Beauty Queens

Smile and wave... Smile and wave...

Such is the routine etiquette for a beauty pageant contestant, especially that of a winner. But in the history of two of the longest running competitions, the Miss America and Miss USA pageants, not too many contestants are afforded that opportunity.

Miss America began as a 'beauty contest' in 1921, with the swimsuit and evening wear categories making up about 35 percent of the overall score, but today's ruling guard prefers the term "scholarship pageant," because the primary prizes for the winner and her runners-up are scholarships to the institution of their choice. The pageant began in Atlantic City, New Jersey and was held there in September of each year, but has since moved to Las Vegas, Nevada (in 2006).

The contestants are judged in five categories:
1) Personal Interview
2) Talent
3) Lifestyle & Fitness in Swimsuit
4) Evening Wear
5) Onstage Question

In regards to the competition's selection and inclusion of women of color (read: Black Women), it's been a rocky relationship. In 1984, Vanessa L. Williams became the first Black Miss America, but after 10-months into her reign, a scandal broke involving her being photographed nude (years prior to the competition). Williams resigned her title, and her first runner-up, Suzette Charles (another Black woman), became the second Black Miss America, fulfilling the remaining seven-weeks of the crown's duty.

Here's a list of Black Women that have won the crown of Miss America:

1984- Vanessa L. Williams (New York)

1984 B- Suzette Charles (New Jersey)

1990- Debbye Turner (Missouri)

1991- Marjorie Vincent (Illinois)

1994- Kimberly Aiken (South Carolina)

2003- Erika Harold (Illinois)

2004- Ericka Dunlap (Florida)

2010- Caressa Cameron (Virginia)

Moreover, in the competition of Miss USA, there are fewer Black women that have won the title. Wikipedia.org reports that the Miss USA beauty contest took to the stage in 1952, originally to select a US competitor for the Miss Universe pageant, operated by the Miss Universe Organization (which also runs Miss Teen USA). Unlike the Miss America pageant, there is no talent section at Miss USA, it was conceived in 1950 when Yolande Betbeze, winner of the rival Miss America pageant refused to pose for publicity pictures while wearing a swimsuit. Pageant sponsor Catalina decided to pull their sponsorship off the pageant, and create their own competition. The first Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants were held concurrently in Long Beach, California in 1952; the first Miss USA winner was Miss New York USA Jackie Loughery.

The delegates are judged in three categories:
1) Evening Gown
2) Swimsuit
3) Interview

In 1990, Carole Gist became the first Black Miss USA.

Here's a list of Black Women that have won the crown of Miss USA:

1990- Carole Gist (Michigan)

1993- Kenya Moore (Michigan)

1995- Chelsi Smith (Texas)
* also won the Miss Universe crown

2000- Lynette Cole (Tennessee)
* of Puerto-Rican descent

2002- Shauntay Hinton (District of Columbia)
* this year marked the first time that 4 out of the 5 five finalists were African American.

2007- Rachel Smith (Tennessee)

2008- Crystle Stewart (Texas)

Hopefully, we will see more women of color breaking down the barriers of beauty- not just in pageants, but in society.

* Here is the 2002 Miss USA crowning, where for the first time in its history, 4 out of 5 finalists were Black.

Miss USA 2002: Winner, Shauntay Hinton of the District of Columbia.
The runners-up were:
1st runner-up - Lindsay Douglas (Kansas)
2nd runner-up - Kelly Lloyd (Indiana)
3rd runner-up - Lanore VanBuren (Minnesota)
4th runner-up - Alita Dawson (Connecticut)

www.missamerica.org, www.missuniverse.com/missusa, www.answers.com, www.findarticles.com/bnet, www.jimmyspageantpage.com, www.youtube.com/gojackets

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