History was made last weekend when Brianna Mason was crowned Miss Tennessee, becoming the first African-American woman to win the title in the pageant’s eight-decade history. By winning Miss Tennessee she will now get the chance to compete in the Miss America pageant later this year.
This win is part of a larger trend of African American women making history in the Pageant system. The reigning Miss America, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA are all black women, a notable achievement because in the pageant system’s almost 100 year history, there have only been a few winners who were African-American. However, this year all three winners were African-American American, challenging conventional beauty standards and racial discrimination in the pageant system.
Most beauty pageants used to ban women of color from participating in the event. Later organizations would start to change their rules to accept women of all races, yet there was still a lingering opposition. Expanding true access to the beauty pageant system has been a long fight and this win shows that women are still paving the way for different types of people to be allowed to compete fairly in the pageant system. It was only a couple of years ago that the Miss Universe Pageant changed its rules to allow transgender women to compete. The fight to expand access still continues.
Media sources: CNN 07/01/2019; Feminist Newswire 04/11/2012