The victory of Leila Lopes of Angola paved way for some African countries to take a chance and actually compete in the world's most prestigious contest. This year Gabon, a sub-Saharan nation and not so far from Angola, stage a world class pageant that eventually chose Ada Marie Noelle Meyo as the country's official contestant to the Miss Universe 2012 pageant. Gabon, a former French colony, is actually the third richest sub-Saharan nation and is poised to have a better economic growth in the coming years. This air of confidence allowed the country to actually spread the word that Gabon is ready for the world stage and who knows, they might actually win the crown this year. Ada Marie is the most probable contestant to actually follow the footsteps of Leila Lopes.
Women of color had made large gains at the Miss Universe pageant although there are only a handful of them that won the title. It took more than two decades before the first ever black woman to be crowned as Miss Universe. Janelle Commissiong of Trinidad and Tobago took that honor in 1977. In 1995 Chelsi Smith of United States took the crown. Chelsi is bi-racial wherein her father is an African-American. In 1998 Wendy Fitzwilliam became the second Trini and the third black woman to win the crown. The next year, 1999, was a significant one because for the first time ever, a black beauty crowned another black queen. Miss Botswana Mpule Kwelagobe beat the odds to become her country's first and so far the only Miss Universe. Mpule holds the distinction of being the first black African to win the crown.
With all these handful victories, one can disagree or agree with an op-ed in an American newspaper hours prior the live broadcast of Miss Universe 2011. The op-ed subtly but brazenly accused Miss Universe of racism predicting that the results would give us all another Miss Universe that conforms with the westernized standard of beauty. He has to eat his words hours later. The truth is, beauty pageants made great strides to diversify the concept of beauty. Really, this accusation of racism may have swayed the Miss Universe organization to have that desire to prove the writer wrong. But it would be the case if what the op-ed was saying is the real sentiment of the people in the United States or even of the rest of the world.
Is racism really real at Miss Universe? Or shall we go further to ask if racism is real in the Big4 pageants? The victory of Leila Lopes already proved that beauty transcends skin colors but it wouldn't stop those with race issues to rehash their questions every year. The victory of an Angolan at the pageant did inspire other African countries to join. If there is indeed racism in Miss Universe, the Gabonese people really don't give a damn.
Do you think that racism exists at Big4 pageants?