A History-Making Moment

July 12, 2019

It was a crowning moment (pardon our pun!) … In 1983, Vanessa Williams became the first African American woman to be crowned Miss America. It was a historic moment because the pageant once had a rule that said all “contestants must be of good health and of the white race.” While that rule was abandoned in 1940, it wasn’t until 1970 that Cheryl Adrienne Browne Hollingsworth became the first African American contestant to enter the pageant. In 1990, Carole Anne-Marie Gist became the first African American woman to win the title of Miss USA (not to be confused with the Miss America pageant), and a year later Janel Bishop became the first African American woman to win the title of Miss Teen USA.

America’s top pageants have had a history of exclusion, and while the organizers have made efforts to be more inclusive and change rules, requirements, and even competitions, to reflect how women should be portrayed, it’s been a slow process. That’s why when Miss North Carolina’s Cheslie Kryst was named Miss USA earlier this year, it was a history-making moment. With her win, three major pageant titles, Miss America, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA, have been awarded to African American women in the 2018-2019 pageant year. Last month, Brianna Mason added to this historic year by winning the Miss Tennessee title. She is the first African American to ever receive this title and will be competing in the Miss America pageant later this year.

What’s been a crowning moment in your life?