Natural hair is one of the hottest topics in the pageant scene.
In this post, get to know the movers and shakers who are ushering in a new era.
For years, it’s been a huge struggle for women with natural hair to decide how to wear it when they compete in pageants.
If you’re one of these natural beauties, you know exactly what we mean.
But now, the tides are turning. Gone are the days of torturing your hair into submission and the potential feelings of guilt or even sadness many women feel at having to hide their natural hair.
Embrace Your Natural Hair!
Now, thanks to the incredible women on this list, more and more pageant competitors are feeling ready to share and celebrate their natural hair with the world.
Let’s take a moment to learn more about the women who set the pageant stage for natural hair.
This 2016 Miss USA winner broke lots of barriers when she won her title.
She was the first active member of the military to ever win the pageant. While many audience members and judges alike have celebrated the chance to see the duality of a military member in pageant dresses, others, especially women of color, celebrate Barber’s legacy for a different reason.
Barber describes herself as being the first “dark-skinned” black woman to win Miss USA since Kenya Moore — now of Real Housewife fame — did in 1993.
The following year, Barber returned to the Miss USA stage to crown Kára McCullough (more on her later on!)
Making A Statement
While Barber’s gorgeous, bright yellow gown turned every head in the audience, it was her hair that really had natural beauties smiling — and feeling a sense of pride.
Barber wore her hair naturally, in a statement-making afro.
Interestingly, Barber wasn’t always interested in showing off and celebrating her natural hair. In fact, in an interview with Refinery29, Barber stated that she has her mother to thank for encouraging her to go natural.
While Barber was afraid that her natural hair would work against her in a competition that so often centers around cookie-cuter beauty, her mother urged her to present and celebrate her true self.
But there were other, far less pleasant, reasons that influenced Barber’s decision to rock her afro on the stage that day.
After her win, Barber pointed out the blatant and difficult racism that plagued her during the competition and only seemed to intensify after her win. In the same interview we mentioned above, Barber also stated that her fellow contestants didn’t always have the kindest things to say about her skin tone.
Especially those from nations outside the United States, where black women are often the minority, believed that Barber was “ugly” and that she was likely poorer than they were.
She was also subjected to seemingly limitless streams of racially-motivated abuse on social media.
This, combined with honoring her mother’s legacy (she passed away a few months after Barber won the competition) inspired her to go natural.
It was a huge moment in pageant history, and one that helped women everywhere to love the skin — and hair — that they have.
However, Barber was not the first woman in pageant history to wear her hair naturally. Now, let’s take a look at the icons and pioneers that came before her.
We’re also taking a look at a future contestant that followed in Barber’s footsteps.
For girls with natural hair — or those who are thinking of making the switch — the 2015 Miss World Competition was a huge moment in pageant history.
Sanneta Myrie, a 24-year-old doctor from Jamaica, wore the ultimate natural hair style: dreadlocks. She was the first contestant in the pageant’s history to do so.
Clearly, her amazing hairstyle paid off: she made it into the pageant’s top 5. But for many women of color, Myrie was the true winner of the night. When asked about why she chose to wear her hair in dreadlocks, Myrie stated that it was a tribute to her Afrocentric roots.
In the same interview, she also told reporters that she wore her hair in dreadlocks because she wanted to pay tribute to the strength and “resilience” of the Jamaican people.
We think she paid her home country a beautiful tribute.
Natural hair had another iconic pageant moment in 2007, when Zahra Redwood wore her hair in dreadlocks while competing in the Miss Universe Pageant.
Similarly to Myrie’s statement, Redwood also noted that she wanted to honor her culture by sporting natural hair.
A proud Jamaican and Rastafarian, Redwood told reporters that Rastafarianism and pageantry “both promote decorum in the attitude of the female and the female as a role model in society.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Remember Deshauna Barber, the first pageant winner and natural hair supporter on our list?
She made waves for wearing her afro at the 2017 Miss Universe Pageant while crowning this year’s winner, Kára McCullough.
It seems like Barber was a huge inspiration not just to women around the world, but directly to McCullough herself! This is because this 25-year-old from the District of Columbia wore her hair naturally, in curls, for the competition.
Like Barber, McCullough stated that she was motivated by a desire to rebel against the hairstyles that people expect to see when they watch pageants. Also like Barber, McCullough agreed that wearing her hair natural was a big decision.
In an interview with Refinery29, she was worried that people were not “going to be receptive to it at all” but that she “decided to embrace what makes me feel comfortable…”
While McCullough’s on healthcare as a human right and the role of feminism in today’s society certainly had tongues wagging all over the Internet, the beauty of her natural hair was one statement that everyone could agree on.
Celebrate Your Natural Beauty In Your Next Pageant!
So, do the amazing ladies on our list of natural hair trailblazers have you inspired to try the same look in your next pageant?
If so, you still need to make sure that your hair looks its absolute best — so that it’s ready to make the best statement possible.
Fortunately, there are countless ways to take care of natural hair — and many of them start right in your kitchen!
Check out some of these recipes for natural hair care masks that are great for giving you moisture, shine, and everything in between!
Finally, remember that natural hair is all about self-confidence. When others can tell that you feel beautiful, they’ll think the same about you.