Back in the fall of 1983 when Vanessa Williams became Miss America, we, as a family, had our picture taken with her when she visited St. Louis. We went, my wife and I, to celebrate the grand moment when white American popular culture decided to embrace black women as something other than sexual subversives or fat, kindly maids cleaning up and caring for white families. We had our own, well, royalty, and royal origins mean a great deal to people who have been denied their myths and their right to human blood.
Selected as one of the Best American Essays of the Century, Gerald Early’s Life With Daughters: Watching the Miss America Pageant is a profoundly perceptive examination of America’s beauty complex, and its effects on young Black women, as seen through the eyes of his ten- and seven-year-old daughters who, like their mother, have become avid fans of televised beauty pageants.
Life With Daughters: Watching the Miss America Pageant was originally published in the Kenyon Review, September 1990.
Cover design by Adil Dara.