Beauty pageants have always had a wild lack of diversity, as history has proven time and time again that pageants favor women who embody Euro-centric beauty standards. Then, in September 2018 a black woman from North Carolina named Nia Franklin shook things up when she was crowned Miss America 2019, marking the start of a groundbreaking 2019 pageant circuit for black women. What followed Franklin’s crowning was a historic year in pageant history, as the Miss Teen USA, Miss USA, Miss Universe, and now, Miss World crowns are currently held by black women.
On Saturday, December 14, Toni-Ann Singh of Jamaica was crowned Miss World. “To that little girl in St. Thomas, Jamaica and all the girls around the world—please believe in yourself,” she wrote on Twitter following her win. “Please know that you are worthy and capable of achieving your dreams. This crown is not mine but yours. You have a PURPOSE.”
Before Singh, Miss Universe placed a crown on the head of Zozibini Tunzi, who graced the stage with her gorgeous afro shaped into a tapered mohawk cut (even though she was told to wear a wig. Tunzi told Business Insider that “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.'” But Tunzi wanted to use the platform to make a statement instead.
“I’m saying beauty does not look one certain way,” she continued. “I’m telling women, you can be beautiful too if you want to. You can stand up and say ‘I’m beautiful the way that I am, with the shape that I am, with the skin color that I have, with the freckles that I have.'”
At the top of the year, Franklin was joined by Kaliegh Garris, who took home the Miss Teen USA title in April (wearing her natural curls) and Cheslie Kryst who was crowned Miss USA in May.
The pageant world has come a long way since Janelle Commissiong shook things up as the first black Miss Universe in 1977 and Vanessa Williams as the first black Miss America in 1983.