Over the past few years, there’s been an increase in representation of women and people of color across various industries – including among competitions and pageants. While America’s top pageants haven’t always been in support of equal representation, Miss America, Miss Teen USA, and Miss USA all made history earlier this year. For the first time ever, black women were crowned winners of each pageant simultaneously.
Miss America was founded in 1921, during a time when black women weren’t empowered or valued in American society. Despite this history, Cheslie Kryst (Miss USA), Kaleigh Garris (Miss Teen USA) and Nia Franklin (Miss America) all serve as this year’s 2019 court.
Crowned in all their glory, these three wins symbolize progress and have the ability to open doors for more women of color to follow. Not to mention the fact that both Kryst and Garris were crowned with their natural hairstyles. While hair does not define blackness, it’s refreshing to see the representation among these women diversified.
In 1984, Vanessa Williams became the first black woman to be crowned Miss America. In 1990, Carole Anne-Marie Gist became the first black woman to be crowned Miss USA, and a year later, Janel Bishop became the first black woman to be crowned Miss Teen USA.
While black women have previously won these pageants, this historic moment represented much more. This moment reinforced to young women of color that they’re beautiful inside and out, and that beauty can be widely recognized in the mainstream.
(Miss USA), originally from North Carolina began her journey as a teenager where she competed in pageants in her hometown. As Miss USA, Kryst will represent the United States at the Miss Universe competition later this year.
(Miss Teen USA), originally from Connecticut always proved she could win the grand title, having competed for Miss Connecticut Teen USA and winning the title on her first try. Garris is biracial. Her father is black, while her mother is white.
(Miss America), originally from North Carolina began her journey in college, having been crowned Miss Black and Gold by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. She went on to be crowned Miss New York in 2018. She is the seventh Miss New York to win the Miss America title. While this win was historic for all of the women, Franklin is equally as proud that she is the first woman to win Miss America without having to wear a swimsuit. The swimsuit portion of the competition was eliminated this year.
I’m happy that I didn’t have to do so to win this title tonight because I’m more than just that. All these women onstage are more than just that.
As much as society encourages women to find beauty within themselves, representation among media matters. Representation impacts the way we view ourselves and our sisters. Witnessing the crowning of three black women surrounded by other beautiful women of many different races, ethnicities, and cultures was the perfect display of women empowerment.
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