BBC, Buzzfeed, Huffpost, Independent…. You name, she’s been on it. Since winning the title of Miss Universe Great Britain, Anguilla born Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers has been all over the media, even trending on Twitter. And why you ask? Because she’s the first black woman to win the title and represent GB at Miss Universe later this year.
It’s an incredible achievement from an already overachiever – aside from pageantry Dee-Ann has just finished her final bar exam to become a barrister, and has already competed in two Commonwealth Games as a heptathlete.
After getting to know Dee-Ann over the four days we spent together competing, I can hands down tell you she won because of who she is, and the colour of her skin didn’t even come into it. It’s a sad state of affairs that it’s a more newsworthy story because she is black – I always saw her as beautiful, and our standards of beauty should be all encompassing. It shouldn’t be a shock that a black girl won. But, this is a positive news story. The good thing about Dee-Ann getting the press coverage she deserves is that it is shining a light on pageantry being a liberated, modern force for the good of women.
As quoted in the Telegraph, while pageants are somewhat criticised for a lack of diversity, Dee-Ann said her win shows there is change: “I absolutely believe that diversity is increasing in pageantry and there are many examples around the world.
“Beauty standards are changing and it is an exciting time for all women of all backgrounds.”
Miss Universe GB is a contest for modern women. There were girls tall and short, petite and curvy, of different ethnicities and backgrounds. I believe that women are like diamonds – we come in different colours, shapes and sizes and from all corners of the earth. And, we are all beautiful. In other words, it is our differences that make us special, unique. And we should celebrate that. Dee-Ann embraced her beauty, embraced herself for who she is and stayed true to her identity. This is why she won.
I saw on BBC Newsbeat that she was asked whether pageants are a good influence for young girls, given that they are heavily based on looks. Firstly, everyone knows to Miss Universe GB, you need to knock the judges out with your closed door interview beforehand. That’s how you get noticed. Secondly, it’s energy and presence that will get you the title. Dee-Ann had that from embracing who she was. She said she gets the questioning, but, just like me, would encourage all women to give it a go:
“As someone who’s gone through the system, I would advocate for it for young women. Most of the women who I’ve known or have come into contact with through pageantry have grown exponentially since the pageant. They’ve pursued their goals relentlessly and have achieved what they’ve set out to do.”
“The buzz that’s surrounding my victory in Miss Universe Great Britain is the first indication as to why it’s so important today.”
“If I can say that to a young black girl, an Asian girl, any girl of any ethnicity in the United Kingdom, especially in this post-Brexit, post-Windrush era, then I would be ecstatic because I would have done my job.”
And that ladies and gentlemen, is how we’ve got our first black Miss Universe Great Britain, and from meeting her, I think she could be our first ever Miss Universe hailing from GB. Stay tuned to follow Dee-Ann’s journey because I will be pestering her for more coverage a lot!
*Photo by Kev Wise