Miss Black USA
Article via Washington Post
Late into Monday night, or shall we say in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, when everybody else was feeling tired and ugly, the final 15 contestants in the Miss Black USA pageant stood on the auditorium stage at the University of the District of Columbia. All glittery and poured into their evening gowns, curves revealed, cheeks aching from all that smiling. Lipstick still perfect.
They clapped prettily for their competition, pretty eyes glancing around, wondering whether the next girl might look better in that dress, might have a little bit more talent, might have that added crispness to her answers or a dimension that makes her sparkle a little more brightly before the judges seated in the audience below.
Wondering who would win the coveted title of Miss Black USA.
Jeweled dresses, bows, feathers, silver stilettos and stage whispers from the audience. “Keep your head up, girl, keep that pretty head up.”
It was a long evening full of spunk and sashays, those difficult pageant walks in which the upper torso is turned to impress the judges as the legs are walking across stage in another direction.
Around midnight, when the audience is losing steam, is hardly the time to take an assessment of the state of black beauty in a so-called post-racial era. And yet somebody has to do it.
It is necessary because a ceiling has been shattered and there is a black man in the White House. And where better to ask the question than at a black beauty competition: Why is there a need for a Miss Black Whatever in 2009?
Organizers say the Miss Black USA Scholarship Pageant was founded in Prince George’s County in 1986 to showcase leadership among African American women, and to provide an opportunity “to young women of color to develop the whole woman, mind, body and spirit.” This year’s 28 contestants (some states did not have representatives) were competing for, among other prizes, a $5,000 scholarship, free cosmetics from Black Opal and a trip to Ghana.
The contestants were tall and thin, short and round, an ample selection of black beauty. They wore their hair short, long, spiked, straight and natural, and with locks twisted into crowns piled on top of their heads, competing in a world that some say has found only a certain aesthetic beautiful, and has “been absolutely suffocating to women of color all over the world,” says one woman. You see Asian women changing their eye shape through surgery. Black women wearing blue contacts, Latinas bleaching their hair. All these contortions and foolishness going on to reach a Barbie doll standard.
The reason, they say, there needs to be a Miss Black Whatever: so black differences can be appreciated. Then the variety within a subculture can be fully explored and celebrated, and a beauty that does not conform to a dominant standard can be recognized. Because in the mainstream pageants, someone is always left out. Sometimes there can be years before a black winner emerges. In a black pageant, black beauty will win every time.
Earlier in the evening the smell of curling irons wafted backstage amid harried nerves and the rustle of evening dresses.
“I would say black beauty is all about embracing oneself, embracing individuality, uniqueness,” says Miss South Carolina, Molesey Knox Brunson, 26, a business owner from Columbia, S.C. “It’s different because instead of conforming to a certain ideal, we are allowed to define beauty on our own. We bring to the table what we think is beauty. We celebrate our curves. We celebrate our dark complexion. We celebrate our natural beauty.”
She twirls. Her black hair is natural and twisted into an updo. She has skin that looks like velvet. A dusting of Black Opal purple eye shadow. She is an intense beauty. “We celebrate our heritage, drawing strength from our foremothers all the way from Africa to our modern day sheroes, Oprah to Michelle Obama, we celebrate black women.” She stops. “I really should go.” Then she disappears into a dressing room full of steam and women applying makeup, chaperones smoothing dresses.
Pageants are not for the shy, and no one thinks defining black beauty is too hard a question. Because the question is like those that contestants have to answer in the final competition, smiling and not flinching or stuttering.
There is Breyuna Williams, 28, Miss Black D.C., a graduate of Howard University School of Law. She has competed in other pageants in the USA Pageant system as well as the Miss Georgia Teen Pageant. But with this Miss Black USA Pageant, she feels a difference. “There is more of a sisterhood,” she says. “We have doctoral candidates, historians, teachers. It is a competition, of coon Miss Black USAurse. Only one person will take the title of Miss Black USA. But we are patting each other on the back.”
By DeNeen L. Brown
Oprah Speaks to Miss Black USA Contestants
MISS BLACK USA IS MORE THAN A PAGEANT, IT’S A MOVEMENT
“This is 2012. For the first time in history, we’ve got an African American First Lady, and sisters in positions of prestige & power at powerhouse corporations and organizations. It’s time to redefine what it means to be a courageous, compassionate & CONFIDENT black woman today. We’ve got obstacles to overcome and stereotypes to smash. Sound like your kind of revolution? “
So , beside Oprha, what type of women suceed in this type of competition? Women like Selena Watkins, winner of the 2012 Miss Black USA pagent.
” She is a Fitness Trainer, Professional Dancer, and aspiring Multimedia Personality. Meet Miss Black USA 2012, Selena Watkins, a Magna Cum Laude Graduate of Rutgers University with a BFA in Dance and in Journalism/ Media Studies.
Born in Texas, and raised in Yonkers, New York, Selena has learned that humility, positivity and perseverance will take you on the highest road.
As a first generation Antiguan-American, Selena values her parent’s courage to immigrate to the United States. Growing up in a West Indian household meant a push towards higher education, spiritual growth and self-discipline. Selena’s parents made sure that her core values illuminated in her work ethic and all that she pursues.
As a Fitness and Dance Instructor, Selena teaches many classes in gyms and clubs throughout New York City and Westchester County including ballet core, afro-Caribbean dance, total body toning, cardio boot camp, hip-hop aerobics and stiletto heels.
Selena also has experience as a radio producer. She started as an intern for Angie Martinez on Hot 97 and in less than a year began working for sister station 98.7 Kiss FM. She became an Assistant Producer for the DL Hughley Morning Show with Jacque Reid and producer of “Champagne & Bubbles w/ Andre Harrell.”
With all that she does, Selena still makes time for her biggest passion, which is to perform as a professional dancer. She continues to train with renowned choreographers in New York City, honing her skills in hip-hop, dancehall and world jazz.
As Miss Black USA, Selena’s civic platform is the Heart Truth Campaign. Heart disease is the leading killer of women in this nation and 1 in every 4 women die of heart disease. Through this partnership, Selena will bring awareness to the Heart Truth, ways to keep a healthy heart and lead a fit life. “