BLACK VOICES

Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, Miss America Are All Black Women For First Time In Pageant History

New Miss USA Cheslie Kryst is a lawyer who does pro bono work with incarcerated people.

Cheslie Kryst contributed to pageant history when she was crowned Miss USA on Thursday: For the first time, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America are all black women.

Kryst, who represented North Carolina in the pageant, is a lawyer who practices civil litigation and does pro bono work to help get reduced sentences for incarcerated people.

Miss Teen USA 2019, Kaliegh Garris, was crowned Sunday. The high school senior from Connecticut plans to attend college and pursue a degree in nursing. Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin, who won her competition in September, hailed from New York.

Both Kryst and Garris were applauded for wearing their natural hair during their pageants.

“There were a few naysayers saying, ‘You look better with straight hair,’ or ‘You should put in extensions and straighten your natural hair,’” Garris told Refinery 29, later adding, “I feel more confident and comfortable with my natural hair.”

Both Miss USA, Nana Meriweather, and Miss Teen USA, Logan West, were black in 2012. But Miss America that year, Laura Kaeppeler, was not.

At Thursday’s final Miss USA event, Kryst expertly answered a question on whether the Me Too and Time’s Up movements against sexual harassment and assault had “gone too far.”

“I don’t think these movements have gone too far,” she said. “What Me Too and Time’s Up are about are making sure that we foster safe and inclusive workplaces in our country.”  

“As an attorney, that’s exactly what I want to hear,” she added. “That’s exactly what I want for this country.”

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