When Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers woke up last Saturday, she was already a bronze and sliver medal winning heptathlete and law school graduate, but she was looking to add another jewel to the crown by being named Miss Universe Great Britain (GB).
Competing against 40 other women from the UK and British overseas territories at the Riverfront Theater and Arts Center, Kentish-Rogers achieved her goal and thus made history by becoming the first black woman to be crowned Miss Universe GB in its 66-year history.
“I think it’s really humbling and I think it’s also a privilege for me to become the first black woman who is crowned Miss Universe Great Britain,” the newly crowned queen told BuzzFeed News.
Kentish-Rogers’s pageant journey did not come without challenges. The death of her grandmother, who passed away a few days before her 100th birthday, took a toll on her.
“Naturally, I became unfocused and lost my motivation,” she told Pageant News.
However, her “ridiculous huge family” helped her through the process. The love and strength from her family is why she stands today as Miss Universe GB.
Kentish-Rogers is aware of how monumental her victory and hopes it is a catalyst for more diversity in the competition.
“I believe that this is the direction that the pageant has been going in for the last couple of years because Britain is a diverse nation, we are a multicultural society and it is time that diversity is seen on a stage where other young black girls and girls of all ethnicities can see that is something for everybody, not just some of us,” she said.
Paula Abbandonato, the national director for Miss Universe GB, also acknowledged the significance of Kentish-Rogers’ victory.
“I took over this role in 2008 and I can honestly say there is no better gift [than] having our first black winner to celebrate 10 years into the job,” Abbandonato said in a statement given to BuzzFeed News. “Dee-Ann is a true role model for all women of all skin colors and with her dynamism off the stage, coupled with her presence on the stage, I genuinely believe Great Britain has a chance at the Miss Universe crown this year.”
Kentish-Rogers, who hails from the British territory Anguilla, also made history by becoming the first woman to sport a dreadlock hairstyle during the competition. The look may have made her stand out, but she found it important to don her natural hair.
“I felt that it was very important for me to represent my cultural identity and to represent myself truly on this platform,” she told BBC News. “This is a part of who I am. If you’re going to take one part of me, you’re going to take all of me.”
— WCAN.UK (@WCANetwork) July 16, 2018
The medal-winning athlete says the difference she aims to make is “simply representing for women in general and in particular women in sports.”
“I want to raise the profile of women in sports so that they will be able to gather more sponsorship and representation in the media,” Kentish-Rogers said. “I am also very passionate about seeing equal pay opportunities for women in sports. This is where I want to make a difference.”
Kentish-Rogers will compete at the international Miss Universe competition this December in the Philippines.