Congratulations to the new Miss USA 2021 Elle Smith from Kentucky.
The Television News Reporter took home the Mouawad Miss USA Power of Positivity Crown on Monday, November 29th at the River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Placing in fourth runner-up was Illinois’ Sydni Bennett, second runner-up, was Miss Florida USA’s Ashley Carino and placing as the First Runner Up was North Dakota’s Caitlyn Vogel.
Smith is a reporter for WHAS 11 News in Louisville, Kentucky and she won her state competition on her first try. She will be flown out to Israel to represent USA at the international Miss Universe 2021 competition to be held on December 15th.
According to her Alma Mater’s newspaper, during her years in the college at the University of Kentucky, she participated in the UK Student News Network, the Kentucky Kernel, WRFL and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) as the vice president during her senior year in college. It was through an NABJ conference where Elle landed her first job with WHAS-TV in Louisville.
“I felt so much support from staff, faculty, peers. And there are also so many different opportunities for journalism students,” she says, “I think those are what led me to get this job in Louisville right out of school.”
With this historic win for her state, Elle is moving into a luxurious downtown Los Angeles apartment, will receive a $100,000 salary along with a brand new porche to move around in true class all year long as part of the new Miss USA prize package under new leadership and all-around #GirlBoss Crystle Stewart.
Stewart was named the new President as Miss USA when she bought the national license from IMG/WMG back in November 2020. She was crowned Miss USA in 2008, which she used to launch a successful career in entertainment as an actress and as an entrepreneur and owner of the Miss Academy. With this Directorship, Stewart became the very first Black female owner of the iconic 70-year-old brand.
All 51 contestants competing in a preliminary competition round consisting of private interviews with the judges, evening gown and swimsuit. They each also showcases their unique which comes with her specific state during the Miss USA State competition.
Ahead of our #MissUSA2021 Finals Recap episode, you can grab your glass and tune into our thoughts about the new Miss USA ownership and our preview into the new look.
Who else is ready to see where the Miss USA Organization can go under Crystle’s ownership?
Crystle Stewart dropped a brand new website on our laps, serving us a sneak peak into the mind or dare I say, imagination of the former Miss USA mind and the new era of pageantry we are about to experience.
I caught wind of the changes, probably just like you, via the socials. All of a sudden, all of these fabulous pictures of Asya began emerging on the Instagram streets. New stunning looks, thick, free, big hair, some high buns like in the picture below and we are now really seeing Miss Teen USA Ki’ilani and Asya shooting together looking gorg! What was more so the loudest rumblings was the new prize package which and the full transparency of what the winner receives besides the obvious. Have we ever really known what Miss USA or Miss Teen USA was guaranteed to receive besides their shared apartment in New York City and dozens of appearances and modeling opportunities? It was always a bit underwraps for the rest of us.
However, Crystle is showing out and understands the full assignment of what a prize package should look like for a national titleholder. First off, there is a six-figure salary for the next winner! $100,000 salary off bat!! They also are changing the location of her apartment to the West Coast and providing her with a killer electric ride. Learn the details on this week’s episode of Pageants & Prosecco, The Podcast. I hop on the new website with you all and scroll and search around. My favorite update is the new color palate from the photoshoots of both Asya and Ki’ilani.
Grab a glass and hop on the new Miss USA website and scroll along with. I’d love to have you!
On the latest episode of Pageants & Prosecco, The Podcast, our former two-time Miss Illinois Earth titleholder Kristina Dechev is joining us to talk about what it was like to compete at Miss Earth USA twice and her platform “You Are Enough” aimed at creating more mentors for young women and those new to the pageant and modeling world.
Get to know more about this beauty in this week’s episode of Pageants & Prosecco. Press Play . . .
My interest in Miss India USA stemmed from my strong cultural roots. I have been dancing since I was six years old, and have always loved engaging with the Indian community back home through this.
Going for Miss India USA was a way to mesh my two cultures while pursuing a title outside of my comfort zone and I hope to use my platform to encourage this in all younger women.
I began prepping in the summer of 2019 before I began medical school. The first pageant, local version, was in November. Then I prepared over winter break for nationals. I had some outfit changes and interview prep to be done but the bulk was in the summer.
My mom helped a lot because I did not have that much time in medical school in between class and everything. I also had a few sessions with Marianne, a coach in Orlando, who helped me get on track initially because, as I said, this was my first pageant.
What tips would you give to pageant competitors?
Make sure you stay true to yourself. A lot of struggles I had with pageantry was trying to hide my science and medical background and it never helped. Only when I began to speak about it during interviews was I able to show my true self.
Do you have a favorite wine, or drink? Rose is my favorite!
Dream pageant gown designer? Sabyasachi (a famous Indian Designer)
What are your makeup go to’s for a quick beat?
Foundation and mascara, makes you look alive with the bare minimum
What was your first pageant competition? The Miss India Florida
Current read? Embarrassingly, my textbooks 😦
Which portion of competition is your fave?
I think the talent! I loved getting to share something I’m so passionate about with the audience and judges and make it my own. I’ve been dancing for so long and learned over 10 different styles!
If you could travel anywhere despite the pandemic, where would you go?
Iceland, the northern lights are top of my bucket list right now!
How do you balance your pageant, school, and personal life?
Its definitely a lot but i love everything I do and try to make them overlap as much as I can. Pageantry and medicine have no overlap but making them work together has been such an experience! I try to incorporate medicine in the stuff I do for Miss India such as my appearances or the talks that I host. I had one with American Medical Women’s Association about going beyond medicine and another thing coming up with a women physicians summit where I will be modeling.
Give us a good motivational quote that inspires you…
“Be the girl who decided to go for it.”
Would you consider yourself a hero?
Hopefully some day!
Who would you consider to be your hero?
Drop that skincare routine!
Glossier, Glossier, Glossier!! Three step routine with the face brush to really exfoliate. Twice a week NY Biology Charcoal mask.
Which artists are on your playlist?
Post Malone, Taylor Swift, and Lauv
How did you decide on your evening gown?
My evening gown was based on the princess vibe i wanted to have.
What are 3 words you would use to describe yourself?
Outgoing, enthusiastic, and passionate
Favorite junk food?
Jalapeno kettle chips
One global issue that tugs at your heart:
Global health disparities
What is your favorite movie?
How do you unwind on a Sunday evening?
