a brief history of racism and beauty pageants

since their inception, modern beauty pageants have had a storied history dealing with race and the contests.

atlantic city’s inter-city beauty contest” — now known as “miss america” — didn’t allow black women to participate for years after it first started in 1921.

during the 1950s, beauty pageants were also used to promote segregation in the jim crow south.

miss america and other pageants were used as a public relations tool to amp up white resistance against the supreme court’s brown v. board of education decision in 1954.

black women were prohibited from competing in miss america until 1970 when cheryl brown, or miss iowa, became the first african-american to compete.

it wasn’t until 1984 when the first black woman — vanessa williams from new york — won the contest in 1983.

unlike hay, williams was stripped of her title when penthouse, a men’s magazine, released nude photos of her without her consent.

it wasn’t until sept. 13, 2015, more than 30 years later, that miss america apologized for stripping williams of her crown.

also in 1983, deneen graham, a ballet dancer, returned home to find a burning cross on her lawn after being crowned miss north carolina. she was the first black woman to claim that title.

this doesn’t even address the general the ingrained racial bias in pageants

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Nicole Kelly has all the qualifications you’d expect a beauty queen to exhibit – a sincere disposition, an ambitious attitude, a friendly personality – but Kelly breaks the mold when it comes to her physical appearance.

Read on and learn more about this remarkable 23-year-old.


30 Days of Flight - Day 26 | WICKED the Musical

We love that Miss Iowa Nicole Kelly is one of our biggest fans. And she knows what it’s like to be “green,” having overcome her own physical disability and inspiring others to do the same.

We’re thrilled by her support of the show, so we’ve given her a one-of-a-kind experience - being transformed into the green girl herself by our Broadway makeup artist. Miss Iowa is no stranger to “prettifying” makeup, but it turns out that she’s never felt more beautiful than when we turned her green. 



Bionic Model Rebekah Marine and Miss Iowa 2013 Nicole Kelly’s Amputee Joke featuring Avicii’s “Wake Me Up”


Carlyn Bradarich. Miss Iowa

What to say, what to say. I love this dress. It’s top heavy for the eyes but only so as to draw attention to her face and from the chest down its simple just a dress. Nothing fancy.No piece of fabric to twirl around, no long train, just a simple, elegant, black dress. And because of that, this dress happily hugs Miss Iowa in all the right places. Of all the evening gowns, this dress has got to be my favorite. It’s simply just stunning, and the reason why, I believe, Miss Iowa was saved and picked to be in the top 6. Way to go Miss Iowa

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I would like to point out that this girl right here is my hero, my role model! I want to be like her! She’s so talented and kind and caring! She has auditioned for Glee twice and even made it into the finals one of the times! This summer she will be competing in the Miss Iowa pageant! To make things even better, she even works backstage on BROADWAY!!! Maybe one day I’ll be able to somewhat follow her footsteps in my own little way! Until then, she will remain my inspiration to reach for the stars and never settle for less! She is living proof that a smalltown girl can be someone! And that is why I am so proud of my cousin, my role model, my hero! <3