Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss America Are All Black Women for the First Time in History

May 7, 2019
Nia Franklin

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For the first time in history, all three crown-holders for America’s top beauty pageants – Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss America – are black women. 

No year in pageant history has shown three, simultaneous black winners, and at the pageants’ beginnings in the 1920s, women of color weren’t even allowed to participate. Years after allowing these women into the running, frustrations remained over whether they actually had a seat at the table with their crowns. 

Black contestants have only been crowned in the last 36 years, with Vanessa Williams taking the Miss America title in 1983, Carole Anne-Marie Gist taking Miss USA in 1990, and Janel Bishop being crowned Miss Teen USA in 1991.

Now, Cheslie Kryst (Miss USA), Kaliegh Garris (Miss Teen USA), and Nia Franklin (Miss America) are making history together as the group of black women who swept the 2019 pageant season for the first time ever. 

Here's a brief rundown of the remarkable ladies: 

Cheslie Kryst, Miss USA

On September 28, 2017, I was sworn in to the North Carolina Bar. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. This morning I had the privilege of being sworn in to the South Carolina Bar. Praise God for helping me to remain undefeated on the bar exam!! Many thanks to my family and friends for supporting me while I studied this summer (I hated every moment of it). Also, a huge thanks to my incredible firm and coworkers for the constant support and kind words I needed. #TwoBarShawty ----

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Kryst is an attorney, representing North Carolina where she spends most of her energy helping to reform the justice system, mostly working for prisoners who have been wrongly sentenced. 

Kaliegh Garris, Miss Teen USA

All you need is some hope✨————————— #dance#pageant#rignstones#dancecostume#naturalhair#teen#talent#stage#spotlight#missconnecticut#finalist#arabesque#dancer

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Representing the state of Connecticut, competitive dancer Garris is currently dually enrolled in Joseph A. Foran High School as well as the theater program at the Educational Center for the Arts. She preaches embracing natural beauty to her peers. 

Nia Franklin, Miss America

I spent my morning with pretty much the cutest children you can spend your morning with - babies and toddlers! About a month ago, Lincoln Center Education invited me to lead an engagement activity for kids aged 0-24 months along with their parents. We sang nursery rhymes, colored, played piano and ukuleles, and ate applesauce --------------I think they had a lot of fun, I know I did! #musicforlife

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Franklin is a singer, using her talents and love of music to inspire adults and children through the arts, working with the nonprofit Sing for Hope. She represents the state of New York.