Clean the apartment, put on a face mask, get in bed and watch some Netflix before the week begins.
Give us your best Pageant Patty answer: Describe your perfect date?
Those of us who have been around pageants have either watched or participated in a pageant where we thought the results were skeptical. However, the 2020 Miss Global pageant takes that suspicion to a whole other level! The depth of corruption was beyond belief over the weekend.
During Saturday’s pageant, held in Oaxaca, Mexico, viewers and contestants astonished by a certain sponsor’s push for Miss Mexico Global, Palmira Ruiz, to win the crown. Apparently, Miss Mexico was treated differently than the other 56 competitors. Speaking with local media following the debacle Miss Dominican Republic 2019, LeslieAnn Padilla said Palmira was treated better than the other competitors throughout the pageant. She claimed, “Mexico was always late to rehearsals and was always absent.” According to her, during the final show all the other contestants were crammed in a small area with no heat and were freezing changing in and out of their competition wear while Miss Mexico was comfortable with her two of her own heated rooms.
LesilieAnn says only her, Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, Cuba, and Venezuela spoke Spanish. This meant she could understand a lot of what was going on behind the scenes.
During a conversation with Pageants & Prosecco, she told us she overheard a man backstage with Van Pham the CEO and Founder of Miss Global. For safety reasons she chose not to disclose his name or position with the organization. She told Us it was this guy who told Van Pham, if Miss Mexico did not win, they would pull the plug on the entire televised show. LeslieAnn felt the need to call out the man for the unfairness and was threatened if she did not remain quiet!
This did not stop Miss Columbia Global, Jesenia Orozco from speaking out on stage during the pageant, “It’s fraud! There is a lot of corruption in Mexico and it’s unfair.” In order to attempt to silence her, staff played music over her protests. In videos from that night you can hear Jesenia saying, “It is disrespectful to all the women that worked hard to be here.” She went on to say the pageant was full of corruption and fraud, and the Miss Global Mexico representatives were giving Latinos a bad name.
However, it is important to know she and the other contestants don’t see the Miss Global organization as the ones to blame, “it should be on Miss Global Mexico.”
So, who was behind the scheme to crown Mexico as Miss Global? According to those close to the competition, it was one of the host country’s sponsor, Ramiro Gutierrez, who pressured the Miss Global organization to crown Miss Mexico the title; going so far as to threaten to cancel the entire broadcast if she was not selected. When the Miss Global Organization refused to meet his demands, Gutierrez carried out his threat and pulled the plug during the live televised broadcast, ending the pageant without a winner being crowned and before onstage questions began.
In the days following, Van Pham issued a public statement on behalf of the Miss Global Organization denouncing this behavior. He asserted that, while Guiterrez was one of the country’s sponsor, he is not affiliated with Miss Global. He expressed his support of Miss Columbia’s public protest onstage and said Guiterrez needed “to uphold the rules and procedures that Miss Global has always honored.” The public statement ended with the announcement of the winner, Karolína Kokešová, Miss Czech Republic (who reportedly had the highest score at the time of the interruption) and the organization’s commitment to maintain the integrity of their pageants in the future.
You can see his full statement here:
What do you think about the events and public outrage at Miss Global? Tell your thoughts below…
Everyone is in mourning right now. Kobe Bryant impacted more than the sports world, he touched everyone through the game and his love of basketball. Kobe, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, pilot Ara Zobayan, Mamba girls’ basketball assistant coach Christina Mauser, eighth grader Payton Chester and her mother Sarah Chester along with Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa, a teammate of Gianna’s, passed away on Sunday.
A moment the world will never forget and a name which will always be yelled when tossing a wad into the trash can. For many, like myself, this news comes with great sudden sadness as he represented who you can be if you have the drive, courage, God-like confidence with enough humbleness wrapped into his famous Mamba mentality. His tenacity, determination and motivation I am sure has been put in a few of our journals and on our vision boards as we prepared for that next level of competition.
Our timelines were flooded with love for the NBA Legend and his daughter GiGi. Similar to Los Angeles and the world, the pageant community as well is in mourning:
Remember, you are more than what you do (being an amazing titleholder), it’s who you are in Kobe’s famous words. As a pageant family, let’s look to Kobe’s legacy and continue to push the definition of excellence in our communities, our industry and on stage.
Pageant history was made in Omaha, Nebraska when Megan Swanson was crowned Miss Nebraska USA 2020. You see, Megan’s younger sister, Allie, is the current reigning Miss Nebraska and just competed at Miss America in December. Meaning both major state titles are held by the Swanson sisters! And they both competed at Miss America.
Megan shared her euphoria with Pageants & Prosecco, “I can’t even describe the feeling of having these next few months as LITERAL sister queens with my real-life sister.” This is not the first time history was made by these Swanson sisters. Both were also the first pair of sisters to win the coveted Miss Nebraska (MAO) title. Megan said her sister’s epic win last summer was “just the icing on the cake.” Things got even more serendipitous when Megan said the two won their titles wearing each other’s gown! Megan explained how this was not done on purpose, “it was what we had!”
Allie showed her excitement over her older sister’s Miss Nebraska USA win on social media, “can you believe that this is real life and that our dream come true?” Both of the sisters will reign together for the next 6 months. Allie expressed her gratitude, “still can’t get over how good God is!”
Last June, Allie won Miss Nebraska 2019 at the North Platte HS Performing Arts Center in North Platte, Nebraska. The 6’2 beauty shared on social media after she won she believed she had a shot at the Miss America crown because she’s a “powerhouse that will make you smile, laugh, think, and learn to love yourself for who you are.”
Pageantry unsurprisingly brought these two very close. Megan gushed about her sister, “she’s the best Miss Nebraska we’ve ever had, and almost doubled the organization in a year.” She went on to say how her little sister Allie, inspires her to be a better person each and every day. Megan even called Allie “part of my WHY to be Miss USA.”
So, what did the sisters do once they were both crowned? Of course, they went on a sister-sister media tour across the state. There is also more in the works, so be sure to follow both sisters on social media. Allie wants the public to know the sisters are only just beginning, “look out world… Here the Swanson sisters come!”
Pageantry turned political this week when Miss Black America Ryann Richardson posted her endorsement for Pete Buttigieg as our next President, a first for the pageant industry. In what’s otherwise considered a taboo topic, not just in pageantry but also at the Thanksgiving table, Richardson decided to share her thoughts on who she believed should be next in line for the Oval Office.
