In December 2015, black women and girls everywhere were delighted to see dark skinned beauty, Deshauna Barber walk across the stage and accept the title of Miss District of Columbia USA 2016. It wasn't a win for us just because she is a black woman, but it was a win because she is a black woman. A unambiguous, bantu featured black woman. For once, so many around the way black girls could see an image of themselves relish in the ultimate crown of beauty. The winner also agreed that it was a good look and stated; "I thought it was beautiful that I could represent those darker chocolate girls that don't always see themselves on the national stage. I see a lot of women of color that have competed and won, but it felt good to represent dark-skinned Black women."
I think I speak for many of us when I say we don't expect this to be the norm in the pageant world, but found it quite refreshing to see nonetheless. It was even more validating to see Deshauna rocking her natural hair when she passed her crown to this years winner, Kara McCullough.
The racist and colorist backlash following Deshauna's win was all too familiar and expected from onlookers of color, but the beauty queen is now revealing, over a year later, just how much of it she endured. When speaking of the internet response, she told Refinery29; "While competing for Miss Universe, I had to deal with colorism internationally. A lot of people in different countries considered me ugly because my skin is darker. They'd send me monkey emojis, and say that my skin looked like a poop emoji and tag me in photos with apes... I didn’t speak about it, because I didn't want to deter anyone from competing. You want to make it seem like everything is happy and hunky-dory, but there are a lot of very challenging moments".
The 2016 pageant winner also told them that her challenging year having to deal with the discrimination, and the encouragement of her late mother, are both reasons she decided to go natural and bare it all on her final walk across the stage. When speaking on how important she felt it was for young black girls to see her natural hair she stated; "If I take a small step by showing my natural 4c hair, the next girl will take one, and then we'll ease our natural hairstyles into the pageant community."
Deshauna is yet more proof that our work in lessening the harmful impact of colorism, texturism etc. specifically pertaining to black women and girls is far from over. Nobody but us is going to pave the way for our youngens, reminding them that they are beautiful just the way they are and that they are worthy of acknowledgement and praise. Like Deshauna, we have to set the example when presented the opportunity and be vocal about our experiences. DDS salutes Miss USA Deshauna Barber for being a voice and the example for black women and girls worldwide and we wish you the best on all of your future endeavors.