Brianna Mason has plenty for which to celebrate this morning.
In a historic year that has seen quite a few women of color win beauty pageants, Mason, a first-grade teacher from Nashville, became the first Black woman to win the top statewide beauty contest in Tennessee’s 80-year history, according to CNN affiliate WATE.
This makes Mason eligible to participate in the Miss America Scholarship competition later this year. Miss America is a different competition from the Miss USA pageant system, which also includes Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe competitions.
Also, for the first time in history, the reigning Miss America, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA are all Black women – which is quite a ginormous feat considering the racist past of many beauty pageants.
The older pageants, some of which date back to the 1920s, formerly banned women of color from participating. Even after Black women, and other women of color were allowed to compete, these same pageants still didn’t always treat or judge them fairly. From the 1920s, it took nearly 60 years for Black women to actually win any national beauty competition.
Vanessa Williams became the first Black Miss America in 1983 — making us all proud — however her title was abruptly stripped from her a short while later after Penthouse published nude photos. Carole Anne-Marie Gist was the first Black woman to be crowned Miss USA in 1990. And Janel Bishop became the first Black Miss Teen USA in 1991.
The women of color who won national beauty contests this year include Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst, who is a civil litigation lawyer offers help to prisoners pro bono. Nia Franklin, an opera singer, became this year’s Miss America and Kaliegh Garris won Miss Teen USA 2019, competing with her natural hair.
Ladies, we applaud your achievements and are rooting for your success!
Brianna Mason has won the Miss Tennessee scholarship pageant, CNN affiliate WATE reports, becoming the first African-American woman to win the title in the pageant’s eight-decade history https://t.co/FqLNyCCVEr pic.twitter.com/VWiomjEDF7
— CNN (@CNN) June 30, 2019