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Black Women Make History Again, Winning All 3 Major US Beauty Pageant Titles

Black Women Make History Again, Winning All 3 Major US Beauty Pageant Titles

By Megan Ambers


There was a lot of excitement in the beauty pageant world in 2019, with the news that five Black women had won in some of the world’s most prestigious beauty pageants, including Miss Teen USA, Miss America, Miss USA, Miss Universe and Miss World. 

It was the first time in history this was ever accomplished. Women of color continue to break down barriers in beauty pageants, evidenced by the latest winners, despite a long history of segregation and racism.

The win of Miss USA 2021 by Elle Smith of Kentucky was not only a historic victory for the state, but it also brought home the title for other Black women — including Miss Earth 2021 and Miss Teen USA 2021. 

Destiny Wagner of Belize, Miss Earth 2021, and Breanna Myles of Florida, Miss Teen USA 2021, broke barriers by becoming the first women from the areas they represented to win titles in their respective pageants. 

Here are some exciting and fun facts about our newly crowned queens. 

Elle Smith, Miss USA 2021

Elle Smith, Miss USA, has much more to offer than just beauty. The 23-year-old received a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and is currently a reporter for WHAS-TV, an ABC affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky, according to Meaww.

In 2019, following her studies at Florence University of the Arts in Florence, Italy, Smith interned with WLEX-TV for eight months and worked as a college associate for Fox News. From August 2019 to October 2020, Smith served as vice president of the University of Kentucky chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).

WHAS11 reports that Smith, being the least experienced of the queens aforementioned, competed in her first pageant in May this year, earning her the Miss Kentucky 2021 title. Smith is the second Miss Kentucky in history to win the achievement of Miss USA.

Smith cited her grandmother as the inspiration behind her advocacy for cervical cancer awareness.

“My mother is a classically trained pianist, so I played viola, piano, and sang,” Smith shared during a statement in the Miss USA pageant. “Music has been an integral part of my family life thanks to my late grandmother, who sadly passed away in 2015 due to cervical cancer.”

In addition, the beauty queen called for environmental awareness by businesses.

“We’ve got to look at it from a macro and also a micro level,” Smith said. “So at the macro level, companies need to switch to green energy — I think that’s something we can all agree to.”

Now, she’s on her way to Israel for the Miss Universe 2021 pageant.

As reported by The Manila Times, Belize’s Destiny Wagner made history by winning Miss Earth 2021 — the country’s first win of any kind in the international beauty competition.

Wagner, who now aims to raise awareness about the environment, conservation, and social responsibility, was born in Punta Gorda, Belize. After completing her primary education in Belize, Wagner migrated to the United States to pursue higher education. After returning home, she engaged in various social activism activities, including marine conservation.

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“My country has never placed at Miss Earth before, nor have we ever had an international crown. So right now, this is what we needed, and I am happy to represent such a gorgeous country,” Wagner said upon winning the pageant.

“I am overwhelmed right now with emotions. The words and the gratitude, it’s very hard to express, but I am thankful. I am thankful for the Miss Earth organization and thankful for my team as well.”

Breanna Myles, Miss Florida Teen, is the first Miss Teen USA from the Orange state. The Port St. Lucie teen was named Miss Florida Teen USA 2021 and USA National Miss Florida Jr. Teen 2018.

The half-Black, half-Dominican beauty queen owns a small business called “Bre’s Digital Designs,” where she creates custom digital portraits for clients. Myles, 18, also founded GEMS: Girls Everywhere Making Strides, to inspire young women to become active members of their communities.

The GEMS mission is to empower young women by providing a rewarding community-service volunteering experience. After graduating from Indian River State College with honors and an associate of arts degree, Breanna Myles will attend Florida State University in the fall. She is pursuing dual degrees in computer science and musical theatre, hoping to work as a software engineer.

Her goal is to inspire young girls to pursue careers in STEM fields with confidence, drive and passion.

For decades, women of color were barred from Miss America contests. Together, their wins show how the competitions have evolved.


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