The reflection of us in Miss Universe

Published 10:11 pm Wednesday, December 11, 2019

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

On Sunday evening, many watched as Miss South Africa, Zozibini Tunzi, was crowned Miss Universe 2019. In her final remarks during the pageant, she stated, “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. I think it is time that stops today. I want children to look at me and see my face, and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine.” Since hearing that statement, social media has emphasized the topic of representation as the key focus of Miss Tunzi’s address. Throughout the evening’s pageant broadcast, she was consistent in her messaging that she represents women and young girls who look like her. I suspect that throughout her reign, there will be many more intentional conversations about her platform on women’s leadership and her work to fight against gender-based violence. I am happy that she has this platform to further those discussions. She definitely has our attention. Don’t get me wrong, I am celebrating this win as much as any melanated girl and woman of color. Yet, I believe there is more to be said here than whether black is beautiful and black people are rightfully represented.

I found myself asking the question, “Is it a matter of representation or reflection?” In my opinion, it is a matter of reflection. When she says, “It is time that stops today,” the conversation about representation ended for me. The last point in her statement is an entirely different matter.

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Reflection and representation are not interchangeable. This quick run of the mill campaign on representation is overlooking an insightful and more profound conversation that should be about her desire to be the reflection of us.

For Miss Universe to say that she wants children to look at her and see their faces reflected in her face, it must be about more than just dark skin and natural, coily hair. To bear such a reflection, there must be a universal image.

Certainly, I am not suggesting that Miss Tunzi is a universal image. That would be idolatry. I caution against that. She cannot reflect the people of the universe if we only see her likeness to one group of people. The only way she can hope that her wish would be fulfilled is such that her life reflects the same righteousness and holiness that is evidenced in the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, which causes us all to become more likened to the image of Jesus Christ. As sisters and brothers with Christ, we would not reflect the image of our faces but of His.

In 2 Corinthians 3:18, the Bible explains, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Only the Spirit of God allows us to see mirror-reflections of ourselves in someone else. We are not looking at a natural reflection but of a spiritual one.

I don’t know the faith of Miss Universe 2019, but it is my hope that if more is said about her final statement that it would be less about her “black girl magic” and more about her acts of grace. I would hope that the reflection we follow is not about how natural and low she wears her hair, but rather how beautiful is the spirit within her that performs the will of our Father to impact the world she leads. May her statement about reflection ring true and that she become a beacon of light that reflects the children of light who have received the divine image of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. God can and will use beauty queens as much as He has done in rulers and kings.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.