She joined Zozibini Tunzi as Miss Universe, Cheslie Kryst as Miss USA, Kalieh Garris as Miss Teen USA, and Nia Franklin as Miss America, who would soon crown her successor on Dec. 19. For the first time in history, black women held all five titles at once.
“To that little girl in St. Thomas, Jamaica and all the girls around the world — please believe in yourself,” Singh wrote on Twitter. “Please know that you are worthy and capable of achieving your dreams. This crown is not mine but yours. You have a PURPOSE.”
To that little girl in St. Thomas, Jamaica and all the girls around the world - please believe in yourself. Please know that you are worthy and capable of achieving your dreams. This crown is not mine but yours. You have a PURPOSE. pic.twitter.com/hV8L6x6Mhi
To that little girl in St. Thomas, Jamaica and all the girls around the world - please believe in yourself. Please know that you are worthy and capable of achieving your dreams. This crown is not mine but yours. You have a PURPOSE. pic.twitter.com/hV8L6x6Mhi— Toni-Ann Singh (@toniannsingh) December 14, 2019
Sigh, 23, has plans to attend medical school, but she is currently a graduate of Florida State University with degrees in psychology and women’s studies.
Tunzi, of South Africa, who was crowned Miss Universe on December 8 said, “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 beautiful,” An advocate for climate change and gender-based violence, Tunzi stated, “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.”
As more Black women are starting to embrace the natural texture of their hair, Kryst, an attorney with a law degree and an MBA from Wake Forest University, told Refinery29 that, “Although more women are competing with natural hair nowadays, there still aren’t many.” She added, “So, I was a little bit worried and anxious about doing it, but I thought, ‘I want to do it as the most real and authentic me,’ and that’s really what my hair represents.”
Her words did not fall on deaf ears, as Garris, who educates others about people with disabilities through her We Are People 1st organization, also accepted her jeweled crown while wearing her authentic crown of natural curls.
An opera singer with a master’s degree in music composition from the University of North Carolina, Franklin found her courage and positive self-love through her music.
During the Miss America competition, Franklin said, “I grew up at a predominantly Caucasian school and there was only five percent minority, and I felt out of place so much because of the color of my skin.” Though feeling like she didn’t belong, Franklin went on to say, “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.”
Because Black women were banned for many years from participating in some of the biggest pageants, these wins are a testament to how far the industry has come toward inclusivity. In the past, women with skin color, body forms, and hair that did not conform to the traditional beauty standards were often overlooked completely.
But things started to shift in 1977 when Janelle Commissiong of Trinidad and Tobago was crowned the first black Miss Universe. Crowned Miss America 1984 back in 1983, Vanessa Williams became the first black woman to win the Miss America title. In 1990, Carole Anne-Marie Gist became the first black Miss USA. And when she was named Miss Teen USA 1991, Janel Bishop became the first black winner of that pageant.
While some on social media are asking, “why does it have to be about color?” Others are rejoicing because beauty pageants have been mired in racism. Because when Black women were denied from competing in white pageants, they had to hold their own pageants in their own communities and college campuses.
So why does it have to be about color? Because a win for one is a win for us all.