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Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa capped off her win at the annual Miss Universe competition with a passionate defense of women and girls, who should be taught that their leadership is valuable, she said.

The pageant, hosted by Steve Harvey, ended with a final word from the top-3 finalists. He asked the women what the world should teach and say to girls.

The finalists from Mexico and Puerto Rico gave answers about the danger of social media, and the value women and girls should place on their individuality, prompting vigorous applause from the audience at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta.

But Tunzi’s response brought down the house, eliciting a raucous response from the crowd and a broad grin from the contestant herself.

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“We should be given every opportunity,” Tunzi said of women and girls. “And that is what we should be teaching these young girls: to take up space. Nothing is as important as taking up space in society and cementing yourself.”

The crowd’s response was a precursor to Tunzi’s crowning as the pageant’s winner. She is the second woman from South Africa to win the title in the last three years.

The runners-up, from Mexico and Puerto Rico, respectively,


Peter Bailey-Wells can be reached at peter.bailey-wells@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @pbaileywells.