www.essence.com

By Megan Sims

After becoming Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America, the three women are still reigning supreme and racking up the wins. The trio’s most recent achievement: appearing together on the cover of Essence magazine to honor the beauty of black women and the importance of inclusion.

In the feature, “Our Crowns, Our Glory: America’s Reigning Beauty Queens Are Black, Bold and Rocking Many Crowns,” Cheslie Kryst (Miss USA), Kaliegh Garris (Miss Teen USA) and Nia Franklin (Miss America) talk making history this year as their wins in their respective pageants marked the first time black women held those titles simultaneously.

“My title and my crown mean a chance to be inclusive,” Franklin said. “It gives me the opportunity to represent a group that has not always been represented in this country.”

Even when Vanessa Williams became the first black woman to win the Miss America pageant, her 1984 feat was shortly overshadowed by controversy as she not only received racist hate mail, she was also forced to give up her crown over nude photos taken prior to her win. Though Carole Gist won Miss USA in 1990, Janel Bishop won Miss Teen USA in 1991 and other black winners would go on to be crowned, Kryst noted that dated beauty standards often left women of color feeling unwelcome in beauty pageants.

“Pageants weren’t always welcoming to women of color. It took decades of persistence and courageous women showing the world a new kind of beauty,” Kryst said.

Garris said securing her title made such a difference in her life “not only because I am a woman of color but also because I am biracial.”

Social media users praised the beauty queens’ spread as Black Girl Magic.

“Essence you did a beautiful job on this cover. These women look both powerful and beautiful. I love it. Respect!” Erica Ross wrote on Facebook. “Stunning cover! Stunning and amazing women!” Brandi Ludlam Patten added.

Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Kenya Moore commented on Instagram, “My sisters look amazing!!!!” Actor Michael Ealy said, “Wow.”

Franklin herself commented too: “Just out here making my mom smile nbd.”