With the historic year Black women are having across the beauty pageant circuit, we have to take a moment to celebrate and highlight the women who shattered the industry’s glass ceilings.
In 1977, Janelle Commissiong of Trinidad and Tobago made news around the world when she became the first Black Miss Universe in 1977. She built her platform on advocating for world peace and for the rights of minorities of African descent.
Six years after Commissiong took the world by storm, Vanessa Williams became the first Black Miss America in 1983. Ten months after her groundbreaking win, Williams was forced to relinquish her crown due to a controversy surrounding photos she had taken in the past. However, in September 2015, the Miss America organization welcomed Williams back and apologized for how the situation was handled.
Then in 1990, Carole Anne-Marie Gist, stood on the shoulders of Commissiong and Williams when she became the first Black Miss USA at the age of 20. A native of Detroit, Michigan, Gist was also the first winner from the state of Michigan.
One year later, New Hampshire native Janel Bishop became the first Black Miss Teen USA.
All four trailblazers have built successful careers and are still actively involved in their respective communities. Commissiong is a business owner in Trinidad. Williams is an award-winning actress and singer. Gist is a health and fitness expert, and Bishop is a real-estate professional in Encino, California.
While there are numerous Black women who came after these women, we just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to the beautiful Black queens who opened the doors and helped made 2019 possible!