When Cheslie Kryst was named 2019’s Miss USA on Thursday, it marked the first time ever that black women have been crowned in all three of America’s top pageants.
Kryst, a 28-year-old North Carolina civil litigation attorney, joins 2019 Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris, 18 — also crowned last week — and Nia Franklin, 25, who was named 2019 Miss America in September in the historic trio.
Garris is a high school senior in Connecticut, who aims to become a trauma nurse and founded We Are People 1st — a movement that aims to educate people how to speak respectfully about disabilities — while Franklin is a classically trained opera singer, with a degree in music composition and fine arts. Kryst, who is licensed to practice law in two states, is dedicated to offering pro bono assistance to prisoners who may have been sentenced unjustly to help them achieve reduced punishments, CNN reports. She is also an advocate of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.
The historic occasion was recognized by several high-profile figures, including actress Halle Berry and 2020 Democratic Party presidential aspirant Senator Kamala Harris.
As a past beauty pageant contestant myself, this news fills my heart with so much joy. Congrats to @MissUSA #CheslieKryst, Miss Teen USA #KalieghGarris, and @MissAmerica #NiaFranklin. You are ALL deeply inspiring, and I am thrilled to celebrate you!! https://t.co/nYNWtGmXHc
— Halle Berry (@halleberry) May 5, 2019
Nia, Cheslie, and Kaliegh: you are trailblazers, creating your own path on your own terms. Congratulations. pic.twitter.com/BKlfo75Zw4
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) May 4, 2019
The Miss America pageant dates back to 1921, but women of color were barred from competing until the 1940s. Vanessa Williams became the first black pageant winner when she was awarded the Miss America crown in 1984.
Miss USA began in 1952, but didn’t crown a black contestant until Carole Anne-Marie Gis, in 1990. The following year, Janel Bishop became the first black Miss Teen USA.
Franklin noted that she is the ninth black Miss America.
“It is important to little brown and black girls to see three strong figures, three strong women, African-American women that are doing so much great work,” she said on Saturday. “People will argue that race doesn’t matter. But race does matter in America, because of the history, because of slavery.”
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When you realize it’s been a week since your life changed..so excited for this amazing journey and year ahead . It’s already off to an AMAZING start thanks to my family, friends, the Miss America Organization board, staff, my Miss New York team, and MAO volunteers . . Thank you all for your support! . . #missamerica