It has been a historic year for black women in pageantry. We’ve seen black women take major crowns before but never in this volume, and never so many in one year. There are five Black women currently holding major pageant titles: Miss Teen USA, Kaliegh Garris, Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi, Miss America, Nia Franklin, Miss World, Toni-Ann Singh, and Miss USA, Cheslie Kryst.
But there’s something the media is neglecting to share with you about this historic group of diverse, black female beauty: There are actually more winners to celebrate.
The media is only hyping up the women in the Miss category likely because people are most familiar with Miss America, but that’s only the pageant for 18-25-year-olds. There are a bevy of other titles to compete for in older age groups and in married categories, and this year a bunch of black women swept up those crowns too.
There’s my friend Adri Maisonet-Morales – yes, I had to let everyone know that she’s my friend because I’m super proud of her – who won Ms. International 2019. There’s Mrs. America Natalie Winslow, and Ms. America International, LaTresa Doleman. All of them are the first women of color to hold their respective titles.
This is certainly not to take anything away from the Misses. Black women – and men –around the world, young and older, are ecstatic to see this diverse group of women of color be celebrated for their beauty and accomplishments. And their accomplishments are no joke. Beauty queen is almost a misnomer given the wide range of make-the-world-a-better-place careers these women hold.
Representation is important. Inclusion even more so. We all need to see these diverse beauties be celebrated on an international stage, so that we can shoot down antiquated notions of what beauty is and what it looks like.
If this group is any indication, there is no longer a universal beauty standard, if there ever was. Though all of the women I’ve mentioned here are of color, they are an incredibly diverse bunch in appearance, in origin, skin color, hair style and – this is a great one – in body type. My friend Adri is holding it down for the size 14 and over set. She also has one of the darkest skin tones I’ve ever seen wear a crown.
Can we just talk about the crown for a minute? I interviewed my girl a month or so ago while I was visiting her – It’s a great interview but I hesitated to upload it to YouTube because the sun was absolutely playing us that day. Watch for it though. I’ll post it soon. – and I got to see Adri in action when I tagged along with her to an event. Both sash and crown are so fabulous, they literally travel in their own cases, and the cases are fabulous too.
And before you ask, no. I didn’t ask to try them on. Not that I have anything against sparkles of such significance – I think tiaras are one of the most underrated pieces of jewelry out – but that’s like asking to try on somebody else’s diamond ring; it’s just not done.
No, I was quite content to watch her cut an elegant swathe through the crowd, watching people stare and whisper and shyly approach to speak with her. I was – I am – proud to be her friend because I know personally that Adri isn’t just a pretty face. She’s kind, considerate, ridiculously smart and accomplished, an award-winning C-level executive, who, as I write this is attending a pre-graduation event in celebration of her third graduate degree.
I’ll spare you the school. She’ll probably raise a brow at me for bragging, but really. Is it bragging if you’re telling the truth? Accomplished winners like Adri are the reason the old stigma around beauty pageants is slowly dying away. It’s gratifying and encouraging to watch black women play a big role in that process, breaking down major barriers and stereotypes along the way.
The women mentioned here are all power players in their own right: executives, soon-to-be doctors, lawyers, advocates for diversity, champions for the underprivileged and neglected, protectors against gender-based violence and more. Their credentials and good works are so legit. That’s something.
Not only are these black women being celebrated for their external appearance, they’re offering the world the complete package: beauty, brains and heart. It’s not mandatory, certainly, but when you put a crown on someone’s head, there’s no denying that person is special, worthy, deserving of respect, consideration, and protection. So, here’s to 2019’s historic crop of diverse, black pageant winners. They’re opening doors and paving the way for many other women of color to follow in their footsteps.
P.S. I’m so proud of you, Adri. Thank you for letting me work with you while you were competing, and for being the best friend a woman could have.