Black Women Who Have Won the Crown
As a celebration of Black History Month, Pageant Center™ is pleased to share this tribute the the beautiful black women who have won the world’s most coveted titles.
Miss USA 2017 Kara McCullough – Miss District of Columbia USA
Kára McCullough, Miss District of Columbia USA, a scientist at the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, was crowned Miss USA 2017. McCullough was crowned by her predecessor, Deshauna Barber, also a Miss District of Columbia USA, who is also black, making it a significant back-to-back win for the nation’s capitol on two different levels.
Deshauna Barber, Miss District of Columbia USA, was named Miss USA 2016. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Virginia State University, and worked as an IT Analyst for the U.S. Department of Commerce. n 2011, Deshauna commissioned as a Quartermaster Officer in the Army and is currently a Logistics Commander for the 988th Quartermaster Detachment Unit at Fort Meade, Maryland.
When Miss USA 2012, Olivia Culpo, was named Miss Universe 2012, her first runner-up, Miss Maryland USA, Nana Meriwether, was named the new Miss USA. In addition to being named a two-time All American NCAA Volleyball Player, Meriwether graduated from UCLA with honors and just completed her postgraduate premedical sciences studies at USC. >> Read more about Nana Meriwether
Miss USA 1993, Kenya Moore
Kenya Moore, Miss Michigan USA, was named Miss USA 1993. She went on to appear in the movie Waiting To Exhale and is a co-star of Bravo’s TV series The Real Housewives of Atlanta, in addition to appearances in multiple television projects and several roles as a producer.
Halle Berry, Miss Ohio USA 1986
Halle Berry competed in the 1986 Miss USA Pageant as Miss Ohio USA, where she made the Top 10 and the Top 5. She placed as the first runner-up to Miss USA 1986, Christy Fitchner, Miss Texas USA. During the pageant’s final question segment, she was asked what type of a message she would want to send if chosen as Miss USA. She replied: “I would like to symbolize a very positive role model, not only for all women, but for all people of the United States. And, through me, I hope that they could learn that, no matter what race, color, religion you are, you can be whatever it is that you want to become.” Although she narrowly missed the crown that night, she went on to live out that message. In 2002, after building a successful career as a film actress, Berry made history as the first African-American woman ever to win an Academy Award as Best Actress for her role in “Monster’s Ball.” >> View Halle Berry movies >> Read more about Halle Berry
Leila Lopes, Miss Universe Angola, won the 2011 Miss Universe title during the 60th anniversary of Miss Universe. The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Luc Gnacadja, has named Leila Lopes, Miss Universe® 2011, as the Drylands Ambassador of the Convention. More about Leila Lopes / Recap of 2011 Miss Universe Pageant
Caressa Cameron, Miss Virginia, won the 2010 Miss America Pageant. A broadcast journalism major at Virginia Commonwealth University, the 22-year-old student won the preliminary talent competition earlier in the week after impressing the judges with a strong vocal performance of Beyonce’s “Listen” from the film “Dreamgirls”.
Miss USA 2008, Crystle Stewart
Miss Texas USA 2008, Crystle Stewart, was named Miss USA 2008. Stewart competed in the 2008 Miss Universe Pageant where she made the Top 10, but failed to move on to the finals. She later entered entertainment and appeared on numerous television shows including the series Tyler Perry’s For Better or Worse. Crystle co-hosted the 2009 and 2010 Miss USA Pageants.
Ericka Dunlap, the first black woman to be named Miss Florida, won the 2004 Miss America Pageant competing as the first-ever black Miss Florida. The University of Central Florida student majored in Communications. She won the talent competition earlier that week performing the song “If I Could” made famous by Celine Dion. Her platform was ““United We Stand, Divided We Fall Behind: Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion.” Ericka hopes to attend law school with her scholarship money. In 2016, she ran for the District 5 Orlando City Commissioner seat. She also was a contestant on the television reality show, “The Amazing Race”.
Miss Illinois, Erika Harold, won the 2003 Miss America Pageant. The stunning brunette who is of bi-racial ethnicity, was born and raised in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with degree in Political Science and Phi Beta Kappa honors. The platform issue she chose to advocate during her year as Miss America was “Preventing Youth Violence and Bullying: “Respect Yourself, Protect Yourself,” which she later stated was based in part on her own experiences with bullying in school. She was given a leadership award from the National Center for Victims of Crime. Harold, who had been accepted to Harvard Law School, had participated in the pageant for scholarship money. According to the Miss America Organisation, she earned over $85,000 in scholarship assistant during her participation at the local, state and national levels of competition.
Miss USA 2002, Shauntay Hinton
Miss District of Columbia USA, Shauntay Hinton, a broadcast journalism major at Howard University, was named Miss USA 2002, making her the third black woman to win the Miss USA title. She entered the field of television broadcasting and has appeared on numerous television shows as both an actress and panelist/commentator.
