints and animals. It’s not in your face African prints, but it’s very subtle. 

What advice can you offer to unleashing your inner queen?

Be yourself, because we are all queenly in our nature. Be fabulous, no matter what that looks like to you because we all have different fashion senses. Lastly, humility is so beautiful in a leader.

Image: Veli Nhlapo

Sibling rivalry is a central theme in the show. What’s your relationship with your sisters like?

I have three sisters and I’m the second one. I know how it’s like to be a big sister and younger sister.

Have you ever had sibling rivalry? 

My sisters and I get along so well. But growing up I think I used to fall out with my big sister mostly. She felt like I was too soft. She felt that my parents, sisters and everyone were coddling me. Chatting to her now, I’ve asked her why did she pick on me so much when we were younger and then she explained that she felt I needed someone that was not going to coddle me since the real world will not do that. It wasn’t really a rivalry. Like we argue about petty things like clothes and shoes. 

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