African winners of Miss Universe beauty pageant

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In this article, we will discuss the gorgeous and diverse women from the continent of Africa who has went on to win the prestigious Miss Universe crown from its beginning in 1952 until the present day. We will celebrate their remarkable achievements during the international contest as well as their philanthropical life after their reign. Overall, six African women have won this prestigious title of Miss Universe throughout the years.

Miss Universe 1978 - Margaret Gardiner (South Africa)

Margaret Gardiner (born 21 August 1959) is a South African journalist. She was 18 years old when she won the pageant. After the three semi-final competitions, she entered the five finalists in fourth place but ended up winning the pageant after answering the final question. The 27th edition of the Miss Universe pageant was held in Centro de Convenciones de Acapulco, Acapulco, Mexico. Margaret impressed the judges with her beautiful face, feminine body, and standing at towering height of 183cm 6 feet tall. She became the eventual winner of the Miss Universe 1978, the first South African woman to win the Miss Universe title.

During the event held in Acapulco, she received her crown from Janelle Commissiong, the first black titleholder of the pageant. She was the only Miss Universe titleholder from South Africa until Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters was crowned Miss Universe 2017. Margaret holds a Bachelor's in Psychology from the College of Charleston and is the author of two books on health and beauty and attended St. George's Cathedral where Desmond Tutu preached. She is now working as a print and television journalist in Los Angeles. She is married to Andre Nel, a professor of Pediatrics and Public Health at UCLA.

Miss Universe 1992 - Michelle McLean (Namibia)

Michelle was born and raised in Namibia and started modeling at the young age of 13 years old. In 1991, she was crowned Miss Namibia and represented her country at Miss World 1991 where she finished in the Top 5 finalists. During the 41st edition Miss Universe 1992 pageant which was held in Bangkok, Thailand. Michelle impressed the judge's panel with her towering height of 183cm 6 feet tall and slender physique as she finished second in the preliminary competition with a score of 9.147, right behind Carolina Izsak of Venezuela, who won all three preliminary competitions. Her captivating beauty and warm personality made her win the coveted title of Miss Universe 1992 in the grand final event over India's Madhushri Sapre. After her reign ended, she was involved with numerous charities, and she founded The Michelle McLean Children Trust in Namibia and the Michelle McLean Primary School in her country, which had 890 students. The Michelle McLean Children's Trust in Namibia, which focuses on the education and care of underprivileged children, was founded in 1992 and has raised over 50 million dollars to help children in her native Namibia, in Southern Africa. In 2000, McLean funded the building of the Michelle McLean Primary School, in the capital of Namibia, Windhoek. It now has just under 1000 students. In 2013, Michelle McLean married former Manchester United goalkeeper Gary Bailey and she currently lives in Florida, United States.

Miss Universe 1999 - Mpule Kwelagobe (Botswana)

Mpule was born on 14 November 1979 to a Tswana ethnic group in Gaborone, Botswana. She attended Columbia University in New York City, graduating with a degree in international political economy. In 1997, she entered Miss Botswana national contest while still a high school student. She eventually won the title, becoming the youngest woman to ever win Miss Botswana at only 17 years old. As Miss Botswana, Kwelagobe represented Botswana at Miss World 1997 in Mahé, Seychelles, where she was unplaced. Kwelagobe returned to pageantry two years later, being crowned Miss Universe Botswana in 1999, becoming the inaugural holder of the title. She subsequently became the first woman to represent Botswana in the Miss Universe competition, competing in Miss Universe 1999 in Chaguaramas, Trinidad, and Tobago. Kwelagobe advanced to the top ten, then the top five, and was ultimately declared the winner of the competition, besting first runner-up Miriam Quiambao of the Philippines and second runner-up Diana Nogueira of Spain. With her win, Kwelagobe became the fourth black woman to win Miss Universe, the first black African to win any of the Big Four international beauty pageants, and the first woman from Botswana to win a major international title. In 2000, Kwelagobe was made a goodwill ambassador by the United Nations, focusing on youth and HIV/AIDS. She addressed the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Least Developed Countries conference, the World Youth Summit, and the United States House Committee on Financial Services regarding the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Kwelagobe testified on the socioeconomic impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa and proposed a bill to set up a World Bank AIDS prevention trust fund.

