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Black beauty Queens: Where are they now?

BLACK BEAUTY: Vanessa Williams

AT THIS year’s Miss Universe, host Steve Harvey made headlines after he named the wrong winner on live television.

The 58-year-old was forced to apologise to first runner-up Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez-Arévalo for incorrectly declaring her the winner of the annual pageant.

In an awkward turn of events, Gutierrez-Arévalo had the crown and sash snatched from her quicker than you could say ‘Boxing Day Sales’ for the real winner, Pia Alonzo Wurztbach of the Philippines to take her place.

The very same weekend, history was being made at the Miss World pageant in China where Miss Jamaica became the first contestant with dreadlocks.

Medical doctor Sanneta Myrie wowed judges with her beauty and intellect and stood out from the crowd with her distinct locs.

The world of pageantry with its gowns, glitz and glamour remains a popular destination for young women to advance themselves and their profile.

Whether you like or loathe the concept, some iconic black women have risen through the ranks to establish credible careers and make crowns within closer reach for black contestants to come.

We look at some of the women who have held titles and where they are now.

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Janelle ‘Penny’ Commissiong (Trinidad & Tobago) - Miss Universe 1977

Then: In 1977, Janelle Commissiong won the title of Miss Trinidad and Tobago, and at the age of 24 went on to become the first Black Miss Universe in the history of the competition.

During her reign, she was an advocate for black rights and world peace. Commissiong was awarded the Trinidad’s highest honour, the Trinity Cross in 1977.

Three postage stamps were also issued in her honour.

Now: Commissiong became the head of boat manufacturers Bowen Marine in 1989 following the tragic death of her first husband who owned the business.

The 62-year-old remarried publisher Alwin Chow and they adopted a daughter, Sasha together. The figure remains in the public eye as a guest speaker and occasional host.

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Vanessa Williams (USA, New York) – Miss America 1984

Then: Vanessa Williams became the first Black woman to win the title of Miss America in 1983 at the age of 21. Ironically, her parents wrote on her birth announcement: ‘Here she is, Miss America!’

Before her reign officially ended, Williams was forced to relinquish her title after reports surfaced that she had posed nude for Penthouse Magazine.

Now: 32 years after stepping down, Williams returned to the pageant world to serve as head judge and was given a public apology from Miss America CEO Sam Haskell over how she was treated.

The 52-year-old has enjoyed a successful career in the entertainment industry having earned Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award nominations.

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Giselle Laronde-West (Trinidad & Tobago) – Miss World 1986

Then: Walking away with the title Miss World 1986, Giselle Laronde West became the first woman from Trinidad and Tobago to be victorious in the Miss World pageant, at the age of 23.

She became the second woman from the Caribbean country to win an international beauty pageant and beat out a 20-year-old Halle Berry who was also a finalist representing the USA.

Now: Laronde-West used her prize money to attend Goldsmith's College, University of London where she completed a degree in Sociology and Communication.

The 52-year-old is a married mother of two and resides in Trinidad and Tobago where she is the Corporate Communications Manager.

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Lisa Hanna (Jamaica) – Miss World 1993

Then: Lisa Rene Hanna was crowned Miss World 1993 in South Africa, becoming the third Jamaican to win the title. The beauty queen who was

Now: Aged 40, Hanna serves as a member of the governing People's National Party as Jamaica's Minister of Youth and Culture.

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Mpule Kwelagobe, (Botswana) - Miss Universe 1999

Then: At the age of 17, while in school, Mpule became the youngest woman to be crowned as Miss Botswana and the first to represent the country in an international pageant two years later.

The teen became the first black African to win the title.

Now: Mpule has been recognised as a UN Goodwill Ambassador, human health rights activist, fighting against HIV/AIDS and advocacy for youth and women to have greater access to sexual reproductive education and services.

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Agbani Darego (Nigeria) – Miss World 2001

Then: After competing in Miss Universe to place in the top 10, Agbani Darego famously was the only contestant to wear a one-piece swimming costume during the swimsuit segment.

The model went on to became the first native Sub-Saharan African to win Miss World in 2001 when she was just 19-years-old.

Now: In 2010 she launched a style and fashion reality show Stylogenic on Nigerian television, and three years later announced her denim range, AD by Agbani Darego, which includes jeans, dresses, sunglasses and bags

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Leila Lopes (Angola) – Miss Universe 2011

Then: Leila Lopes became the fourth woman from Africa in the pageants 60-year history to win the Miss Universe title. The crowd favourite won over the audience who famously chanted ‘Angola’ so loudly that hosts were barely audible.

Now: Aged 29, Lopes works as an actress and model and recently tied the knot in a lavish wedding to NFL football player Osi Umenyiora.

Having landed a number of magazine covers and catwalk shows, the Suffolk University graduate has expressed an ambition to own a cosmetics company in Angola.

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Rachel Christie – Miss England 2009

Then: Rachel Christie made history in 2009 after she became the first black woman to take home the ‘Miss England’ title. Unfortunately she was forced to relinquish her crown after a reported fight with another contestant.

Now: The 26-year-old is the niece of Olympic sprint champion Linford Christie. Christie shares a son with former Gladiators star David Mcintosh. The former athlete launched ‘Going for Gold Mag’ a monthly celebrity fitness guide. Christie is scheduled to feature of revived reality show Love Island.

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