Miss South Africa takes home the Lebanese-designed Miss Universe 2019 crown

Zozibini Tunzi is the first black woman hailing from South Africa to ever win the prestigious title. AFP
Updated 09 December 2019

Miss South Africa takes home the Lebanese-designed Miss Universe 2019 crown

  • Zozibini Tunzi won the Miss Universe 2019 competition in Atlanta’s Tyler Perry Studios on Dec. 8
  • She beat out 89 other hopeful contestants at the televised ceremony hosted by television presenter Steve Harvey to take home the crown

DUBAI: Congratulations are in order for South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi who won the Miss Universe 2019 competition in Atlanta’s Tyler Perry Studios on Dec. 8.

The newly-minted Miss Universe beat out 89 other hopeful contestants, including Miss Egypt Diana Hamed, at the televised ceremony hosted by television presenter Steve Harvey to claim the crown at the annual beauty pageant, simultaneously making history as the first black woman hailing from South Africa to ever win the prestigious title. Additionally, she is also the first black woman to claim the title since Angola’s Leila Lopes who took home the crown in 2011.

The ecstatic 26-year-old was crowned by Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, who hails from The Philippines. Miss Puerto Rico, Madison Anderson was the first runner-up, followed by Miss Mexico, Sofia Aragon who was the second runner-up.




The ecstatic 26-year-old was crowned by Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, who hails from The Philippines. AFP

Shortly after she was announced as the winner, Tunzi was presented with the Miss Universe sash and a striking diamond-encrusted crown from Lebanese jewelry house Mouawad — the jeweler behind the iconic Victoria’s Secret Fantasy Bras — which was tasked with creating this year’s diadem. Entitled “the power of unity,” the stunning 18-karat gold crown set with 1,770 diamonds sat beautifully atop the newly-minted Miss Universe’s textured buzz cut.

“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,” shared Tunzi in her closing statement, adding “And I think that it is time that it stops today. I want children to look at me and see my face and I want to see their faces reflected in mine.”

Tunzi is the third South African to win Miss Universe and the second in three years, following in the footsteps of Miss Universe 2017 Demi Leigh Nel-Peters, who hails from Sedgefield. She joins Margaret Gardiner, who was the first South African to claim the title in 1978.




“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,” shared Tunzi in her closing statement. AFP

The beauty queen, who was born in Tsolo, Eastern Cape, is a holder of a bachelor's degree in public relations and image management from Cape Peninsula University of Technology. An activist and humanitarian, Tunzi also petitions against gender-based violence through the "HeForShe" campaign in partnership with the South African arm of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality, which aims to tackle the alarming rates of femicide and gender-based violence in the country.

As the winner of the 2019 Miss Universe title, she will receive a one-year contract with the Miss Universe Organization, which will see her travel overseas to perform charity work and raise awareness for diseases and education.

She will also receive room and board in a luxury apartment in New York City plus cash allowance for her entire reign, a New York Film Academy scholarship, a modeling portfolio with WME IMG, which happens to be the Miss Universe parent organization, a year supply of beauty products, a custom-styled new wardrobe and healthcare, as well as invitations to events such as fashion shows, movie premieres and opening galas throughout New York.


Postcards release sophomore album ‘The Good Soldier’

Postcards is Lebanon’s dream-pop, indie-folk and slowcore pioneers. (Supplied)
Updated 23 January 2020

Postcards release sophomore album ‘The Good Soldier’

  • Frontwoman Julia Sabra discusses the Lebanese indie band’s new record and their growing popularit

BEIRUT: “I feel this album is more angry than sad,” says Julia Sabra, singer and guitarist in Postcards — Lebanon’s dream-pop, indie-folk and slowcore pioneers. She’s nursing a fruit juice on a rainy Beirut morning in December at a local coffeeshop, as she discusses her band’s sophomore studio album, “The Good Solider.” The air is thick with introspection and atmosphere.

Incidentally, atmosphere is exactly what Sabra and her two bandmates — guitarist Marwan Tohme and drummer Pascal Semerdjian — do best. Since their founding in 2013, Postcards have established themselves as one of their country’s most exciting indie exports. Their unique, shoegaze-colored sound, a small army of fervently committed fans, and the fact that they sing in English in a region where the most commercially viable acts are of the Arabic pop variety, all make their ascent to prominence even more intriguing.

Sabra is soft-spoken and eloquent, much like the vocal lines she delivers with vulnerability, discreet composure and tempestuous emotion. 2018’s folksy “I’ll Be Here in the Morning” was recorded when there were still four band members. They amicably parted ways with bassist Rany Bechara shortly after the release of the debut album, which the singer says tightened the dynamic between the three remaining members. “Weirdly, the less people you have, the more powerful the sound is; so, now it’s less about intricacy, and more about the atmosphere you create,” she explains.

