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The send-off brunch for Miss Universe

BRAND SOUTH Africa Chairperson, Thandi Tobias-Pokolo could had been alluding to boisterous praise-singer/poetess, Jessica Mbangeni, when she addressed Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi, thus, “Zozi, you’ve started a revolution.

The send-off brunch for Miss Universe

Artists have been inspired to create, musicians have given birth to new lyrical material, poets have put pen to paper …”

Unwittingly for the keynote address deliverer at a Saturday morning send-off brunch her entity hosted for the New York City-bound queen and gender activist at The Maslow Hotel in Sandton, she wouldn’t had known any better that the acknowledgments she happened to mention in her speech, coincidentally ticked the boxes of Mbangeni’s varied talents of also being a fashion designer (read, artist who creates) and incidentally related to her having recently recorded a song titled, Zozi Has Done It, whilst on a trip to Jamaica, to perform at the 75th birthday anniversary of the Caribbean island’s iconic troubadour, Bob Marley!

An intimate gathering attended by the agency’s hand-picked stakeholders in the media and other spheres, the rendezvous became an emotive and teary-eyed affair played out within an ambience-filled space on an agreeable warm and sunny Summer’s day.

It was a rather sad culmination of a whirlwind homecoming tour which lasted all of a jam-packed week for the gracious Eastern Cape lass who annexed the Miss Universe diadem in addition to the Miss South Africa one, back in November of 2019 and had to endure a White Christmas in the Big Apple before she could again set foot on home soil – pending the Southern Hemisphere’s Summer season.

The tears uncontrollably trickling over her layered makeover were understandable as she invariably squatted around a table to sweep a young and shy girl into her embrace, as well as when she became overwhelmed by Mbangeni’s generous gesture when the poetess showered her with adornments and accessories from her Kwantu Afrocentric Designs. 

In front of approving guests, photographers and videographers gathered around a long dining table, Mbangeni – resplendent in Xhosa garb – presented the svelte lady-of-the-moment with what she described as a, Robe of Victory, an Intonga (a short hand-held stick regarded as, a symbol of protection) and jewels which spread to her waist and slightly obscured her sash. 

Explained Mbangeni, who had to cut her Jamaican trip short just for the occasion, “Before Black History Month ended, it was appropriate to meet her (Tunzi) at home, rather than in New York!” Typically, the praise-poet had made a grand entrance into the room with her charged voice booming evocative recitations and whilst the recently recorded tribute to the queen issued forth in the background.

The occasion’s programme had commenced with a welcome address by Brand SA’s acting CEO, Thulisile Manzini, who mentioned that South Africans were elated to have their queen back home, and remarked, “Today’s send-off brunch is simply to say thank you.  Zozi, we’ve heard and seen what you’re passionate about and promise to walk this journey with you and elevate your message.  The world will know about the legacy of Miss Universe and her beloved country.”

On the other tongue, Manzini’s colleague, Tobias-Pokolo directed these thoughts to Tunzi, “Flying the flag for your country requires you to dig deep into your roots and to stand firmly for what you believe in.  People around the world will not always have kind things to say about South Africa.  Stand your truth regardless.  Believe in the beauty of your country and acknowledge her shortcomings but ensure that your message is one of hope.”  The hosting entity’s Chairperson further went on to congratulate Tunzi on being appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa as an ambassador for gender-based violence on the African continent.

At the conclusion of speeches, she was then presented with a framed Play Your Part certificate – symbolically meant to promote pride and patriotism.

Tunzi’s homecoming, albeit brief, had kicked-off with a rapturous welcome at O R Tambo International Airport, and was followed by public parades in the metropolis of Johannesburg, Cape Town, as well as at her native Eastern Cape province – where she rolled back the wheels of nostalgia by taking time to visit her erstwhile alma mater, Canaan Academy, in Dutywa. 

With what she wore at each engagement she turned up at being disseminated by fashion police on social media, at Dutywa, she cut a catching figure showing up in a pants and crop top combo embellished with Xhosa patterns and put together by the House of FabroSanz – a local clothing brand.

In the Mother City, where she had done her tertiary studies as recent as 2018, she was also, along with the skipper of the World Cup-winning Springboks, Siyamthanda Kolisi, a guest-of-honour in Parliament for the State of the Nation address by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

In Sandton’s central business district, watching her obliging television crews’ requests for separate footage and star-struck well-wishers endless requests for selfies and photo ops, it was a reminder of the implications of her wearing the crown, yet how she took things in stride was convincing enough that her tenure on the prestigious throne is one she is for all intents and purposes, determined to annex as a legacy unto her resume!

Whilst a cavalcade which included the requisite Metro Police escort as well as, curiously, a SWAT team, waited to whisk Tunzi off to O.R. Tambo International Airport for the trip back to New York City, I enquired of her chaperon, Esther Swan (Miss Universe Director of Talent), regarding her impressions of the whole homecoming exercise: “Mind blowing welcome!” she intoned.  

Image Jacob MAWELA (Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi caught in a moment of an affectionate embrace with praise-poet, Jessica Mbangeni at a send-off brunch at The Maslow Hotel in Sandton)

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