It’s been a history making year for Black beauty queens and Brianna Mason is continuing that trend with her recent naming as Miss Tennessee. This makes her the first Black woman to hold the title in the pageant’s eighty-year history.
It was Mason’s fourth time competing in the state pageant and she was determined to win the pageant for all young Black women, saying, “I’m here to tell you that it does not matter what your skin color is. It does not matter what your religion is. You can do anything that you want.”
The 23-year-old first grade teacher from Nashville won a $15,000 scholarship as part of her title and will go on to compete in the national Miss America pageant later this year.
Women of color have historically faced discrimination within the beauty pageant system and received far less titles than their competing white counterparts. Vanessa Williams became the first Black woman to win the Miss America pageant in 1983, but relinquished her title after Penthouse published unauthorized nude photos of her. In 1990, Carole Ann-Marie Gist became the first Black woman to be crowned Miss USA and Janel Bishop became the first teen to win the Miss Teen USA contest in 1991.
That makes recent wins like Mason’s all the more important.
For the first time in history, the reigning Miss America, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA are all black women!