From Zozibini Tunzi to Shudufhadzo Musida: How the Miss South Africa Pageant Is Redefining Beauty

The pageant is becoming more inclusive of South Africa’s diverse women.

This past weekend a new Miss South Africa was crowned. Hailing from Limpopo province, 24-year-old Shudufhadzo Musida took home this year’s title.

Without missing a beat, social media was ablaze with what the win means for South African women who take pride and find beauty in being bald.

Musida spoke to Times Live and explained that her decision to cut her hair freed her from seeking validation from outdated beauty ideals.

“I was walking back from gym and realised that I always seek validation through my hair and how I look. I saw a salon and went in to cut the very thing that felt like it stifled me. It was for freedom more than anything else. It was about finding myself and not looking outside for it,” she said.

Musida’s win shows the strides that the Miss South Africa (Miss SA) pageant has made in celebrating the beauty of all South African women.

Although the pageant began in 1953, the first Black Miss SA, Jacqui Mofokeng, was only crowned 40 years later in 1993. Since then just nine Black women have won the crown, including reigning Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi.
From Zozibini Tunzi to Shudufhadzo Musida: How the Miss South Africa Pageant Is Redefining Beauty
From Zozibini Tunzi to Shudufhadzo Musida: How the Miss South Africa Pageant Is Redefining Beauty

Over the last few years, the pageant has visibly become more inclusive of more women, which is an important representation in a country as diverse as South Africa.

With the majority of women in the country being Black, and all of them representing over 11 different cultures, the pageant has seemingly taken to pivoting from Western standards of beauty and redefining beauty on African terms.

Zozibini Tunzi

Now Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi’s win of the 2019 Miss SA pageant was widely celebrated across the country.

With dark skin and short, unstraightened hair, Tunzi’s win changed the definition of beauty ideals that have long been promoted by the pageant.

Her historic win of the Miss Universe pageant solidified a win for all African women and girls.

As she accepted the Miss Universe crown, Tunzi made it clear that the beauty standards around the world need to be made more inclusive.

“I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me; with my kind of skin, and kind of hair isn’t considered beautiful,” she said. “I want children to look at me, and see my face, and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine.”

Sasha-Lee Olivier

Taking on the Miss SA crown after Zozibini Tunzi committed to her role as Miss Universe, Sasha-Lee Olivier was the first plus-sized woman to be crowned Miss South Africa in 2019.

Since taking on the role, Olivier continued to face body shamers throughout her reign, but stood firm in her position and reiterated that she was proud to be representing different body types in the role of Miss South Africa.

“I know who I am. I am comfortable in my skin. It’s not even about weight. It’s about every girl that hasn’t felt comfortable or like she does not fit in,” she said on Instagram Live. “You don’t have to fit in. Just be yourself. That’s all and that’s enough.”

Shudufhadzo Musida

The freshly crowned Miss South Africa is not only being celebrated for representing women who choose to be bald, but social media has been championing the fact that she has curves.

She went on to thank Zozibini Tunzi for inspiring her to enter the pageant. Like Tunzi, Musida grew up in a village and had dreams of being a model.
From Zozibini Tunzi to Shudufhadzo Musida: How the Miss South Africa Pageant Is Redefining Beauty
From Zozibini Tunzi to Shudufhadzo Musida: How the Miss South Africa Pageant Is Redefining Beauty

As the first woman from Limpopo to win the pageant, she not only represents an entirely different definition of beauty but an entire culture of women who have never seen a woman like them wear the crown.

In her acceptance speech at the weekend, she said: "I stand here ... with immense pride and joy to be representing such a beautiful nation — one of the first Venda women, but certainly not the last, to become Miss SA.”

Why Global Citizens Should Care: Beauty pageants have long set the standard for what classifies as beautiful, and this definition has often left out women of colour, women from different cultures, and women of different sizes. The representation of diverse women in the role of Miss South Africa is important for young girls to feel empowered and comfortable in their own skin. 

The United Nations’ Global Goal 5 for gender equality can only be achieved if all women and girls are celebrated and equally valued in society. Join the movement and take action on this issue here.
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