Miss Tennessee Brianna Mason makes history in an already historic year

Posted at 10:05 AM, Jun 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-01 02:49:15-04

It’s a triumphant year for beauty queens of color and a first-grade teacher from Nashville is keeping that streak alive.

Brianna Mason won the Miss Tennessee scholarship pageant Saturday night, CNN affiliate WATE reported, becoming the first African-American woman to win the title in the pageant’s eight-decade history.

The crown serves as Mason’s ticket to the Miss America competition later this year.

The Miss America competition is separate from the Miss USA pageant system, which includes the Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe contests.

But both pageants are having a historic year.

For the first time, the reigning Miss America, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA are all black women. And that’s a big deal if you know pageant history.

Some beauty pageants date back to the 1920s and used to ban women of color from participating. Even after organizations started changing their rules to accept women of all races, there was still a lingering frustration and opposition.

Only in the last 50 years have black women become more prevalent in these competitions. Vanessa Williams was the first black Miss America in 1983. Carole Anne-Marie Gist was the first black woman crowned Miss USA in 1990. And Janel Bishop became the first black Miss Teen USA in 1991.

This year’s trio of national winners include Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst, a civil litigation lawyer who does pro bono work for prisoners.

Miss America2019 Nia Franklin is an opera singer and arts advocate. AndMiss Teen USA 2019 Kaliegh Garris first defied critics by competing with her natural hair and then silenced critics by winning the national title.