Traditionally, contestants are encouraged to keep their political views to themselves or answer an onstage question very middle ground with no bias in a bipartisan-like manner. It’s always been considered not pageant like and separatism in fact if a titleholder expressed even what her party affiliation was because of the fear of alienating the opposing parties and not being able to reach everyone at appearances during her reign. There was fear of missing out on deals, contracts or butting heads with directors if a titleholder was too one sided in her thinking and expressed them in public her crown and sash.
In a first for this new 2020 era of the definition of who a titleholder is, she decided to not only express her views but officially go on record to endorse and encourage her followers to vote for Mayor Pete at the polls.
We reached out to Ryann about her decision and speaking to Pageants & Prosecco about her thought-piece, she said she felt it was important to add her voice in the 2020 election cycle conversation. Not simply because she is holding a national title but rather out of pure civic duty and what she explains is responsibility to her community, “You could argue that Miss Black America, because of it origins as an act of protest, does exist in a unique space in the ‘pageant world.'” She continues,
With 20K followers on IG for this TEDx Speaker & one of the youngest honorees on the Most Influential Black Executives in Corporate America list, Richardson says it is ultimately irresponsible of her to sit out here voiceless “when I believe our community is facing a critical opportunity in this election.” Calling the move to speak up an important one to prevent anyone who’s listening from making the wrong decision at the polls.
In the op-ed she wrote for The Grio, Richardson talked about why she chose the millennial veteran, pointing to his honesty addressing his weak spots as the Mayor of South Bend, his leadership and intellect. Her endorsement might help Buttigieg’s campaign which is looking at dismal polling numbers among Black voters.
According to the lastest Washington Post/Ipsos poll, 21% of Black voters right now view Buttigieg as ‘unfavorable.’ The highest in the crowded Democratic nomination party, besides newly-entered billionaire Mike Bloomberg (25%). With the Iowa Democratic caucuses in just a few weeks, some fear he might not reach enough of these voters in time to nab this critical state for any of the 13 candidates. These Iowa caucus’ results are going to shed light on where they all stand in the Black community’s mind. On the other side, he does lead in Black votes 57-4 if it were up to them choosing between him or 45 for round 2.
“It’s fair to say my opinion may be an unpopular one … for now. It would surely be easier to keep my head down and not weigh in. But I’ve never been afraid to be first and I was raised to live in my truth.”
Richardson for TheGrio.com
She wrote about how growing up in D.C. gave her a first hand look at the voting process as a kid visiting the election polls with her parents and watching each new President get sworn in every 4 years.
However as she grew up and the realities of oppression and her “double strike” as a woman first and then as a person of color (or vice versa) became real, she writes, “With each election, I intuitively knew how my country would move, even when it was counter to my own desires.”
It took courage for Richardson to share her political views and she admittedly said she was sick of seeing hatred being spewd out online and was considering “clock[ing] out on America for a while to preserve my own mental health.” Who wouldn’t blame her? Twitter is full of constant dialogue, discussions and the true thoughts of keyboard happy anonymous trolls just saying anything now a days.
“The attitudes of the basest corners of our society, once fodder for faceless Twitter trolls, are now promoted from verified accounts with names and Congressional seats and endorsements from the highest office in the land.”
Miss Earth USA 2018, Yashvi Aware, officially announced she is competing at the Miss D.C. USA 2020 pageant as Miss Mount Vernon USA 2020. Yashvi shared the news of her new title through a video posted on her social media page to her followers. The pageant is set to take place this month, January 18-19th.
The reason for Yashvi’s late announcement was due to recovering from surgery, “I decided really last minute to compete because I was healing from my ankle surgery.”
Yashvi’s ankle also gave her a little bit of a struggle during her reign as Miss Earth USA and has had multiple surgeries on it, landing in the hospital twice while competing at the international pageant. At one point during her reign, she was in a cast and needed crutches to walk. Despite her injury, Yashvi is pushing through in her recovery and is working hard to prepare for the Miss DC competition, “I’m running again, wearing heels, and volunteering all over the district.”
Yashvi was crowned Miss Earth USA 2018, on July 15, 2018, at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center located in Virginia. The Miss Earth USA and Miss Earth pageants are centered around environmentalism and is based off the concept of Beauty With A Purpose. This means contestants should not only prepare to walk the runway, but to be able to speak about an environmental cause they are passionate about as well.
After being crowned Miss Earth USA, Yashvi traveled the world, modeled in New York Fashion Week, volunteered, and spoke about her environmental platform “The Future is Green.”
Her platform choice was due to the fact she wanted to be a “more responsible citizen.” Although winning the crown presented her a lot of opportunities, she had to make hard sacrifices in order to fully commit to her reign, “I gave up so much to be here at Miss Earth including my real job and education as a psychologist, because I’ve always believed in my greater purpose to serve others.”
Yashvi’s inspiring fighter mentality seemed to stick with her post-crown as she somehow finds the time to prepare for the pageant and plan a wedding. Yashvi and her fiancé, Ashu Suri, got engaged August 31, 2018 in Washington D.C. in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Ashu made Yashvi believe they were going to a photoshoot which she said was, “Not out of the ordinary in my life.”
The surprises continued, “Somehow I was blindfolded and when I opened my eyes, this handsome man was on his knee asking me to marry him surrounded by all our friends, plus a bunch of tourists cheering us on!” To this day Yashvi claims it was, “The best day of my life.”
In her video announcement Yashvi thanked her followers and asked them for continued support as she prepares for the competition, “Please continue following my journey, thank you all so much for the support you’ve given me this past year since I’ve been recovering.”
The 2020 Miss D.C. USA pageant is set to take place at the Carpenter Theatre at the Dominion Energy Center from 2:00-8:00 PM, January 18-19th. Interviews are scheduled for Saturday, January 18th. The rest of the preliminaries will take place on Sunday, January 19th at 2:00 PM.
Finals for Miss D.C. USA is on Sunday, January 19th at 8:00 PM. Will Yashvi win the coveted Miss D.C. USA 2020 crown? We’ll have to wait and see.
The world of social media & pageantry combine on MTV tonight as former Miss Teen USA, Kamie Crawford makes her debut as the newest cohost of the popular MTV docu-series, Catfish.
