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How Two Black Pageant Queens Exposed the World’s Beauty Biases

Janelle Harris
Mar 22, 2019 - 5:00

The night that Janelle “Penny” Commissiong became the first Black Miss Universe was a historic moment. It was July 16, 1977, well into a decade defined by the explosive Black Power Movement and a coinciding aesthetic that amplified Black women’s natural beauty. A global delegation of contestants from 80 countries traveled to Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic, to compete for the title of Miss Universe. Despite previous winners from Asia and South America, the pageant had been slow to break from the Eurocentric beauty standards that informed its...

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