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For the First Time in History, all Three Major Beauty Pageant Winners are Black Women

Story by Belle Norton|Web Editor/Reporter

Photo Courtesy of Salon

For the first time ever, Miss USA, Miss America and Miss Teen USA are all black women. Nia Franklin was crowned the 2019 Miss America in September. Then Kaliegh Garris won Miss Teen USA in April, followed by Cheslie Kryst, who won the Miss USA pageant in May.

The three wins are a great symbol of how society’s beauty symbols have evolved from a past of racism. Black women have been very underrepresented in the pageants. They were not even allowed to participate for decades. The first time there was an African American contestant in the Miss America pageant was in 1970.

“I know it used to be a thing where people thought only blonde women could win. This just shows that anyone can win,” senior Natalie Starr Dupre said.

In just the past 50 years, there have been big milestones for black women in pageants. In 1984, Vanessa Williams became the first black woman to win the Miss America title. The first African American to win Miss USA was Carole Gist in 1990, and Janel Bishop won Miss Teen USA in 1991.

“This is a testament that anybody and everybody can compete in a beauty pageant and it's really just based on the true character of the girl,” Dupre said.

Recently pageants have been trying to focus more on the women’s accomplishments and charity work instead of only their appearances. Just last year, the Miss America Organization decided to end the swimsuit contest.

“It is important to little brown and black girls to see three strong figures, three strong women, African-American women, that are doing so much great work,” Franklin said after all three women were crowned.

Diversity in pageantry has not reached all groups, but these wins are a huge step toward that.

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