How’s that for a little history?
When South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe during last night’s Miss Universe pageant, she added to a unique kind of pageant history. For the first time ever, four of the top pageants titles in the world all belong to black women. Tunzi joins 2019 Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, 2019 Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris and 2019 Miss America Nia Franklin.
In fact, the history of black women even winning top pageants is skewered thanks to black women being unable to participate due to discrimination. Only in the past 50 years, beginning with 1977’s Miss Universe Janelle Commissiong has the tied began to turn. Vanessa Williams was the first black Miss America in 1983, Carol Anne-Marie Gist was the first black Miss USA crowned in 1990 and in 1991, Janel Bishop became the first black Miss Teen USA.
Each of our current pageant representatives are working for the betterment of their fellow man. Tunzi is fighting against gender-based violence. Kryst works on behalf of prisoners with plans of criminal justice reform. The 28-year-old Kryst, a graduate of both the University of South Carolina (Bachelor of Science in Business Administration) and Wake Forest University (JD and MBA), works as an attorney to help prisoners who were unjustly convicted get reduced sentences, free of charge.
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I’m asking the people of South Africa to be part of the fabric of my Miss Universe National Costume by writing love letters that pledge support for the women of this country. It is my hope that these pledges will start, and continue a conversation around gender-based violence. We have to start the narration where right-thinking people act as role models for those who think it’s okay to mistreat women. That’s my aim with my campaign. To be part of my #MissSALoveLetter, make your pledge by visiting www.heforshe.org and share your message of love to the women of South Africa on Twitter and Facebook. By using #heforshe and #MissSALoveLetter as well as @official_misssa and @zozitunzi, your message of unity will be seen by the Universe.
Garris is defying pageant beauty standards, rocking her natural hair at every turn. “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 earlier this year.
For Franklin, a 23-year-old opera singer from North Carolina, music is how she found herself and now she’s impacting that same knowledge to children in the area. Congrats to all of these beautiful black queens!