May 8, 2019
BY Minyetta Nelson
Despite a long history of segregation and racism, America’s top pageants have broken racial barriers in recent years. 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. Each competition has had multiple black winners since. Last week, for the first time, black women wore the crowns of all three major pageants simultaneously. 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 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 under-represented in other fields, like corporate America or in Congress.