Beauty pageants earlier, around the 1920s, barred women of color from participating. Though the rules were obviously changed, there was still a lot of oppression and frustration.
It is the year of firsts. This time, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss America are all black women. This is the first time in the history of pageants that this has happened. If you know pageant history, then this is a pretty big deal. According to CNN, beauty pageants earlier, around the 1920s, barred women of color from participating. Though the rules were obviously changed, there was still a lot of oppression and frustration. From that to this, is a huge achievement. It is only in the last fifty years that women of color have been more prevalent in these competitions.
To take a look back at history, 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. Now, when Cheslie Kryst was named 2019's Miss USA on Thursday, she became part of a historic trio, along with 2019 Miss Teen USA Kaleigh Garris and 2019 Miss America Nia Franklin. Here's what you need to know about the three of them.
Miss USA Cheslie Kryst works on behalf of prisoners, as the 28-year-old is an attorney with a mission to help reform America's justice system. She's received three degrees from two colleges. Kryst, who is from North Carolina, practices civil litigation for a law firm. Her passion is to help prisoners who have been unjustly jailed get reduced or no punishments. The best part of it is that she does all of it for free.
In a video played during this week's competition, Kryst shared a story about how a judge at a legal competition suggested she wear a skirt instead of pants because judges prefer skirts to pants. "Glass ceilings can be broken wearing either a skirt or pants," she said. "Don't tell females to wear different clothes while you give the men substantive feedback on their legal arguments."
Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris was crowned on Sunday and she did so in her natural, beautiful curls. "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. She spoke about how she had to fight against beauty standards when she was told that straight hair is better than curls.
She spent a lot of time straightening it but stopped one day. At first Garris had doubts about her curly hair, but eventually, she began to embrace her new look. "When I was younger, I debated if it was the right thing. But as I've gotten older, it makes me feel unique," she says. She ignored everyone's criticism and went on to win the title of Miss Connecticut Teen USA with her natural hair and then Miss Teen USA. More power to you!
Miss America Nia Franklin had a lot of help from music, and now she's trying to do the same to children, to try and inspire them. Franklin is an opera singer, and during the competition, she explained how she discovered her identity through music. "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," she added. Franklin, who represented New York, showed her passion for music when she sang "Quando m'en vo'" from Puccini's "La Bohème." Wowing the judges, she was crowned the 2019 Miss America. She's an advocate for arts and hopes to help people, especially children, and artists, through the power of music.