Fresh Content

...of Bouquets and Blackness

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

by Jasmine Ledesma

Last year, three of the most prestigious and sought out awards in pageantry — Miss USA, Miss America and Miss Teen USA — were all earned by three black women. This has never happened before within our country’s history but will hopefully become a trend in the years to come. Miss USA was earned by Cheslie Kryst, a twenty-seven-year-old, licensed attorney from the suburbs of North Carolina. "In the winning moment, the camera flings dramatically as her name is called in front of a massively supportive audience." Kryst’s face is hidden by her mass of curly black hair but we can see her shoulders shaking in excitement and relief. As the starry crown is then placed on her head, the burst of pink and red flowers in her hands shake as she exclaims silently. Not a word is spoken from Kryst. She is wonderfully speechless.

The year before, the spot was given to Sarah Rose Summers, a twenty three year old student and child life specialist from the haunted town of Fort Worth. Her reaction was classic---hands to her face as she screams in disbelief. Her brown eyes contrasted against her straight bleached, blonde hair might lead some to call her an unconventional beauty. Last year, she was the one to put the crown onto Kryst’s head. The end of her reign.

Since her win, Kryst has been the subject of much intrigue across the media. Now a stunning twenty-nine, she has been all but slowing down. Ever socially conscious, Kryst has founded a successful fashion blog titled White Collar Glam which is a site dedicated to helping every day women dress professionally within the context of their white collar jobs. Additionally, shortly after her win, Kryst became a correspondent for the popular news site Extra in which she reports on important news happening around her. Her Instagram houses a plethora of updates on the undoubtable star; from adorning red carpets to speaking out on gaining twenty well deserved pounds, Kryst has no plans to stop being an inspiration.

Miss America of last year was earned by Nia Franklin, a twenty-six-year-old opera singer coincidentally also from North Carolina. In the past, Franklin has written operas and holds an impressive Master of Music from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Additionally, before her win, Franklin founded a music club for students among various charter schools. When she was crowned, Franklin cried humbly, clutching her chest with her hand. Since winning, Franklin has gained nearly seventy thousand followers on Instagram where she keeps fans updated. Over the last few months, she has put out a new single affectionately titled EarthSun and will make her promising debut in The King and I on Broadway. She loves The Color Purple.

Finally, the title of Miss Teen USA was earned by nineteen-year-old Kaliegh Garris, a Connecticut native. Though young, she has an impressive set of accomplishments on her back that seems beyond her years. Inspired by her elder sister’s struggles with disabilities, Garris founded We Are The People 1st, an organization that assists people with various and many disabilities. Before her big win, Garris won Miss Connecticut Teen USA on her first try, making it look easy. She is recognized within her community for her hard work. Since her win, she has enrolled in college at Southern Connecticut State University and looks forward to graduating in 2023. Across her Instagram, she can be seen sporting chunky Doc Martens, loose fishnet tote bags, pastel colored suits and of course — her almond brown, crown of an afro.

Pageantry, of course, has a sleazy underbelly like most American traditions. Originating in the golden year of 1921, Miss America, for example, waited a grotesque sixty two years before finally giving the crown to Vanessa Williams. This made her the first African American winner of the title.

However, with these beautiful, brilliant ladies’ footsteps to follow in the upcoming years, I am sure there are gorgeous wins to come.

Getty Images/Steven Ferdman (Nia Franklin), Paras Griffin (Chelsie Kryst), Arun Nevander (Kaliegh Garris)