Miss Hampton U Proves Beauty Is Racialized

By Cindy Von Quednow Nov 03, 2009

Last month, a mixed-race college student won the beauty pageant at a traditionally Black university in Virginia. But it wasn’t exactly the student’s choice. Hampton University’s student body didn’t get to vote for their tall, fair-skinned queen. A five-judge panel did and what was their real mission? To get put her on track to become Miss Virginia in 2010. At a place like Hampton University, which is one of 80 traditional Black colleges in the country, you would think or hope that the racialized standard of beauty—white skin, so-called good hair— would be different from what we see on TV and the covers of magazines. But it seems that the white standard of beauty has prevailed again. Nikole Churchill, whose mother is from Italy and father from Guam, and who can pass for white, was chosen over nine Black students. To make matters worse, Churchill wrote a letter to President Obama asking for his sympathy. Surely he can understand her situation, being the first Black president and all. Or maybe she just really wants to share a beer with Obama? It sounds like Churchill is claiming reverse racism, though she hasn’t been excluded from the university. Unfortunately, Churchill and many other people don’t get it that electing a queen who looks white at a Black university—despite her mixed race experience—is like a slap in the face to the rest of the student body and it highlights the white supremacy of beauty. It’s just impossible to believe those judges cared about anything other than having a young white woman possibly snag the title of Miss Virginia next year for their school. Winning the pageant made Churchill the school’s homecoming queen and earned Churchill the right to go for that Miss VA title as well as a $1500 scholarship. The judges were on target historically when they chose a white winner in the beauty contest. It took 63 years to name the first Black Miss America and after that, only four more Black women have worn the crown. An Asian American woman wasn’t elected until 2001. Unfortunately Churchill’s win means that Black women are still ignored —not because they are not beautiful, but because we don’t fit into that tiny box defining beauty why whiteness.