A Gallery of Black Beauty Queens

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo -

Black is beautiful. With the election of Barack Obama as the (44th) first Afro-American President of the United States, black will be the brightest color not only in the (still) Land of Milk and Honey but beyond.

Inspired by Obama’s landmark victory, Funfare asked its “other beauty expert” Celso de Guzman Caparas (now working in Saudi Arabia) to make a list of Black Beauty Queens.

Here they are:

• Oprah Gail Winfrey — As 1971 Miss Black Tennessee, Oprah represented the state in the 1972 Miss Black America pageant. She was also 1971 Miss Fire Prevention of Nashville. An Emmy award winning television host/producer, Oscar and Golden Globe nominated best supporting actress, media mogul and philanthropist; Oprah received the highly coveted Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1998. She was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Important People of the Century and the only person to be listed five times in its annual list of 100 Most Influential People (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008).

• Vanessa Lynn Williams — Representing New York, Vanessa was the first woman of African-American descent to be crowned Miss America (1984, 63 years after Miss America pageant’s inception), only to resign after Penthouse magazine published her nude photos taken before the pageant. Vanessa kept her bejeweled crown, scholarship money and is officially recognized by the Miss America Organization as Miss America 1984. Her successor, Suzette Charles of New Jersey, is also black. Vanessa became an award-winning singer-songwriter, film and stage actress.

• Halle Maria Berry — She was Miss Teen-All American in 1985, Miss Ohio USA in 1986, first runner-up to Miss USA Christy Fichtner in 1986 and among the Top 6 finalists in 1986 Miss World (the first African-American entrant from USA). Halle made history as the first and only black woman to win the Oscar Best Actress (Monster’s Ball, 2002). She’s Esquire magazine’s 2008 Sexiest Woman Alive.

• Misses Universe — Janelle Penny Commissiong of Trinidad & Tobago (1977, also Miss Photogenic), Chelsi Mariam Pearl Smith of USA (1995, also Best In Swimsuit; she was Miss Congeniality in 1995 Miss USA), Wendy Rachelle Fitzwilliam of Trinidad & Tobago (1998, also Best National Costume) and Mpule Keneilwe Kwelagobe of Botswana (1999).

Chelsi was also the 1994 Miss South East Texas, a semi-finalist in the 1994 Miss Texas pageant, 1995 Miss Galveston County and 1995 Miss USA. Janelle, Wendy and Mpule were honored on commemorative stamps by their respective countries. Wendy recorded a jazz album and was admitted to the bar in 2000.

• Misses World — Jennifer Josephine Hosten of Grenada (1970), Giselle Jean-Marie LaRonde of Trinidad & Tobago (1986, also Queen of Americas), Lisa Hanna of Jamaica (1993, also Queen of Caribbean Isles) and Ibiagbanidokibubo “Agbani” Asenite Darego of Nigeria (2000, also Queen of Africa).

Lisa appeared in How Stella Got Her Groove Back and hosted a talk show called Our Voices. Agbani was a semi-finalist in the 2001 Miss Universe pageant, named 2001 Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria and joined the Face of Africa. Except for Lisa,all were honored on commemorative stamps by their respective countries.

• Miss International — Jeymmy Paola Vargas of Colombia won in 2004, the first and only black winner of this pageant. Jeymmy was also 2004 Reina Internacional del Café.

• Miss Earth — Winfred Adah Omwakwe of Kenya originally won as 2002 Miss Earth–Air (first runner-up). She ascended to the throne when 2002 Miss Earth winner, Dzejla Glavovic of Bosnia & Herzogovinia, was stripped of her title for failing to fulfill her duties.

• Miss Asia Quest — Eva Regina Arni of Papua New Guinea won in 1975, the first and only black to ever wear the crown in Miss Asia’s 40-year history. Then, she represented her country in the 1976 Miss Universe (won by Rina Messinger of Israel). In 1976, Eva did a movie with Joseph Estrada and Rita Gomez, titled Alas Singko ng Hapon Gising na Ang Mga Anghel.

• Misses USA — Carole Anne Marie Gist of Michigan (1990), Kenya Summer Moore, also of Michigan (1993), Lynnette Cole of Tennessee (2000), Rachel Renee Smith, also of Tennessee (2007) and Crystle Danae Stewart of Texas (2008).

Carole was first runner-up to 1990 Miss Universe Mona Grudt of Norway. She is a professional singer based in Midland and co-hosts a gospel show for the WORD network.

Kenya placed fifth runner-up to 1993 Miss Universe Dayanara Torres of Puerto Rico. She’s now an actress (film and television), model and author.

Lynnette placed fifth in the 2000 Miss Universe pageant (won by Lara Dutta of India). She was also 1995 Miss Tennessee Teen USA, third runner-up and Miss Photogenic at 1995 Miss Teen USA. She’s now a successful television host for NBC, CMT, ESPN, MTV, VH-1 and directs a preliminary for Miss Tennessee Teen pageant.

Rachel was fourth runner-up to 2007 Miss Universe Riyo Mori of Japan. She also won as third runner-up in the 2001 Miss Tennessee Teen USA before capturing the title in 2002. She was one of the semi-finalists and Miss Photogenic in the 2002 Miss Teen USA.

Crystle was one of the 10 semi-finalists in this year’s Miss Universe pageant won by Dayana Mendoza of Venezuela. She joined the Miss Texas USA pageant four times before she finally bagged the crown (semi-finalist in 2003, third runner-up in 2005, and first runner-up in 2006 and 2007).

• Misses America  —  Aside from Vanessa Williams and Suzette Charles, other black women who won as Miss America were Miss Missouri Debbye Lynn Turner (1990); Miss Illinois Marjorie Judith Vincent (1991), and Miss South Carolina Kimberly Clarice Aiken (1994).

Suzette became a singer, recording artist and television actress. Debbye hosted and produced television shows and is a national correspondent for CBS-TV’s The Early Show. Marjorie became a television news anchor.

(E-mail reactions at [email protected] or at [email protected])











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