Business Side of Black Beauty: Pageant Winners’ Success Stories

The 63rd Miss USA contest wrapped June 8 at the Baton Rouge Civic Center in Louisiana. Twenty-four-year-old Miss Nevada, Nia Sanchez, beat 50 other contestants to win the crown.

But critics question Sanchez’s eligibility, claiming that she isn’t a Nevada native and wasn’t eligible for the state’s pageant. They say she failed three times to win the Miss California crown, before eventually winning the Miss Nevada competition in January.

The brewing controversy takes us back to September 1983 when Miss New York, Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America — The first African American to wear the crown since the contest started in September 1921. Williams was forced to give up her tiara, but went on to bigger and better things.

Since Williams, seven other African American women have worn the Miss America crown, Suzette Charles 1984, Debbye Turner 1990, Marjorie Judith Vincent 1991, Kimberly Aiken 1994, Erika Harold 2003, Erica Dunlap 2004, and Caressa Cameron 2010.

Rival pageant, Miss USA launched in 1952 after one Miss America winner refused a swimsuit photo shoot. An African American wasn’t crowned, until Carole Anne-Marie Gist in 1990.

Throughout the history of these pageants, after the spotlight turns off, some past contestants have led lives of depression, eating disorders, and sometime suicide. So which ones are now thriving and dominating their respective fields?