Last night, 90 extraordinary women took the stage and the world watched as South Africa was crowned Miss Universe. Here is why it matters:
For years black men and women have self-proclaimed Black is Beautiful. But last night the universe validated the grace, poise and beauty of a black woman on a global platform.
And the best part? It was a woman who unashamedly represented who she was. She wore no wig or extensions. Her hair was not died. Her skin was not lightened. Miss Universe spoke on leadership and embodied the lifestyle of millions of women around the world.
As a Puerto Rican woman I am a blend of three cultures: Spanish, African and Native American. More specifically Taino Indian. My family is a remarkable mixture of black and brown skin, blonde, brown and black hair of all textures and lengths, blue, green, hazel and chocolate brown eyes. In fact, people are honestly wowed to hear we're related.
As a bonus, I am the proud mother of two biracial children. Whose gorgeous black and caramel complexion and curly hair is the envy of many who spray tan weekly and use curling irons daily in hopes to accomplish what they were naturally blessed with.
We live in a world where the media routinely showcases black and brown people in handcuffs. Movies typically have a hero who is white. And the corporate ladder not only has a glass ceiling but a path that has many minorities making cultural compromises in order to achieve success.
As a brown woman with black children I remind my babies regularly that Black is Beautiful. Brown is Beautiful. It is Powerful. And Black and Brown can and will prevail in this world.
My 13-year-old son has been a Marvel ® fan for years. When the Avengers ® movies were released, he played with all of the characters objectively. But his eyes lit up and life was changed when he was introduced to Black Panther ®.
Now you’ll find Black Panther posters hanging on his walls, a Black Panther night light plugged into his outlet, Black Panther action figures at his side and Black Panther tees in his dresser. And you know what? He stands a little taller whenever he wears them.
I saw something similar with the release of Disney’s Princess and the Frog ®. My daughter wanted to plaster Princess Tiana everywhere. Why? Because this time, mommy didn’t just say Black is Beautiful…Disney proved it when they released their first Black Princess. I saw it again when my daughter was drawn to Meghan Markle, her marriage to Prince Harry and her coronation at the royal wedding.
We have a long way to go. But it's thrilling to know my children live in a time where they’ve seen a black action figure save the day, a black princess have a happy ending, a black first lady shatter the thickest glass ceiling and a black president hold the highest office in the land.
I take the time to teach my kids the importance of such achievements. Why Rita Moreno being the first Puerto Rican to achieve PEGOT status matters. A woman who still graces the screen at age 87 who has now won a Peabody, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award. Something only two other people can claim.
And last night the 90 ladies competing for the crown were narrowed down to the top three contestants. Mexico. Puerto Rico. And South Africa. My heart welled with pride as the focus was placed on the elegance, refinement and beauty of these black and brown women.
A part of me felt like a child. Just like my own children cling to black and brown heroines, I felt myself being represented on the stage by Miss Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has been one of the most successful competitors in the pageant’s history. In the end, I couldn’t be prouder of both Miss Puerto Rico and South Africa.
And we need more of this in the world.
As a mom, I want to encourage my children to explore every avenue and opportunity. Why? Because the world is a stunning melting pot. A mosaic of God’s remarkable creation. And we need to acknowledge more winners, heroes and royals who embody this.
It’s said that “a rising tide raises all ships.” So when your children want to attempt something that is unknown to you – let them. Support them. And cheer them on.
In a world that has a history of marginalizing, oppressing, and silencing black and brown we need more Usain Boltz’s, Simone Biles’ and Laura Hernandez’s to bring home the gold.
In my corner of the world where my parents were denied housing for being brown, my grandmother was constantly denied service at department stores for her accent, and my children were called the “N” word before they even knew what that was…I need it.
So congratulations ladies!
Here’s to South Africa – 2019’s Miss Universe. And 2019’s Miss America, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA for that matter. Stunning black women who all hold titles, wear crowns and are helping to break the mold.
As Zozibini Tunzi, our newest Miss Universe, so elegantly stated “the most important thing we can teach our young girls is leadership…and to take up space.”
Let’s take up space!
Let’s discuss this:
· When have you been encouraged by a heroine?
· How have you benefited from someone who has paved the way for you?
· How can we encourage the next generation to continue to take up space in today’s society?
A few great children's books:
· Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, Duncan Tonatiuh
· Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You, Sonia Sotomayor
· I Am Enough, Grace Byers
· Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, Vashti Harrison