Crawford announced the news to her followers on Wednesday. She will cohost all episodes of the new season with longtime host and founder, Nev Schulman.
When Crawford was initially invited on the show to guest host in September 2018, she first thought it was a joke, “I thought I was being Catfished.” However, she later accepted the invitation after realizing the offer was indeed real.
Crawford was a guest cohost for several episodes on the show last season and loved every minute of it,
“All of the support I got from fans of the show was amazing, but I was just happy to be there for as long as they would have let me.”
In July 2019, Crawford received a call from Schulman asking her if she wanted to be a part of the show fulltime as the new cohost. She was elated saying, “Of course, I wanted to shout it from the roof tops.”
She is replacing longtime cohost, Max Joseph, who left the show to focus on his filmmaking career. Crawford made a point in her post to ensure her followers she is not trying to replace him, “I hope I can make him, Nev, and Catfish fans proud as we move into season 8 and beyond!”
Crawford was crowned Miss Teen USA on July 24th, 2010 at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas, representing as Miss Maryland Teen USA. Upon being crowned, she won a $100,000 scholarship, moved to New York City sharing an apartment with Miss Universe Ximena Navarrete and Miss USA Rima Fakih.
After her reign as Miss Teen USA, Crawford enrolled in classes at the New York Film Academy. Her time there led her into the world of acting, modeling and hosting, which eventually led her to the MTV hit show, Catfish.
Catfish began airing in 2012 featuring Nev & Max. The two came up with the idea for the show following Schulman’s very own catfish experience.
In 2007, he met and fell in love with a woman named “Megan” online. Over the course of 7 months, he and Megan exchanged text messages and even talked on the phone. However, everything fell apart when Schulman finally met Megan in person. Megan turned out to be Angela! Several years later, in 2010, the documentary, Catfished, was released featuring footage of his catfish encounter with Angela/Megan.
Following the documentary’s release, Schulman’s DMs was bombarded with people sharing similar experiences asking for his help. This inspired him and longtime friend and camera operator Joseph to create hit the show. Debuting with 2.7 millions viewers during it’s very first episode.
The MTV docu-series is still going strong after 7 seasons of success. Season 8 premieres tonight, January 8th at 8:00 p.m. EST. and will be Crawford’s debut as the new fulltime cohost of Catfish.
No doubt the Leadership team at Miss America are scrambling right now after Miss America fans (and critics) gave the MAO front office the read of their lives on Sunday after someone on their social media team shared an article from The List, The Untold Truth of Miss America 2020 Winner Camille Schrier.
In the article, the writer Blaire Erskine called the MAO system sketchy and posted a hyperlink to another article on it’s site Sketchy Things Everyone Just Ignores About Miss America written by another writer Shira Danan. The Sketchy Things article, dated during the Sam Haskell era, talks about the system’s racist history of banning women of African descent from competing, organizers telling Miss America 1945 Beth Meyerson (a daughter of Russian and Jewish immigrants) to change her last name to sound less Jewish, Vanessa Williams’ saga and a handful of other negative press MAO endured over their storied history.
In the now-deleted article shared on the MAO official Facebook page, Erskine takes statements from Schrier’s interviews with the BBC, her social media captions, the Miss Virginia website, a handful of other media outlets including VCU News, the school paper for Virginia Commonwealth University, the school Schrier is currently studying at for her doctorate in pharmacy and twists her words around to sound as if Miss America is bashing her 2.0 systems’ former life during the 1.0 time.
The article claims Schrier was not even interested in competing for the title under it’s traditional categories and format. She’s also quoted as saying she does not see Miss America as a beauty pageant anymore.
The comment section exploded with people immediately criticizing the MAO social media handlers for sharing an article that arguably does not put them in a positive light. Many people, still scorned at the way the competition was held last month, expressed their utter done-ness with Miss America 2.0. Some felt by MAO sharing this article, it’s the organization’s way of slapping the previous titleholders crowned under 1.0 in the faces and doing an about face heading into a 2.0 tragedy right before it’s 100th year anniversary.
Other comments came at the definition of who is a scientist/biochemist considering Camille is still in school, while others said crowning a scientist is no new feat in the pageant world and her talent was “an elementary school level” demonstration. Some people even went as far as saying her “unusual” talent should not be a media talking point when many contestants train years for their artistic displays i.e. dancing, baton twirling, piano etc.
The overall theme of the fans were how disappointed they are in MAO’s PR department sharing an article of this nature in the first place with many people questioning the organization’s motives to share media which condescends the pageant’s barely-recent 1.0 past and the dismissal of the contestants who competed before Gretchen took the helms.
However their PR team seemed to have scrolled through the comments and jumped on deleting the shared article off their Facebook page. Now to see if they are going to release a statement about the fuss made or sweep this little incident under the rug. Time will tell.
I don’t know if the $5M crown was bobby pinned all the way down on Queen Zozibini before the great-as-expected social media frenzy kicked off like a starter gun in a 100 meter dash featuring Usain Bolt. People all over were trying to hide their inner racism by questioning why so many Black people, mainly women, were so excited to see a contestant like South Africa “finally” get crowned.
Without shedding light on too much of their commentary, some of the comments spoke about how we should look past skin color and admire her for her answers instead during the competition. Others said Zozibini’s look is more in line with IMG’s “brand” i.e. the increase in women of color being crowned since they took over the organization’s management in 2015. Other trolls question the “rally cry” Black Girl Magic and stated it was taking steps backwards from Martin Luther King Jr’s work to integrate among each other.
While no one is wrong in genuinely looking to gain more insight into a Black woman’s mind, especially those of a darker complexion, to understand the even more complex background of what is consider beautiful in both the Black culture and in the white world. However, some of these VERY same people are the ones imprinting into young children’s mind what their typical ideal standard of beauty looks like and for a long period of time it was not how our current Miss Universe looks.
From the dawn of time, Black women have been competing against a European idea of beauty. Straight hair, slim nose, fair or lighter skin; in pretty much every culture with darker skin people,women are subconsciously taught lighter skin is better and prettier. This leads to the infamous skin bleaching we’ve seen with some celebs.
Times that with a particular hair curl also being discriminated against from your very own mother for years until you took ownership of your scalp around the same time you signed up for your first credit card. Times this again by entering a beauty pageant dominated by blondes with blue eyes winning for decades before they even ALLOWED a women of African descent to compete in their system. Enter infamous Rule #7.
