Skip to main content

FunTimes Magazine

Black Beauty Queens Throughout the Years

Dec 13, 2021 10:00AM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
a collage of Black beauty queens throughout the ages

Beauty pageants have always had a wild lack of diversity. History has proven time and time again that pageants favor women who embody Euro-centric beauty standards. However, in 2019, Black women won all major crowns in the mainstream pageant world—Miss America, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, Miss Universe, Miss International Queen, and Miss World! 

Glowing with various shades of rich melanin, Black beauty queens have not only secured the crown but also left a legacy for the generations of Black girls coming in the future. Learn more about the stunning Black beauty queens from around the world that won major titles throughout the years.

Cynthia Shange, 1972

Her start in modeling began in 1970, and she was successful almost immediately by winning the Miss Natal title. Her win gave her the chance to qualify and win the Miss South Africa competition, getting the title Miss Africa South. Her second win resulted in her qualifying and competing in the Miss World competition in 1972. She represented South Africa as Miss Black South Africa, and that made her the first Black beauty queen to win a Miss South Africa title.


Janelle Commissiong, 1977

Janelle Commisiong is a Trinidadian politician, model, and beauty queen who was crowned Miss Universe in 1977, the first Black Miss Universe in the history of the competition. During her reign, she was an advocate for black rights and world peace. Commissiong was awarded the Trinity Cross, the country's highest award, in 1977.


Debbye Turner, 1990

Hawaii-born Debbye Turner was first runner-up in the Miss Black Teenage World pageant in 1981, and in 1989 she won the Miss Missouri title and went on to be crowned Miss America 1990. These days, Turner is a reporter and contributor for CBS News’ The Early Show. Turner was the third African-American national titleholder and the first—and as of 2019, the only—Miss Missouri to be crowned Miss America.


Carole Anne-Marie Gist, 1990

Miss Michigan Carole Anne-Marie Gist, is crowned Miss USA at the 1990 Wichita, Kansas, televised ceremony. Gist was the first African-American to win the Miss USA title and eventually became the first runner-up to Mona Grudt of Norway in the Miss Universe pageant of that same year.


Kenya Moore, 1993

Kenya Moore is an American actress, model, producer, author, television personality, and entrepreneur. Moore rose to prominence in 1993 after winning the Miss USA contest which led her to compete in that year's Miss Universe pageant ultimately landing her among the top six. She was the second black woman to win the Miss USA contest, after Carole Gist, and she was the first dark-skinned woman to win Miss USA.


Mpule Kwelagobe, 1999

Mpule Keneilwe Kwelagobe is a Botswana investor, businesswoman, model, and beauty queen who was crowned Miss Universe in 1999. She was the first black African woman to win one of the Big Four international beauty pageants, the first woman from Botswana to win, and the first from a nation making its debut in nearly four decades. Kwelagobe had previously been crowned Miss Botswana 1997 and Miss Universe Botswana 1999 and competed in Miss World 1997.


Deshauna Barber, 2016

Miss District of Columbia USA 2016 Deshauna Barber was crowned Miss USA, making her the first military service member to take the crown. Barber is a motivational speaker, and captain in the United States Army Reserve. As of 2020, she is the CEO of Service Women's Action Network (SWAN), an advocacy NGO on women soldiers and veterans. Barber teaches at Howard University.


Dee-Ann Kentish Rogers, 2018

Dee-Ann Kentish Rogers is a British-Anguillan politician, model, beauty pageant titleholder, and former athlete who was crowned as Miss Universe Great Britain 2018 and represented Great Britain at the Miss Universe 2018 pageant. This was the first time the title has been won by a black woman since the pageant started in 1952


Zozibini Tunzi, 2019

Zozibini Tunzi from Tsolo, eSdwadweni in the Eastern Cape was crowned Miss South Africa 2019. Just 122 days later, she won one of the highest global accolades when she was crowned Miss Universe at the world’s most prestigious pageant. She had previously entered the Miss South Africa competition in 2017 and was a semi-finalist. As part of her Miss South Africa campaign, Zozi threw her weight behind the global fight against gender-based violence, supporting the United Nations #heforshe solidarity campaign for the advancement of gender equality.







 Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies. She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content. 

Read more from Boitumelo Masihleho:

What Is Pansexuality  Black Celebs Who Have Come Out As Pansexual

What Is Pansexuality? & Black Celebs Who Have Come Out As Pansexual

Representation matters and that means including everyone who makes up the LGBTQIA+ community. Learn more about pansexuality and the Black celebs who identify with the term. Read More » 


11 Black Women Activists Whose Names You Should Know

11 Black Women Activists Whose Names You Should Know

Black women have steadily led the way for centuries, and not just in the United States. We’ve highlighted 11 Black female activists who are making their mark. Read More » 


8 Influential Black Athletes in Olympic History

8 Influential Black Athletes in Olympic History

While you enjoy the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics, check out some history-making Black athletes who have competed at the Olympics. Read More »