Black women reign in five top beauty pageants, including Miss World and Miss Universe

Jamaica's Toni-Ann Singh, 23, was named Miss World on Dec 14, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (WASHINGTON POST) - The crowning of Miss World on Saturday (Dec 14) marks the first time that the titles for five top beauty contests have been won by black contestants.

On Saturday, Jamaica's Toni-Ann Singh, 23, was named Miss World, joining Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi, 26; Miss America Nia Franklin, 26; Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, 28; and Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris, 19, to set that milestone.

"To that little girl in St Thomas, Jamaica and all the girls around the world - please believe in yourself," Singh wrote on Twitter.

"Please know that you are worthy and capable of achieving your dreams.

"This crown is not mine but yours. You have a purpose."

Singh, who graduated from Florida State University with degrees in psychology and women's studies, plans to attend medical school.

These pageants have always struggled to reflect onstage the diverse array of women who make up the world's population.

For decades in the United States, contestants were exclusively white because women of colour were not allowed to participate.

In 1970, the year that a deeply divided South Africa sent a black representative and a white representative to Miss World, Jennifer Hosten of Grenada took the title, becoming the first woman of colour to win.

In 1977, Janelle Commissiong, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago, was crowned the first black Miss Universe.

Vanessa Williams became the first black woman to win the Miss America title in 1983.

The franchises have evolved over time, becoming more and more inclusive even as the pageant world continues to grapple with core criticism over female objectification.

Still, the slate of this year's winners show how far these contests have come, a breakthrough summarised in a powerful speech that Ms Tunzi, of South Africa, gave on Dec 8 just before she was crowned Miss Universe.

"I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me, with my kind of skin and my kind of hair, was never considered beautiful," Tunzi said.

"I think it is time that stops today.

"I want children to look at me and see my face. And I want them to see their faces reflected in mine."

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