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These 1970s Pageants Celebrated Black Women’s Beauty

Beauty and Health

These 1970s Pageants Celebrated Black Women’s Beauty

By Maurice Berger via


Raphael Albert was a successful British entrepreneur who did more than just promote beauty pageants: he photographed them. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he documented pageant life, his images a continuum of enthusiastic contestants strutting down runways in swimsuits, modeling the latest fashions and being crowned.

It might be easy to dismiss Mr. Albert’s photographs as relics from a sexist past. Except for one significant detail: his subjects were black. For these women, members of West London’s Afro-Caribbean communities, pageants nurtured racial pride and self-expression.

These exuberant photographs are the subject of “Raphael Albert: Miss Black and Beautiful,” an exhibition organized by Autograph ABP in London and, now, at Mac Birmingham. Curated by Renée Mussai, the exhibition offers insights into a consequential, but largely…


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I am a future butterfly at the stage of growth when I am turning into an adult. I am enclosed in a hard case shell formed by love, family, and friends. It is the hardest stage of becoming a black butterfly. You will encounter many hardships only to come out stronger and better than what you went in. At this stage, you are finding out who you truly are and how to love yourself.

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What Does It Mean To Be “Black Butterfly Beautiful”

The image of the butterfly has come to define the many expressions of the feminine black consciousness and for a good reason. The butterfly is the perfect articulation of the exquisite beauty of nature. Whether tiny or large, brightly colored or more subdued, the butterfly’s allure is undeniable. Each one displays its own unique patterns and hues, and no one species outshines any other.

Similarly, there is no one ideal image of a black woman -- each is gorgeous in her right. All African-Americans share a glorious history of struggle and perseverance that has funneled into the modern black renaissance. And, like the graceful butterfly, the awakened black woman exemplifies the dazzling beauty of that cultural evolution.

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