Watching our new Miss Universe grace the stage so elegantly and speaking up for young girls’ leadership, education and self-perception is a significant and historic barrier that’s long been waiting to be broken. It took Deshauna Barber’s final walk in her full 4c afro glory for Zozibini to run Sunday night. (And probably the all-female selection committee) Kara giving us her bountiful hair full of curls made us change the way we see scientists and Cheslie is doing the same in the courtroom.
Black women have been slowly integrating the pageant systems with our true authentic self and some of the features are becoming more accepted, like the all-curly hair and fros we’ve been seeing lately. Several Black women would simply get overlooked in any pageant system wearing their tighter kinks or afros and being labeled “too black” for what is often a non-diverse judging panel. It’s a common coaching tip to minimize your Blackness in several ways to appeal more to the white judges:
wear white. Red is too dramatic and shows you are too commanding, intimidating, too much dare I say, aggressive. Pull your hair up in a bun or half-updo and away from your face. This shows the judges your face more and hides your hair. Or opt to wear a straight long weave, frankly, the easiest option for a week long competition away from home for quick maintenance. All of the past Black Miss Universes won with straight hair. Chelsea’s was big and high in a more Afrocentric way. However, everyone’s hair was high and close to God back then.
On Sunday, a woman wearing her naturally tightly coiled 4c hair had a $5M dollar crown placed on her head in front of 3.8 million people live on television and the world was calling her the universe’s most beautiful person.
Can you imagine how powerful that moment is for a 13-year-old girl who was just bullied for having that very same skin complexion? Or for the thousands of Black pageants contestants who try year after year to compete in the same system that has no former titleholders who look like them. Texas just crowned their first Black women in the Miss America system. A system founded in 1921, 98 years ago.
With her natural hair, shea butter whipped brown skin and public speaking skills in line with other women leaders of our generation, Zozibini displayed love for her culture all during the competition. She wore tradition African prints and spoke boldly about women’s right to education especially since the apartheid ended in South Africa. Typically, this would have been told to lessen down because it’s “too black” but on Sunday like she said, “that ends tonight.”
Sidenote: I spoke more about how, during this time of silent discrimination against women of color, Black pageants rose in popularity.
Unfortunately, they are several horror stories from contestants, including myself, about our experiences competing in these systems. Despite the negative press, sometimes these systems made for us, by us is a woman’s only true shot at becoming a national titleholder.
It automatically evens the playing field and eliminates the bias of racial beauty while becoming an inclusive environment for like-minded Black women on the same mission to do good philanthropy, invest in their education and compete for a crown. Very few other clubs/hobbies/church groups have driven women in them who understand your desire to drop $800 on a new couture gown instead of paying your rent. Many of my adult friendships are from competing in pageants open to women of African descent.
I spoke more about this cognitive dissonance dilemma among Black contestants on the Pageants & Prosecco Podcast.
YAY!!! Like many people of color, watching South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi compete all night was a breath of fresh air as she easily graced the stage and dominated each question and phase of competition that came her way. With this historic win, Tunzi is the third South African to take the crown since Demi Leigh-Nel Peters. She is also the first Black woman to win the award since Leila Lopes in 2011.
During the 2019 Miss Universe pageant, Tunzi spoke on the importance of education and how her grandmother gave her her first book even though her grandmother was not allowed to receive an education. She also used her platform Sunday night to talk about what holding the crown would mean for those looking up to her during her reign.
During her final onstage question she spoke on the importance young girls taking up space and to hold more leadership positions.
“I think we are the most powerful human beings in the world.” – Tunzi
You know I am always super spot on and can tell who is going to take the crown! Trust me as your leading pageant picking professional LOL! In this episode on the eve of Super Bowl Sunday aka Miss USA.. I am narrowing down my faves for the crown. It was hard for me to pick a full 20 because I know at least 7 women who I personally would have as the next Miss USA (whom those women are are revealed at the end)!
Nonetheless, I am really amazed at the work Crystle Stewart is putting in and I am certain MY picks are Miss Universe ready today. They need no additional help and are ready to represent on that international stage in just three weeks!
Grab your glass and narrow down your faves with me in this episode. As usual, I will be back for a follow-up episode after the competition to tell you all I told you so!
Have you heard the news? Pageants & Prosecco was named on of the Top 15 Beauty Pageant Podcasts of 2020!! Congratulations to the entire team and to our hundreds of listeners for supporting P&P! Cheers!! NOW HIRING!! Come sip along with Bee and join the Pageants & Prosecco team. **We are looking for a Talent Relations Intern. College Credit available.** Click here to stay up-to-date on the latest episodes by following Pageants & Prosecco on Instagram & Twitter. Follow our new sponsor BeeHoldHer 5D Mink Eyelashes on Instagram for launch dates – coming soon to the Pageants & Prosecco website.
Congratulations to the new Miss USA Asya Branch from Mississippi! I called Asya winning from the beginning! Don’t believe me … catch my Miss USA predictions episode on Pageants and Prosecco and listen for yourself.
What did the journey to your crown look like? I decided to compete in Miss Illinois USA 2020 in May of 2019. It was something I had thought about since I held the Teen title… but I finally felt in my heart that the timing was right! That summer, I was working full-time as a research assistant and studying for the GRE. Any and all of my free time was used for pageant prep – which made for a pretty busy summer. Having such a good rhythm in my preparation made it feel so effortless and, before I knew it, pageant weekend came! I felt a genuinely calmness while competing and soaked in every moment.
What tips would you give to pageant competitors? My biggest advice is so start preparing early, slow and steady. There’s nothing worse than stressing before or during a pageant weekend – it takes away from the magic of the experience! If you’re competing on a budget, I highly recommend checking out YouTube for pageant prep help. There are plenty interview tips, walking videos and makeup tutorials available for free. Most importantly – be YOU and have FUN. What’s meant to be yours will be yours, whether it’s winning the title or not!
Do you have a favorite wine, or drink? Cold brew is my favorite drink! I’m a coffee lover through and through. If I’m indulging in a glass of wine, it’s definitely red – the best I’ve ever had is from the V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena, CA.
Dream pageant gown designer? Sherri Hill made my dream gown come to life for Miss USA! She is not only a talented designer but a kind, caring woman. My favorite international designer is Valdrin Sahiti!
