The 2019 Miss Teen USA Winner Rocked Her Natural Hair During the Pageant
Here's why it was such a huge moment when Kaliegh Garris got her crown.
Women of color wearing their natural hair in movies, television, and magazines has happily become more common in recent years, but overall, it's still often the exception rather than the rule. Which is why Miss Teen USA 2019 rocking her natural Afro during the pageant marked a huge moment for representation.
According to People, on April 28th, Kaliegh Garris of Connecticut was crowned Miss Teen USA 2019. And so many viewers were loving her decision to embrace her natural hair during the competition. (Related: Miss Teen USA Swaps Swimsuits for Athletic Wear)
"The night before, I finger curled every single piece of my hair in the shower, which led to a very long shower, but it was for the greater good," Garris told Refinery29. "I know what I look like with straight hair, with extensions, and with my curly hair, and I feel more confident and comfortable with my natural hair." (Related: Here's How to Embrace Your Natural Locks)
She added, "As I've gotten older, it makes me feel unique." However, the decision wasn’t easy: Garris noted that she received pushback and criticism in the often homogenous pageant circuit.
"There were a few naysayers saying, 'You look better with straight hair,' or 'You should put in extensions and straighten your natural hair,'" she told the site.
Thankfully, she ignored the critics, and it paid off with a victory that brought much-needed representation to so many women and girls. Business Insider notes that it’s been 20 years since the pageant last crowned a winner with natural hair—when Ashley Coleman took home the Miss Teen USA title in 1999.
And Twitter was here for it.
Aside from having gorgeous hair, Garris boasts a long list of accomplishments. Her bio on the Miss Teen USA website states that she attends two high schools (one of which is a specialized performing arts school) and is a competitive dancer. She also founded a movement called "We Are People 1st" in honor of her sister, who has multiple disabilities.
We’re happy to see this year's Miss Teen USA title go to such a deserving candidate—and we’re even more glad that it marks a major step forward for inclusivity.
This story originally appeared on HelloGiggles.com by Anna Sheffer.