To hear Hollywood and mainstream media tell it, beauty pageants have always been a white women’s game. For decades, white women and girls have mostly reigned supreme at Miss America and other acclaimed events. They’ve been the protagonists of popular pageant-themed films like “Dumplin’” and “Miss Congeniality.”
So when Miss America, Miss Teen USA, Miss USA and Miss Universe all crowned Black women last year, it felt like a tide had finally shifted in the industry. The 2019 winners surely represented a significant achievement. But what many people don’t know is that Black-owned pageants across the nation have been honoring Black beauty and heritage for over half a century.
That’s what writer-director Channing Godfrey Peoples celebrates in her heartfelt new drama, “Miss Juneteenth,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month. The movie highlights the eponymous Black teen pageant in Fort Worth, Texas, whose name references the June 19, 1865, announcement that slavery had been abolished in the state. The pageant honors that rich history by crowning a young Black woman who embodies the event’s core values of community service, beauty and talent.
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