One of the most immediately noticeable aspects of the Postcards sound is that you could easily assume they’re from somewhere in the American Midwest. (Supplied)

“The first album was a trial of something new for all of us, and we felt very comfortable with it,” Sabra says of the first LP, on the back of which they scored a record deal and performances at both local and international festivals, as well as tours in Jordan, Dubai, the UK, France, Portugal, Italy and Germany, and opening spots for indie luminaries Beirut, and Angus and Julia Stone.

“The second album took everything a step further and we were able to explore more,” she continues. “We didn’t consciously set out to make it different from the first one... we just follow the music, really. ‘The Good Soldier’ is a natural continuation of our sound.”

One of the most immediately noticeable aspects of the Postcards sound is that you could easily assume they’re from somewhere in the American Midwest. “I feel like we express ourselves in a different language,” Sabra explains. “Our music is not specifically linked to our region. We live here, we speak Arabic to each other and our friends and families; yes, everything we sing about and feel comes from our environment, but it’s pretty complicated... those dynamics when it comes to language. It’s something I think about every day.

Since their founding in 2013, Postcards have established themselves as one of their country’s most exciting indie exports. (Supplied)

“We live in a tiny country, play a niche type of music, sing in English,” Sabra continues. “But it’s not like we’re in denial about where we’re from, or like we look down on Oriental/Arabic music or something silly like that,” she states, with a slight bit of apprehension at the notion. “I feel like the West, with all its multitudes, is allowed to be so many things — why can’t it be the same with us?” In other words, artists from the Middle East are not born of a cultural monolith.

“Abroad, there’s a system: you check out a band, listen to their music and you just go and see them,” she says of her band’s international touring experience. “It’s cool to travel there and see people show up; we ask some of them ‘How did you know about the show?’ ‘Oh, well,’ they say, ‘I’ve just listened to your music!’ It’s real simple.”

Back home, it’s all been a little different. “In Lebanon, it used to be a social thing. You don’t always go to a gig to listen to music, but to hang out... the whole indie bands thing was trendy. However, in the past couple of years, a small but extremely devoted audience has emerged,” she says with bright-eyed reverence for the faithful. “Now there’s a real fanbase of people who listen to the albums and who follow you — even if it’s 200 people at a gig, they really want to be there and hear the music.”

Postcards played a jam-packed release show on January 3 at Beirut’s iconic Metro Al Madina theater. (Supplied)

Like all the other releases in the Postcards catalog, “The Good Solider” was produced by one of Lebanon’s most prolific musical mainstays, Fadi Tabbal, for whom Sabra has a lot of respect. “Fadi is the key,” she says of the Tunefork Studios producer. “He makes people aware of what’s special about their artistic identity, the sonic universes and soundscapes... he’s a perfect mentor, because he pushes you to do your best.”

Tabbal has supported Postcards from the beginning, and now both manages the band and handles their live sound. “It helps that he’s also an artist... an encyclopedia of music, a living version of the Oblique Strategies”, Sabra says, comparing Tabbal to the Brian Eno/Peter Schmidt-created cult card set featuring unconventional, ‘think-outside-the-box’ creative cues.

Sabra does not understate the progression that the band’s second album represents: “It’s a step up for us, working together closely, delving deeper into everything, taking more risks. We’re more aware of what we’re doing. It’s our baby. A very important, emotional statement.” Her compelling vocals navigate the delay-drenched sonic expanses of Tohme’s guitars and bass lines, and the hypnotic whirlwind of Semerdjian’s beats and percussion, all enveloped by entrancing synths and ambient passages.

Like all the other releases in the Postcards catalog, “The Good Solider” was produced by one of Lebanon’s most prolific musical mainstays, Fadi Tabbal, for whom Sabra has a lot of respect. (Supplied)

Both the anger and the melancholy that Sabra used to define “The Good Solider” are on full display on opener “Dead End”, where dramatic, searing guitars emerge intermittently in the chorus out of the aural sea of solitude crafted by the atmospheric instrumentation and Sabra’s lyrics. The title track is the link between the two halves of the album: “That song is sort of the thesis of the album — it’s a synth-y folk song, and the big theme is the realization that things that we believe in and that we were taught to believe are crumbling down.

“The good solider is the person who’s willing to consider letting go of a life where you live according to what’s expected of you — marriage, kids, and all that,” she continues. “Maybe there’s a way to get past this intrinsic patriarchal thing that’s so deeply engrained in us. So, ‘The Good Solider’ is about making your own way, while realizing that it all needs a lot of work and commitment, the kind that not everyone is necessarily cut out for.”

In the context of the turmoil that often seems like a near-permanent fixture of life in Lebanon, Sabra says, “We don’t have any other way to process our lives and what happens to us and how we think and feel. Making music is a bit of a self-involved, but very therapeutic, exercise, and it’s also a representation of who we are at this certain point in time — as both people and artists.”

For now, though, Postcards are just gearing up for what comes next. They played a jam-packed release show on January 3 at Beirut’s iconic Metro Al Madina theater. “We have a bunch of tours coming up; March, June, August and fall... taking over the world, basically,” she smiles, only half-jokingly. “We’re just happy the album’s been set free into the world. From here on, it takes a different meaning – it’s no longer just ours.”