What are your makeup go-to’s for a quick beat? If I’m short on time, I throw on Image Skincare’s tinted SPF, a little bit of concealer (Tarte Shape Tape is my favorite!), Glossier Boy Brow and Glossier Cloud Paint in Beam.
5. What are your makeup go to’s for a quick beat?: If I’m short on time, I throw on Image Skincare’s tinted SPF, a little bit of concealer (Tarte Shape Tape is my favorite!), Glossier Boy Brow, and Glossier Cloud Paint in “Beam.”
6. What was your first pageant competition like? My first competition was Miss Illinois Teen USA 2016. I went in so clueless and imperfect, yet excited and grateful. The friendships I met that weekend, several of them being returning contestants, were all incredibly kind and offered a lot of advice. The whole weekend, I focused on having FUN! Going into finals night, I didn’t think even for a second that I would win. Imagine the shock I felt when I was called the winner! It was a giant blessing that truly changed my life’s course forever.
7. Current read? Right now, I’m reading The Confidence Code by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay.
8. Which portion of competition is your fave? Though it’s nerve-wracking at times, interview is my favorite portion of competition! It’s where the judges really get to see who you are and what type of titleholder you would be. Prepping for pageant interviews has allowed me to be a better, more confident interviewer and public speaker in general!
9. If you could travel anywhere where would you go? Without a doubt – the moon!
10. How do you balance your pageant, work, and personal life? Prioritization and organization are key! It’s important to be honest with yourself and know when to say no. This was really hard for me at first. I also keep a bullet journal where I jot down my daily thoughts, keep track of short-term and long-term goals and managed my weekly to-do lists. Bullet journaling also allows me to let out my inner artist and have fun with planning!
11. Give us a good motivational quote that inspires you.: “Just keep swimming!” – Dory, Finding Nemo
12. Would you consider yourself a hero? I view my accomplishments with nothing but humility and gratitude. The reality is, I wouldn’t be where I am without my heroes. However, there is no better compliment than to be told that I am a role model to someone. I choose to live my life as though I am someone’s hero and strive to set the best example always!
13. Bedtime routine? TAKE. MY. MAKEUP. OFF. ALWAYS. I have acne-prone skin, so I start by making sure my face is clean and moisturized at night (witch hazel, CeraVe SA Lotion and tea tree oil are my favorite products). My favorite nights are spent sipping a mug of caffeine-free herbal tea and snuggling into my massive pile of throw pillows. Minimizing my nighttime phone use was a big 2020 goal for me – once I’m in bed, I put it on Do Not Disturb and leave it locked!
14. What artists are on your playlist? My most-played artists are definitely TroyBoi, Odesza, and deadmau5. If I’m not listening to EDM, I’m probably listening to Aminé, Hozier or Dan + Shay.
15. How did you decide on your evening gown? My Miss USA gown was actually the first and only gown I tried on at the Sherri Hill showroom in Austin! I immediately fell in love with it. The color, cut, neckline and beading were all BETTER than what I had envisioned for myself. When you know, you know!
16. What are 3 words you would use to describe yourself? Cool Mom Friend. I’m just as likely to plan a fancy brunch in the city with friends as I am to throw on a pair of crocs and spend a night watching romcoms. No matter my mood, I’m always looking out for those around me!
17. Favorite junk food? My goodness, it’s impossible to pick just one! I have a CRAZY sweet tooth. If I HAVE to pick… I’d say Nutella. But oreos, donuts, peanut M&Ms, and Portillo’s chocolate cake are all honorable mentions!
18. One global issue that tugs at your heart: While the feminist movement has taken unbelievable strides in the United States, there are still many countries around the world where women are considered inferior to men. I want to see a world where women are truly equals and share the same rights: access to education, voice in their governments and respect in leadership roles.
19. What is your favorite movie? I absolutely adore all of the Harry Potter movies; my favorite is the Chamber of Secrets.
20. Who would you consider to be your hero? My parents are always have been and always will be my heroes. Both of them left Poland, their home country, when they were younger than I currently am. Watching them pour themselves into our family in hopes of giving me and my siblings the life they always wanted fuels my daily drive! I am in awe of their work ethic, compassion and fearlessness.
21. How do you unwind on a Sunday evening? I love to throw on a giant Tshirt, crack open a pint of Halo Top (chocolate chip cookie dough is my favorite) and watch YouTube. I’m actually not a big Netflix gal and prefer watching tutorials, vlogs and DIY videos!
22. Give us your best Pageant Patty answer: Describe your perfect date? My perfect date is September 2, 2019 – the day I won the title of Miss Illinois USA! Could I ask for anything better than that?
Catch up with Olivia on this week’s episode of Pageants & Prosecco, the Podcast. She shares her story about her time competing for Miss Teen USA, how she and the other former teen titleholders mentally prepare to compete as Miss, her relationship with the Vanbros management and other state titleholders working with them, what her reality is like being a first-generations American and why she chose to pursue the STEM field at one of the country’s top schools.
1. What did the journey to your crown look like? I have been competing in pageants for over 10 years. I started in 2009 when I was preparing for a Regional baton twirling competition. I wanted to get my new dress on the floor and get some nerves out before my baton competition. Little did I know that was the beginning of my pageant journey.
2. What tips would you give to pageant competitors? Have fun!!! That was one of the biggest changes I did for this year that really helped my journey. I did not focus on the other competitors as competitors but other accomplished women who are striving towards their goals.
3. Do you have a favorite wine, or drink? I typically like semi-sweet sparkling wines, my favorite brand is Stella Rosa and of course I love me some Prosecco!!!
4. Dream pageant gown designer? Gasper Cruz!!! I met Gasper in 2013 and have only worn his gowns since… I won my national title in my Gasper dress.
5. What are your makeup go-to’s for a quick beat? Eyebrows, mascara and of course lips gloss. If I only have a quick second those are the three things I glam with.
6. What was your first pageant competition like? I competed in a preliminary to the Miss Hawaii (MAO) [competition] as twirling was my talent and my passion. Like I said before, I was competing to get ready for my regional baton twirling competition that was coming up. But then I won!! Craziest part was after I won, I didn’t even have time to stay after and take photos, my mom rushed me over to my track meet at the University of Hawaii. I changed in the car, she drove me to the track, I ran to the start line and BANG the gun went off for the race to start!! After my track meet, I changed again into my baton twirling costume where I performed at the volleyball game.
