It could be argued that the UK continues its slowness in representing people of colour in just about every industry. It’s not surprising that it has taken over half a century to crown its first black Miss Universe. This year’s representative is Anguilla-born Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers – a dark-skinned black woman with natural hair.
Kentish-Rogers, a law school graduate, was crowned on 15 July, breaking with the tradition of largely white, or light-skinned winners.
Beyond the significance of her presence in the competition alone, Kentish-Rogers mused about the unique qualities she brought to the pageant, some of which had likely never been seen before.
To her knowledge, Kentish-Rogers is “the first dreadlocked woman to walk across a Miss Universe Great Britain stage”. She hopes to foster a better sense of community among all women as the result of her success
It would be easy to dismiss this as a surface win for black women in Britain. Many see the Miss Universe pageant, formerly owned by Donald Trump, as a dated and superficial affair.
It is assumed that it is dedicated only to upholding unrealistic beauty ideals and a restrictive representation of what it means to be a woman.
Equally, given the historic nature of Kentish-Rogers’ victory, it could be interpreted that her win, which she described as “really humbling” and “a privilege”, exists in contradiction with this country’s lack of inclusion when it comes to championing more varied ideas of black womanhood.
Historically, black women have been rendered less desirable than white women and, as studies have shown, all other groups of women.
Recognition from mainstream institutions aren’t necessarily grounds for celebration on their own, given the great pains the black community has gone through to set its own standards when it comes to defining beauty.
However, it is noteworthy that Britain’s current Miss Universe representative, looks like millions of women and girls who have long ached to see themselves represented on the main stage. This is certainly a start.