By: N.L. Preston
“Six of the brightest and loveliest young women in America are standing on our stage. One of them will be the new Miss America and the winner of a $25,000 college scholarship,” host Gary Collins said. “And our new Miss America is Vanessa Williams, Miss New York!”
And there she was, beautiful, talented and a history maker. It was September 1983 and the world, as we believed, was on fire. A proud black woman strolled the catwalk waving the queen’s salute.
It wasn’t the first time for the world stage, Miss Trinidad and Tobago’s Janelle Commissiong, became the first Black woman to be crowned Miss Universe in 1977, but this was, indeed, a pivotal point for America.
And as proud as we were of our Bronx beauty, there remained a big, pink elephant in the room: she looked more white than black, with light skin and blue eyes.
“Some of the criticism I got was, ‘Oh well, it’s not really a win because she’s not black enough,” Williams said about her historic win. “Well, she’s got light eyes, so it doesn’t really count,’ which basically negated my achievement, intellect and talent.”
Williams, while definitely deserving the crown, also fit the European standard of beauty that whites found “acceptable” for African American women.
After Williams, a few other African Americans donned the crown in various national pageant competitions (we could never forget Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Kenya Moore who was the second Black woman to be crowned Miss USA), but compared to their white competitors, our numbers were no match.
That is – until now. The reign of the Black Queen is back and with a vengeance — and Black women have, unapologetically, swept the field of pageantry in every major field.
Miss World 2019 Toni-Ann Singh, Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin, Miss Teen USA 2019 Kaliegh Garris, Miss USA Cheslie Kryst and Miss Universe 2019 Zozibini Tunzi have given us something to shout about.
What’s even better? They are all beautiful shades of light and darkness; rocking hair that is kinky, curly, relaxed and close-cropped naturals as “crowns of glories” beneath their tiaras.
Tunzi faced some scrutiny by deciding to ignore advice to hide her tapered semi-mohawk, telling Business Insider, “even a lot of people I knew, people that were my friends, were like, ‘Sis, we love you, but we’re just saying, maybe you should put on a wig or buy a weave.'”
Being true to her Blackness paid off in the end.
Singh may have summed it up best, writing to her Instagram fans.
“My Jamaica, sweet Jamaica, we did it! Wah we seh? LIKKLE BUT WE TALLAWAH. The love and support you poured into me now allows me to pour into the world,” the post read, in part. “To that little girl in St. Thomas, Jamaica and all the girls around the world – please believe in yourself. It’s for you to truly understand that no matter where you’re from and the cards you’re dealt in life – your dreams are valid. You have a PURPOSE.”
So what is the fascination behind the black queens? Why are they now accepting us?
Could it be the excitement of our first Royal black princess Meghan Markle, who stole Prince Harry’s heart and earned the title of ‘Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex’? Could it be the wedding watched around the world with Markle famously arriving at Britain’s Windsor Castle with her brown-skinned Mama, Doria Ragland, by her side, rocking braided twists and sporting a nose ring?
Or could it be that after years of the “swagga jackin” — yes, that is a term — and the “cultural appropriation” of white women taking credit for the Negro/ Black / Afro-American / African American mannerisms, looks, style and flair (waving to the Kardashians), the realization has set in that while you can imitate, you can never fully duplicate.
No matter how much collagen one can pump up in the lips or how much transferred fat one can place in the hips, NOTHING is like a Black woman. We are the original goddesses of this Earth, descendants of the original man and a force to reckoned with whether recognized on stage, on television or in the corner store. When Maya Angelou poetically rapped about the phenomenal woman — the vision in her head had an ebony hue. Always remember what she said……
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
Take your bows, you phenomenal queens, you deserve all that and more. We at African American News and Issues salute you!
Definition of the day: cultural appropriation
The unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.