Miss Black Tennessee 1971, Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey used pageants to begin her road to fame, winning the titles of Miss Fire Prevention 1971 and Miss Black Tennessee 1971. Miss She competed in the 1971 Black America Pageant, but not make the finals. Shortly thereafter she began to build a career in television broadcasting that would lead to her having the most successful talk show in television history, The Oprah Winfrey Show. She also appeared in several movies, and started her won television production company and cable television network OWN, Oprah Winfrey Network. >>Read more about Oprah Winfrey in pageants >> View Oprah Winfrey movies
Miss World 2001, Agbani Darego
Miss Nigeria, Agbani Darego, computer science student, became the first African woman to win the Miss World title when she won the 2001 competition, held in Sun City, South Africa. She went on to become an extremely successful model and brand ambassador. She married Ishaya Danjuma, the son of a hugely wealthy businessman and general, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, who is renowned in Nigeria.
Miss USA 2000, Lynette Cole
Twenty-one-year-old Lynette Cole, Miss Tennessee USA, was crowned Miss USA 2000. She was the first Miss Tennessee USA to win the national title. She made the Top 5 at the 2000 Miss Universe Pageant, which was won by Lara Dutta, Miss India. She went on to enjoy a successful career as a model and television personality.
Miss USA 2005 / Miss Universe 2005, Chelsi Smith
Chelsi Smith, a bi-racial Education major from Texas, began her journey to the triple crown in 2005. After winning the Miss Texas USA title, she moved on to the 2005 Miss USA Pageant, which she won. Later that year, she advanced to the 2005 Miss Universe Pageant, where she also walked away with the title. She went on to become a popular model and television personality.
Miss Universe 1999, Mpule Kwelagobe
Miss Universe Botswana, Mpule Kwelagobe, a high school student, was named Miss Universe 1999 during the first year her country sent a representative to the pageant. She also was the first black African woman to win that title. A true STEM girl, she earned a degree in Political Science from ivy league Columbia University.
Miss Universe 1998, Wendy Fitzwilliam
When Wendy Fitzwilliam, Miss Universe Trinidad and Tobago, was named Miss Universe 1998, she became the second Miss Trinidad and Tobago, to win the coveted crown (the first being Janelle Commissiong in 1977). After her year, she attended law school and was admitted to the bar in her country. She is a successful model, television personality and singer.
Kimberly Aiken, Miss South Carolina, was crowned Miss America 1994 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. An accounting major, Kimberly sang “Summertime” from the opera “Porgy and Bess” in the talent competition and won the preliminary swimsuit competition.
Marjorie Vincent, Miss Illinois, won the 1991 Miss America Pageant held in September 1990 in Atlantic City. Marjorie was the daughter of Haitian immigrants to the United States. When the outgoing Miss America 1990, Debbye Turner, crowned Vincent, it became the second time in Miss America history that black women won back-to-back Miss America titles (the first being Vanessa Williams and Suzette Charles in 1984). An extremely talented classical pianist, Vincent played Chopin on the piano to win the talent competition. The platform she has chosen to address if selected the winner is Domestic Violence. She later completed her law degree, married, and has a son.
Debbye Lynn Turner, Miss Missouri, was named Miss America 1990 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She was crowned by her predecessor, Gretchen Carlson, who went on to become chairperson of the Miss America Organization. Debbye performed “Flight of the Bumble Bee”, “Czardas” and “Can Can” during the talent competition. At the conclusion of her reign, Debbye went on to complete her doctorate degree in Veterinary Medicine and to become a veterinarian and television personality.
Miss USA 1990, Carole Gist
Carole Gist, Miss Michigan USA, became the first African-American to win the Miss USA title when she was named Miss USA 1990. She came close to winning the Miss Universe title as well, placing as first runner-up to Mona Grudt, Miss Norway, who was named Miss Universe 1990.
Suzette Charles, Miss New Jersey, had been first runner-up to Miss America 1984, Vanessa Williams. When Williams was asked to give up her title, Charles was named Miss America 1984. During the televised pageant, Miss New Jersey, a talented singer, won a preliminary talent competition singing “Kiss Me in the Rain”.
Miss America 1984, Vanessa Williams – Miss New York – First Black Miss America
The 1984 Miss America Pageant was an historic one, producing the first two black Miss America winners. During the televised pageant, Vanessa Williams, Miss New York, was named Miss America 1984. She had won the swimsuit and talent competitions earlier in the week and was favored to win. During the talent competition, she performed a popular vocal of “Happy Days Are Here Again”. Possibly the most successful Miss America of all, she went on to become a recording artist, television and movie actress and appeared on Broadway.
Miss Universe 1977, Janelle Commissiong
Janelle Commissiong, Miss Trinidad & Tobago, was the first black woman to be named Miss Universe. She was a standout in the international competition and became a very popular titleholder. During her travels, she served as an inspiring symbol to girls of color worldwide that the crown was not barred from them due to race.
Miss World 1970, Jennifer Hosten
Jennifer Hosten, Miss Grenada, became the first black woman to win the Miss World title when she was crowned Miss World 1970. That year’s pageant was married by protesters outside the building attacking the contest as a cattle call.