Black Beauty Pageants Raise Many Questions

In 1970, Velma Stokley-Flournoy created the Miss Black Sacramento pageant. "I saw a pageant on television and there weren't any blacks involved," she explains. And thirty-eight years later, the pageant is still going strong:

Miss Black Sacramento and Miss Teen Black Sacramento were crowned over the weekend. When they first began, mainstream pageants like Miss America had rules barring black women from competing. (Although since 1984, six women of African descent have been named Miss America.) The Sacremento Bee asks the obvious question: Do we still need race-divided pageants? Notes reporter Ed Fletcher:

Among the thousands of beauty pageants across the country, scores cater to specific ethnic groups. Miss Black Sacramento, Miss Black California, Miss Black America, Miss Latina California, Miss Latina, Miss Asia Sacramento, and Miss Asian America are just a few.

But instead of asking if we still need ethnic pageants, shouldn't the question be whether we need pageants at all?

Here's something else to consider: Maybe more pageants ought to be like the Miss Black Sacremento pageant? Unlike Miss America or Miss USA, there is no swimsuit competition. More points are offered for talent than beauty. Winners get scholarship money, but while they are preparing for the pageant, they learn other skills:

In the months before the young ladies take the stage, they meet every Saturday for workshops to refine their skills: walking gracefully, giving interviews, public speaking.

On April 25, the eight competing in Miss Black Teen Sacramento and the eight in the adult competition sat down to learn dining etiquette – starting with how to set a formal table.

While Miss America claims its pageant "exists to provide personal and professional opportunities for young women to promote their voices in culture, politics and the community," and focuses on scholarships, there is still a "lifestyle and fitness" category of competition — also known as Swimsuit. Miss USA has always been a "bathing beauty" or swimsuit pageant and was founded in 1952 …by Catalina Swimsuits.

Clearly, the young women who apply feel that there is a for competitions like Miss Black Sacramento. In doing so, they become part of a community, showcase their talents, earn cash for school. It seems silly to ask if it's outdated, when the same could be asked of all similar competitions — including Miss America. But if you're gonna have pageants — and not, say, nationally televised Mathlete competitions — why not to have ones which are ethnically specific? And shouldn't more of them nix the swimsuit portion?

Miss Black Sacramento Pageants Spark Delight — And Some Doubts [Sacramento Bee]

Image of Miss Black California USA via Miss Black Los Angeles Pageant.]