I'd like to take a few minutes to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to draw some attention to the amount of black girl magic we've had the opportunity to witness at the past few Miss USA pageants.
It's our social obligation to root for everyone that's black, and it helps when they're also hella qualified. Both Miss Florida and Miss Kentucky stole the show and our hearts last night as they fought their hardest until the very end for the crown.
Both of the southern beauties shine on and off stage, as they both are pillars in their community and hometown heroes in their own right. Miss Kentucky, Braea Tilford is a style blogger who runs a leadership organization for young girls and Miss Florida, Genesis Davila, runs a non-profit dedicated to those affected by natural disasters. Although neither queen took home the win, both ladies made sure to show up and do it for the culture, proving the importance of representation.
In the past, especially as a child, I could never bring myself to get excited about an award show that featured a panel of contestants that looked nothing like me. Our struggles were not the same, and I could not identify with any piece of their brand that was reflective of who I was as a young woman of color.
Women like Kenya Moore, Chelsi Smith and Carole Gist challenged traditional beauty standards and engaged in an active fight against white supremacy by running and being victorious in a game that was never set up for them to win.
Last year was the first time I've really gotten excited about a beauty pageant. Kara McCullough's victory made her the 66th Miss USA winner and the 10th black woman to hold the title in the pageant's 67-year history. Kara's win was the second time that two black women have been consecutively crowned, proving that there has been a major shift in society's definition of "beautiful" and that shift includes a whole lot of melanin.
Kara and I attended the same HBCU, and though she and I didn't know each other well, I was so proud to relish in her accomplishment with my peers. I felt empowered in knowing that a woman who looks like me and graduated from my Alma Mater could have the power to influence the country, especially in today's political climate.
Kara told Refinery29 that she struggled with deciding whether facets of her blackness would would interfere with her ambitions.
"When I choose to wear my hair curly, I was afraid. I didn't know if people were going to accept it...if anyone was going to be receptive to it at all."
She explained how her decision to wear her hair curly that fateful night was rooted in self-love.
"When I chose to wear my hair natural I had a lot of support from many people, essentially, I decided to embrace what made me feel comfortable, embrace what makes me feel the best and brightest on stage. But also embrace what other people can relate to, so that typical, traditional sleek hair, big tease, not to say it's gone out the window, but it's transitioning a lot."
When asked if she had always made this decision when competing, she said:
"Not at all, it's a new thing — and that's because no one looked like me on television, no one looked like me in commercials, no one looked like me on stage."
This year's melanated contestants, Kara, and her predecessors prove to our daughters that black women can be beauty queens too. If we keep this up, the next pageant will smell like cocoa butter and peach cobbler because black beauty is here to stay, honey.