After chiseling down the group to three finalists, Miss Mexico, Puerto Rico and South Africa, it quickly became time to crown the 2019 Miss Universe winner. As is tradition, the crown was handed off by 2018's Miss Universe Catriona Gray. The 2019 contest was won by Miss South Africa, Zozibini Tunzi. She bested Mexico and Puerto Rico to take the crown. Tunzi is the third South African to take the crown, and the second in the 2010s. She is also the first black woman to win the award since Leila Lopes in 2011.
Tunzi began her career in 2017 and became a finalist for Miss South Africa. She went on to win the title in 2019, moving on to become Miss Universe after the honor. Miss South Africa's official Twitter account celebrated her win.
A standout moment came during the three finalists closing speeches. Tunzi distanced herself from the other contestants thanks to a powerful speech about her skin color and past.
Our hearts are swelling with pride. You have represented South Africa with elegance, integrity and authenticity. We are so proud of you, @ZoziTunzi.December 9, 2019
"I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me, with my kind of skin and my kind of hair, was never considered to be beautiful. And I think that it is time that that stops today," Tunzi said during the telecast. "I want children to look at me and see my face, and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine."
This year's pageant had plenty of fun ups and downs, plus a few firsts. Host Steve Harvey managed to flub up one of the winners of the earlier contests, giving people flashbacks to his major flub a few years prior, and he also sported a wild looking suit that had the internet dropping memes and references all over.
But in the end the focus was on the contestants, including the Miss Universe pageant's first openly gay contestant, Swe Zin Htet of Myanmar.
"I have that platform that, if I say that I'm a lesbian, it will have a big impact on the LGBTQ community" she said through a translator according to PEOPLE. "The difficult thing is that in Burma, LGBTQ people are not accepted; they are looked down on by other people and are being discriminated against."