7. Current read? I just finished The Escape Room, by Megan Goldin
8. Which portion of competition is your fave? It’s not a portion that is typically thought of judged, but the part where I go out into my community, meet new wonderful faces and have the chance to encourage someone to never give up on their dreams and goals.
9. If you could travel anywhere where would you go? My husband, Chance and I love the water. We currently live in Colorado but met in Hawaii. We have always talked about going on a cruise of somesort. I would say I want to go on cruise to multiple tropical paradises.
10. How do you balance your pageant, work, and personal life? It can definitely be difficult at times but with the right support system anything is achievable. I have to admit that my calendar is how I am able to remember things. I tell Chance all the time if I don’t write something down, I am going to forget 🙂
11. Give us a good motivational quote that inspires you: My favorite quote actually comes from my mother. She always instilled in me, “try your hardest and your best and be proud of your accomplishments.”
12. Would you consider yourself a hero? As a law enforcement officer for over 9 years, I have met many people in my life that have changed my way of thinking. I believe anyone who is willing to risk their life for someone else’s can be considered a hero. I am 4th generation law enforcement and I am a proud army wife to my military police Soldier.
13. Bedtime routine? I am totally hooked on a new show, ‘What If?’ on netflix. We typically watch at least one episode before we go to bed. If I am not currently hooked on a show, I usually read a couple chapters of whatever book I am reading to help me unwind from the day.
14. What artist are on your playlist? I typically just listen to Pandora and I have two main stations that I rotate between. Either Today’s Country Radio or Today’s Hits. I must admit that right now I am listening to Tim McGraw and Faith Hill mix, mainly because I can listen to the the last song we danced to from our wedding, ‘The Rest of My Life.’
15. How did you decide on your evening gown? Gaspar Cruz has been designing my gowns since 2013. I trust his designs and feel amazing when I wear his gowns. He has a way of knowing just what gown, color and design will make each of his girls sparkle at their best.
16. What are 3 words you would use to describe yourself? Dedicated, quirky and compassionate.
17. Favorite junk food? PIZZA!!!!!! My family knows that after every pageant we have to get Pizza!! After nationals this year, Chance found a place, was going to have it delivered to the hotel and at the last minute he whisked us away to the restaurant.
18. One global issue that tugs at your heart: I have been fortunate to have partnered with my platform of T.A.P.S (Teen and Police Services) for the last several years. T.A.P.S focuses on reducing the social distance between police and teens while creating an understanding of each other in order to engage, de-escalate and improve communities. This is an area that is close to my heart and I think creating positive relationships with our youth and law enforcement can create lasting impressions.
19. What is your favorite movie? Miss Congeniality!!! As a police officer, baton twirling and pageant contestant, I feel like that movie was made for my life.
20. Who would you consider to be your hero? Anyone who puts their life on the line for someone else. First Responders, our military and the generations that came before which paved the way.
21. How do you unwind on a Sunday evening? My favorite Sundays are the ones we are able to have our daughter Lily Anne, who primarily lives with her mother in Texas. We put on a chick flick, of course, we paint nails, do hair and makeup. Our chocolate labrador Princess Aurora Marie usually ends up sitting on our laps (she is 45 lbs) and Chance is there with us too, enjoying our chick flick 🙂 The best way to unwind is to be with my family.
22. Give us your best Pageant Patty answer: Describe your perfect date? Chance and I actually met on the beach in Hawaii. But one of my favorite dates we had was a picnic on the beach where we watched the sunset, listened to the ocean and enjoyed each other’s company. I actually have a picture where we took of our shadows against a rock on that very day.
Hear more from Shannon Jackowski, United States of America’s Mrs on this week’s episode of Pageants & Prosecco. Now streaming on all major podcast platforms (Apple, Google Play, Spotify, Breaker, Radio Lab, Anchor & where ever else you listen to your episodes).
I have competed since I was 16. What was once something I just wanted to try with a cool crown and sash quickly developed into a drive and passion to make a difference. I realized holding a title was the opportunity to use my voice to implement the change I wanted to see. I had the opportunity to be crowned Miss Wisconsin in many organizations along with placing at the national level multiple times, and an extremely honored to be serving as Miss Wisconsin earth USA 2020. Being a curvy titleholder has shown me that the pageant industry is changing and though not all organizations are as progressive, there are many are starting to celebrate women of all shapes and sizes. Being a positive role model and a great titleholder is not indicative of fitting a certain mold of external appearance.
2) What tips would you give to pageant competitors? Do not change who you are for what you think the judges want.
3) Do you have a favorite wine, or drink? I am a Champagne girl.
4) Dream pageant gown designer? I am actually currently having my Miss Earth USA gown designed by a designer in the Philippines!
5) What are your makeup go-to’s for a quick beat? Concealer for my dark circles!! And always mascara.
6) What was your first pageant competition like? SO FUN. I also had no idea what I was doing and thought I would win; I did not. But I fell in love and haven’t stopped since.
7) Current read? MUST READ: The New Jim Crow
8) Which portion of competition is your fave? Interview. This allows me to tell the judges my goals, passions and why I’m there and to me that is the most important thing.
9) If you could travel anywhere where would you go? Around the world. I want to go to so many places, my next stop will probably be France or Thailand!
10) How do you balance your pageant, work, and personal life? My planner is my life. I do so much all the time and if it isn’t written down, I’m forgetting about it until the day of which is definitely stressful and something I always try to avoid!
11) Give us a good motivational quote that inspires you: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gahndi
20) Would you consider yourself a hero? I’ve actually never thought about it. I’ve always aimed to be a positive role model and advocate. I always have wanted to be a person people feel inspired by and can help them be comfortable in their own skin. I’ve always done my best to advocate for those that couldn’t advocate for themselves. But do I see myself as a hero? No. Just a person trying to make the world a better place.
13) Bedtime routine? I am NOT a morning person, so I shower at night. I wash my face, always deep condition my hair, and I put moisturizer on my face. I always brush my hair wet and put it in a low bun to sleep because my hair is naturally curly and I usually leave it natural so this helps it from becoming frizzy and tangled while I sleep. I have a chihuahua, so I cuddle with him and watch Netflix and unwind then go to sleep!
