Miss America, Miss Teen USA and Miss USA Are All Black Women for the First Time – The New York Times

Miss America, Miss Teen USA and Miss USA Are All Black Women for the First Time - The New York Times

For the first time, Miss USA, Miss America and Miss Teen USA are all black women

Despite a long history of segregation and racism, Americas top pageants have broken racial barriers in recent decades. Vanessa Williams became the first black woman to win the Miss America title in 1984. Carole Gist won Miss USA in 1990. Janel Bishop won Miss Teen USA in 1991.

Last week, for the first time, black women wore the crowns of all three major pageants simultaneously.

The three young women who have focused their energy on demonstrating how standards of black beauty speak for American standards of beauty are to be commended, said Thomas DeFrantz, a professor in the Department of African and African American Studies at Duke University.

Cheslie Kryst, 28, won the Miss USA contest, and Kaliegh Garris, 18, won Miss Teen USA. They joined Nia Franklin, 25, who was crowned as the 2019 Miss America in September.

The North Carolina lawyer completed the historic triple Thursday with pageant winners 2019 Miss America Nia Franklin and recently crowned 2019 Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris.

The three wins have become a powerful symbol of how much American views on beauty have evolved from a past marred by racism and gender stereotypes, even as black women leaders are still severely underrepresented in other fields, like corporate America or in Congress.

Cheslie Kryst won the Miss USA crown Thursday, meaning that for the first time three black women are the reigning Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America.

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, Ms. Franklin said on Saturday. People will argue that race doesnt matter. But race does matter in America, because of the history, because of slavery.

News of the pageant wins resonated with many on Saturday, drawing words of support from the actress Halle Berry and Senator Kamala Harris, who is vying for the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination, among other influential figures.

Miss New York Nia Franklin reacts after being named Miss America 2019 in Atlantic City, New Jersey in September 2018

Nia, Cheslie, and Kaliegh: you are trailblazers, creating your own path on your own terms, Ms. Harris said on Twitter.

The attention comes as the country increasingly rethinks long-held gender norms, spurred on by the #MeToo movement. Pageants have recently sought to put more emphasis on the offstage lives of the women and girls, highlighting their accomplishments and charity work, instead of only their appearances.

The Miss Universe Organization, which runs Miss USA and Miss Teen USA, began allowing transgender women to participate in 2012. Last year, the Miss America Organization announced it would end the swimsuit contest, among other changes.

The attention comes as the country increasingly rethinks long-held gender norms, spurred on by the #MeToo movement. Pageants have recently sought to put more emphasis on the offstage lives of the women and girls, highlighting their accomplishments and charity work, instead of only their appearances.

In a first for US pageants, black women hold all 3 major crowns

Its the racial history of pageants that the trifecta of black winners perhaps highlights the most, said Ashley Nkadi, a former Miss Black Ohio who has written about the pageants past.

The three wins have become a powerful symbol of how much American views on beauty have evolved from a past marred by racism and gender stereotypes, even as black women leaders are still severely underrepresented in other fields, like corporate America or in Congress.

I think the image of it is very important, especially knowing where mainstream pageantry has come from, she said.

Black women have long been underrepresented in the contests, said Elwood Watson, a professor of history and African-American studies at East Tennessee State University. For decades, they were barred from Miss America contests.

The 1968 Miss America pageant held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, is one of the most infamous examples of that dynamic. The competition was held as a fight for civil rights raged across the country; only white women were in the pageant.

They have always been seen as the other, and white women have always been the standard of beauty, he said.

The Miss Universe Organization, which runs Miss USA and Miss Teen USA, began allowing transgender women to participate in 2012. Last year, the Miss America Organization announced it would end the swimsuit contest, among other changes.

3 black women win Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America

The 1968 Miss America pageant held in Atlantic City is one of the most infamous examples of that dynamic. The competition was held as a fight for civil rights raged across the country; only white women were in the pageant.

For the first time in history, 3 black women win Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, Miss America

On the boardwalk outside, feminists threw bras, curling irons and false eyelashes into a trash can to condemn the scrutiny of womens bodies by male judges.

Black women have long been underrepresented in the contests, said Elwood Watson, a professor of history and African-American studies at East Tennessee State University. For decades, they were barred from Miss America contests.

