Marie Claire - US
United States Yas Queens Image Credit: Marie Claire - US
United States Yas Queens Image Credit: Marie Claire - US

United States - Yas Queens

For the first time in pageant history, all three crowns belong to African American women

Adrienne Samuels Gibbs

When Cheslie Kryst of North Carolina became Miss USA in May, her victory represented more than a personal achievement: It marked the first time black women held all three major pageant titles simultaneously. Kryst joined Miss America Nia Franklin of New York, who was crowned last fall, and Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris of Connecticut, who won her title in April, and together the women set a new standard for what beauty queens look like. Senator and presidential hopeful Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) called the trio “trailblazers.” Gayle King described them as a “trifecta of black girl magic,” celebrating just how far pageants have come since the days when black women were barred from competing. (Miss America, which began in 1921, required contestants to be of “the white race” for its first two decades; the first-ever black Miss America, Vanessa Williams, was crowned in 1983; Miss USA, created in 1952, saw its first African American winner in 1990; Miss Teen USA followed a year later.)

The milestone was also a much-needed bright spot for the pageant organizations, both of which have faced controversy in recent years. In 2015, NBC and Univision cut ties with Donald Trump, co-owner with NBC of the Miss Universe Organization—the umbrella group that includes Miss USA and Miss Teen USA—after he insulted undocumented Mexican immigrants during a speech announcing his run for president. Trump sued and sold the organization after buying


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