14) What artist are on your playlist? Honestly, Blackbear is my favorite. Also Khalid.
15) How did you decide on your evening gown? I was contacted by a newer Filipino designer who is a big fan of Miss Earth and is designing gowns for the miss Philippines contestants. I decided to just go for it and not do my traditional look online, buy 3 dresses and not like any of the, as it always causes me so many issues. We shall see in the coming months how it turns out!
16) What are 3 words you would use to describe yourself? Outgoing, Passionate, Driven
17) Favorite junk food? Flaming hot Cheetos
18) One global issue that tugs at your heart: Climate change, which is also a huge reason I chose to compete with Miss Earth. We are single handedly destroying our only home. If changes are not made, humanity will no longer exist. If we want to continue as a species, we need to take immediate action. I personally have made changes in my living to be more environmentally cautious and I believe it is all about spreading what you know and learning new things to ultimately make bigger changes and create a bigger, positive impact.
19) What is your favorite movie? Phantom of the Opera, Moana and Coco
20) Who do you consider to be your hero? My mama. She is the most loving, hardest working, passionate woman I have ever known or seen. She puts others first, and always makes time for anyone that needs her. At 50 she’s finishing up her PhD, working as a nursing instructor, running a board for an underprivileged community and so much more while caring for her loved ones to the ends of the earth.
21) How do you unwind on a Sunday evening? I work every Sunday so when I get home usually a bath, snack and watching whatever show I’m watching at the time.
22) Give us your best Pageant Patty answer: Describe your perfect date? I want to type it but I want to also say what mine personally is: September 10th because it’s starting to show signs of fall while still being warm and everyone is excited for a new school year and new memories and the energy of this time makes me so happy.
Catch up with Emma on this week’s episode of Pageants & Prosecco, the Podcast. Streaming now on on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Breaker, Radio Lab, Anchor on whereever else you listen to your episodes.
What did the journey to your crown look like? My journey to the crown took many years of hard work, dedication, and growth. I competed as a Miss three times, and each year I came back to compete as a better version of Alyssa than I was the year before! Looking back I can see why I didn’t win my state title before I did, I wasn’t quite ready and God needed to make sure I was prepared for the honor of competing for Miss USA! I wouldn’t change his timing for the world.
What tips would you give to pageant competitors? The biggest tip I can give is to find your voice and be able to stand up for yourself. It can be very easy for a girl to find herself “molded” into what others want them to be and lose herself during the process, but at the end of the day, you have to be able to present yourself on stage as the most authentic person you can be. Stay true to yourself!
Do you have a favorite wine, or drink? I’m pretty guilty of being involved in the white cleaning craze.
Dream pageant gown designer? My dream dress designer is Valdrin Sahiti.
What are your makeup go to’s for a quick beat? I try to wear minimal makeup on a daily basis! I stick with the NYX BB cream, my Nikita Dragun Face palette for bronzer and blush, Covergirl setting powder, mascara, a good nude shade Kylie lip kit and the Morphe finishing spray! I think a natural look is always the most beautiful!
6. What was your first pageant competition like? My first pageant was when I was 13. I wore a 20 dollar dress from Dillard’s, my mom did my makeup and hair, I had no coaching, but I went and just had a really good time! NAM is where I caught the pageant bug, even though I never won a title!
7. Current read? I’m currently listening to true crime podcasts! I have kind of shifted from booms to podcasts in the past 6 months since I can listen during my commutes.
8. Which portion of competition is your fave? I love competing in interview! I have a really outgoing and bubbly personality so getting to showcase that to the judges is always my favorite!
9. If you could travel anywhere where would you go? If I could go anywhere in the world it would be Santorini Greece!
10. How do you balance your pageant, work, and personal life? It’s very hard to balance pageants with work, school, and a social life. It’s all about organizing your schedule and sacrificing certain things here and there to make sure you don’t spread yourself too thin. I tend to find myself spread pretty thin as I try to be there for everyone and give my time to other things, which is something I have been personally working on to change. Prioritizing your mental health is more important than anything!
11. Give us a good motivational quote that inspires you: “She remembered who she was and the game changed.” -Lalah Delilah
12. Would you consider to be your Shero? RBG is for sure my Shero, she is an incredibly strong woman who has worked hard to break glass ceilings not only for herself, but for all women in this country. Give “On The Basis Of Sex” a watch, it will inspire you to work hard and chase your wildest dreams.
13. What does your bedtime routine consist of? I usually work evening shifts that get off pretty late so my routine at night consists of taking my makeup off with my makeup eraser, washing my face, brushing my teeth and falling asleep on my face.
14. What artist are on your playlist? I listen to a lot of Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande.
15. How did you decide on your evening gown? Getting my evening gown for Miss USA was not what I expected it to be. I searched through over 20 racks of dresses and wasn’t really drawn to anything, I tried on about 4 dresses and asked Sherri if she could modify the bodice on my favorite dress to make it more flattering on my body type which lead to my final design!
16. What are 3 words you would use to describe yourself? 3 words to describe myself are independent, trustworthy, and straightforward.
17. Favorite junk food? I can get down with any sour candies!
18. One global issue that tugs at your heart: One global issue I hold close to heart is climate change. This is an issue that will leave no person or place untouched and it is up to the people to protect and preserve our planet for future generations! Right now I am very focused on getting people involved in the 2020 election and asking voters to focus closely on the candidates who are fighting to protect our planet!
19. What is your favorite movie? My favorite movie is The Impossible, if you haven’t seen it be sure to give it a go!
20. Who would you consider to be your hero? My hero is The Rock because I fully believe if I am ever in danger he’s going to be the one to come save me🤣 He has always been my favorite actor!
21. How do you unwind on a Sunday evening? To unwind I really like to workout and just get completely lost in the music! It makes the time go by really fast!
22. Give us your best Pageant Patty answer: Describe your perfect date: My perfect date is no date at all because dating is complicated and I would rather down a pint of ice cream with my girlfriends while watching The Bachelor🤣
You can hear more from Alyssa including her time competing for Miss Teen USA in 2013 and how it changed as she competed as a Miss years later, her growth from teen to Miss, why women should take on leadership roles in politics and how she survived a domestic violence relationship. Stream Alyssa’s episode on Pageants & Prosecco, the Podcast, available everywhere you listen to your podcasts.