The Miss Naturally Crowned beauty pageant is a pageant unlike any other, simply because its main aim is celebrating natural hair.
It was founded in 2013 by Jessica Boyd and Maureen Ochola, who wanted to give Palmetto State something new and exciting. The girls, best friends for over 15 years, learned that their home state, South Carolina, had an increasing number of black women who chose natural hair over chemically straightened hair.
As a result, the girls, who were 26 at the time, chose to offer a solution to encourage greater acceptance of natural hair. They have held the pageant every year in Columbia since April 2014, and with funding, they have awarded their contestants more than $10,000 worth scholarships and entrepreneurial experience.
The pageant accepts natural-haired contestants aged between 19 and 30 with various occupations from military to teaching. The winner of the first pageant, Chanelle Johnson, never thought she could win a pageant because the traditional ones did not favor kinky natural hair.
Miss Naturally Crowned is more than a simple pageant, though. It promotes natural beauty and offers business coaching. Contestant hopefuls submit either academic transcripts or single-page business plans that outline their dream businesses or ideas for nonprofit organizations.
The selected contestants receive training from Lolita Frazier, a runway trainer, and make several appearances across the city.
During the pageant, the organizers also help to build the contestants’ natural strengths and help them to discover inner qualities that they might not have known before. Basically, the pageant fosters self-love and acceptance. And it doesn’t end there.
The former pageant queens have, instead of squandering their winnings, used it to grow their businesses or further their education.
Miss Naturally Crowned has garnered the attention it deserves. It has been recognized by major names in media like mic.com, Essence, the Tom Joyner Morning Show and Black Enterprise.
With the stratospheric rise of the pageant, it will only keep growing and inspiring more women to embrace their natural hair.