Miss Universe 2011 - Leila Lopes (Angola)

She was born and raised in Benguela, Angola then moved to the United Kingdom for further education. She had previously won Miss Angola UK 2010 title before joining the Miss Angola 2010 contest. Before being a contestant in beauty pageants, she studied business management at the University of Suffolk in Ipswich, UK. She participated in the Miss Universe 2011 the 60th Miss Universe pageant, held at the Credicard Hall in São Paulo, Brazil. Due to her being fluent in the Portuguese language, Lelia received a positive reception from the Brazilian people in the final venue. She was crowned as the winner of Miss Universe 2011 and became the first Angolian woman and third African woman to win the international title. After her reign, Leila is actively involved in raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and the discrimination that people with the disease experience. In February 2013, she became engaged to former New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora in Monaco.

Miss Universe 2017 - Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters (South Africa)

Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters was born on 28 June 1995 in Sedgefield, Western Cape, to Bennie Peters and Anne-Marie Steenkamp. Nel-Peters graduated from North-West University in March 2017, a few days before winning the Miss South Africa 2017 competition. Nel-Peters began her pageantry career representing Western Cape in the Miss South Africa 2017 competition on 26 March 2017 which she won. As Miss South Africa, she had the right to represent South Africa in both Miss World 2017 and Miss Universe 2017, but since the dates of the two pageants coincided, she was sent only to Miss Universe, held in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In the final round, Steve Harvey asked Nel-Peters, "What quality in yourself are you most proud of and how will you apply that quality to your time as Miss Universe?" She said: As a Miss Universe, you have to be confident in who you are as an individual. And Miss Universe is a woman that has overcome many fears, and by that, she can help other women to overcome their fears. She is a woman that nothing is ever too much to ask and I think that is exactly who I am. A month before the Miss South Africa national contest, she was carjacked at Hyde Park. She handed over her car keys but was forced into her car by the carjackers. She punched one of them in the throat and managed to run away and get help. Her inspirational act of bravery made her win the 66th Miss Universe 2017 title and she became the second South African woman to win this title after 39 years since Margaret Gardiner. She married Tim Tebow a former professional American football quarterback and former professional baseball outfielder for the New York Mets minor league affiliates.

Miss Universe 2019 - Zozibini Tunzi (South Africa)

Zozibini was born in Tsolo, Eastern Cape to parents Philiswa Nodapu and Lungisa Tunzi, and raised in the nearby village of Sidwadweni. Before winning Miss South Africa, Zozibini was completing a Bachelor of Technology graduate degree in public relations management at Cape Peninsula the University of Technology and worked as a graduate intern in the public relations department of Ogilvy Cape Town. Zozibini began her pageantry career in 2017 when she was accepted as one of the top 26 semifinalists of Miss South Africa 2017.[10] She returned to pageantry to compete in Miss South Africa 2019. Tunzi's win is South Africa's third Miss Universe winner; she is the first black woman to win the Miss Universe title since Leila Lopes was crowned Miss Universe 2011, and the first to do so with afro-textured hair. Her win became the first year in all four major United States-based pageants won by black women; other titleholders were Nia Franklin (Miss America 2019), Kaliegh Garris (Miss Teen USA 2019), and Cheslie Kryst (Miss USA 2019). Additionally, 2019 would also become the first year that black women won the two most prestigious international pageants after Toni-Ann Singh of Jamaica later won Miss World 2019. Tunzi made her acting debut in the film The Woman King, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, and released on 16 September 2022.

Who are your favorite African winners of Miss Universe pageant? Comment below

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  1. You forgot Michelle McLean from Namibia.

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