Black women win Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America

Four blocks away, in a Ritz-Carlton hotel, another ceremony was held, crowning 19-year-old Saundra Williams as the first ever Miss Black America, in protest of the white stereotype, The New York Times reported.

The 2019 winners are not strangers to racism. Franklin recalled that when she was 9, she was called a racial slur and told to go back to Africa. Kryst said she has been told that she was “pretty for a black girl.”

Miss America does not represent us because there has never been a black girl in the pageant, she said. With my title, I can show black women that they too are beautiful.

There have been a number of milestones since then. As the 1970 Miss Iowa, Cheryl Browne became the first black contestant to compete in the Miss America contest. Ms. Franklin said she is the ninth black Miss America.

“Of course there are going to be parts of me that have experienced racism,” Franklin said. “It hasn’t stopped me. I have come through this Miss America system with strength and pride and grace.”

Glass Ceilings Can Be Broken Wearing Either a Skirt or Pants | Fast Facts About Miss USA Cheslie Kryst of NC

The 2019 winners are not strangers to racism. Ms. Franklin recalled that when she was 9, she was called a racial slur and told to go back to Africa. Ms. Kryst said she has been told that she was pretty for a black girl.

Of course there are going to be parts of me that have experienced racism, Ms. Franklin said. It hasnt stopped me. I have come through this Miss America system with strength and pride and grace.

But Ms. Nkadi said more representation is needed. Pageant winners typically are not plus-size or do not have darker skin, she said.

“Miss America does not represent us because there has never been a black girl in the pageant,” she said. “With my title, I can show black women that they too are beautiful.”

Diversity in pageantry hasnt reached many groups, said Hilary Levey Friedman, a visiting professor of education at Brown University, who has studied pageants. Ms. Friedman said Latina and Asian women have struggled to be represented.

ATLANTA (CNN) — For the first time, Americas top beauty pageants — Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America — have crowned black women as their winners at the same time.

Beauty pageants early in their histories, some dating back to the 1920s, barred women of color from participating. Even after organizations began changing their rules to accept women of all races, there was still a lingering frustration and opposition to join.

Only in the last 50 years have black women become more prevalent in these competitions. Vanessa Williams was the first black Miss America in 1983, and Carole Anne-Marie Gist, the first black Miss USA contestant, was crowned in 1990. The following year Janel Bishop became the first black Miss Teen USA.

So when Cheslie Kryst was named 2019s Miss USA on Thursday, she became part of a historic trio, along with 2019 Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris and 2019 Miss America Nia Franklin.

Receiving three degrees from two universities, Kryst is a 28-year-old attorney with a mission to help reform Americas justice system.

Hailing from North Carolina, Kryst practices civil litigation for a law firm and has a passion for helping prisoners who may have been sentenced unjustly get reduced punishments — free of charge.

Kryst, who is licensed to practice in two states, earned both her law degree and MBA from Wake Forest University and completed her undergraduate work at the University of South Carolina.

In a video played during this weeks competition, Kryst told a story about how a judge at a legal competition suggested she wear a skirt instead of pants because judges prefer skirts.

“Glass ceilings can be broken wearing either a skirt or pants,” she said. “Dont tell females to wear different clothes while you give the men substantive feedback on their legal arguments.”

When Garris took the Miss Teen USA stage Sunday, she did it with confidence as she wore her natural hair.

“I know what I look like with straight hair, with extensions, and with my curly hair, and I feel more confident and comfortable with my natural hair,” the 18-year-old from Connecticut told Refinery29.

When she began competing in pageants, Garris said she had to fight against beauty standards suggesting that straight hair was better than her natural curls.

There were people who told her how they thought she should style her hair, she said. But she ignored their criticism, and went on to win the title of Miss Connecticut Teen USA with her natural hair and then Miss Teen USA.

An opera singer, Franklin discovered her identity through music, she explained during the Miss America competition in September.

“I grew up at a predominately Caucasian school, and there was only 5% minority, and I felt out of place so much because of the color of my skin,” the 23-year-old North Carolina native said. “But growing up, I found my love of arts, and through music that helped me to feel positive about myself and about who I was.”

Representing New York, Franklin showed her passion for music when she sang “Quando men vo” from Puccinis “La Bohème.” Wowing the judges, she was crowned the 2019 Miss America.

This past year, she has been an advocate for the arts. She works with Sing for Hope, a nonprofit focused on helping people, including children and artists, through the power of music.


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