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This Puerto Rican Beauty Is The First Miss Alabama Beauty Pageant Contestant In 20 Years And It’s About Time

What comes to mind when you think of a “beauty queen”? If images of blonde-haired, blue-eyed Southern girls with money to blow come to mind, you wouldn’t be in the minority.

Kailee Grace Montes, the 22-year-old Latina of Puerto Rican descent competing in the Miss Alabama beauty pageant, is trying to change all that.

In 2019, Montes was the first Latina in 20 years to compete in the Miss Alabama competition. Not only that, but Montes was one of only five of the 47 girls competing who identified as a minority.

According to Montes, she was initially attracted to the idea of participating in pageants for the same reason many Latinas pick up a side-hustle: to pay for college. And it worked! Montes racked up enough scholarship money to pay for two years of college after winning Miss Mobile Bay 2019. But the earnings weren’t the only thing that attracted Montes: “I also thought that pageants were a way I could give back to the community,” Montes said. Specifically, Montes was excited to bring a spotlight to the Boys and Girls Club of America, an after-school program for young adults. But being a Latina competing in a majority-white state meant that Montes had her work cut out for her.

The last–and only–Latina that has won the Miss America Pageant was Paraguay-born Sharlene Wells Hawkes in 1985.

The prevalence of Latina participation in beauty pageants in other parts of the world makes it that more shocking that Latinas are so few and far between in US-based pageants. Although Montes was the first Latina contestant in the Alabama pageant in 20 years, beauty pageants are a common part of many young women’s lives in much of Latinidad. Countries like Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil have a rich history of beauty pageants, with over one-third of total Miss Universe winners coming from the region.

As for Montes, she’s admitted that being one of the only minorities in the Miss Alabama pageant was a challenging experience: “I feel like I’m one of the few who understands the plights minorities have to go through,” Montes said during an interview with NBC News during semifinals

Although Montes placed in the Top 12 in the Miss Alabama competition, she’s not giving up yet.

She plans on continuing to enter pageants and has hopes of one-day attending law school. But, in the end, she hopes that her presence in the Miss Alabama pageant has been an example of what Latinas can accomplish, even with the odds stacked against them.

“As Latinas, we can make any change,” Montes said. “We can change the tone and the cultural temperature by stepping up, speaking out and working together”.

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Who Is Mari Pepin? Everything You Need to Know About the Puerto Rican Beauty Queen and ‘The Bachelor’ Frontrunner

Entertainment

Who Is Mari Pepin? Everything You Need to Know About the Puerto Rican Beauty Queen and ‘The Bachelor’ Frontrunner

As you probably know by now, a new season of the never-ending reality series “The Bachelor” has just started.

And this season is destined to be especially exciting–not just because of the promise of non-stop drama, but because the franchise has finally hired its first Black male lead, Matt James, after 18 years on the air.

And with the first Black “Bachelor” comes the most diverse group of contestants competing for the lead’s heart that they’ve ever had.

And one of the contestants that is capturing the hearts of both fans and Matt James alike is 24-year-old Puerto Rican-born pageant queen Mariela “Mari” Pepin.

On this season’s premiere episode of “The Bachelor”, Mari was immediately clocked by viewers as one of the front runners by the way that Matt reacted to meeting her. The former Wake Forest wide receiver was struck speechless by her beauty and couldn’t keep his eyes off her when she parted ways with him. It was obvious that Mari had made quite the first impression on him.

And because we love to see #representation on screen (and especially on reality TV), we decided to do our due diligence and find out as much as we could about this gorgeous and accomplished Latina. Here’s everything you need to know about Mari Pepin.

She’s Boricua–and proud of it!

Something that immediately endeared Mari to fans was the fact that she is so vocally proud of being Puerto Rican. In her first sit-down conversation with Matt, she opened up about how hard its been for her family to live through the relentless natural disasters that the island is going through.

She’s a military brat.

According to Mari’s personal blog, she spent the first few years of her life in PR before relocating to Germany because of her father’s military career. According to Mari, her unique childhood contributed to her love of traveling as an adult.

She was 2019’s Miss Maryland USA.

According to Mari’s official “Bachelor” bio, she began competing in pageants when she moved to Maryland as a teenager. She won Miss Teen Maryland and then went on to win the title of Miss Maryland. After that, she placed in the Top 10 of the Miss USA competition.

She’s wicked smart.

According to Mari’s LinkedIn page, she has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Towson University and she’s currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Marketing Intelligence from the same institution. It’s safe to say she values education.

She’s multilingual.

Not only does Mari speak both Spanish and English flawlessly, but she’s also fluent in French and American Sign Language.

Based on all this info alone, we can’t wait to see Mari Pepin crush this season of “The Bachelor”. Hopefully, this Boricua beauty will be popping up a lot on our screens for years to come!

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Miss USA 2020 Crowns Another Black Woman Who Says When It Comes To Government There’s Still A Lot Of Work To Do

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Miss USA 2020 Crowns Another Black Woman Who Says When It Comes To Government There’s Still A Lot Of Work To Do

Black is beautiful and Mississippi agrees!

Asya Branch, a student at the University of Mississippi became the first Black woman to be crowned Miss Mississippi USA earlier this year and is now the reigning Miss USA. Branch, who is from Booneville received her sparkling title on Monday after the coronavirus pandemic put the breaks on the event for several months.

Branch used her platform during the pageant to address the current state of our country which is deeply polarized.

She also addressed current gun laws and mistrust in media and government. Branch, who revealed during the contest that her family owns guns, said people should learn how to use guns properly before receiving a permit.

“As someone who grew up in a home with guns, I learned at an early age how to load, how to fire and gun safety, and I think that education should be available to everyone,” she explained during the pageant after being asked to answer a question on a random subject pulled from a box. “I think it’s important that we not ban guns, because obviously, people will find a way to get what they want anyway, but I think it’s our Second Amendment right, and we just need more safety surrounding that.”

In an interview with Miss Mississippi USA, Branch revealed that her father had been incarcerated for 10 years and she’d been inspired by his experience to advocate for criminal justice reform.

 “We’ve lost trust in the systems that seem to keep our country running, from the media to business to our government,” Branch went on to share according to Fox News. “And it’s all about restoring that trust and coming together and working together to heal and trust in these systems. If we want to continue to be the greatest nation, we’re going to have to set a better example.”

Branch shared her disbelief in her win earlier this year in September

“I learned a lot about myself, but at the same time, while sharing my story and going through so much but not letting it stop me, I’ve been able to heal while also helping others find their way,” she said in an interview.

Branch’s win is proof of a change in pageant competitions. Last year, Black women won Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA for the first time in history. Her win comes alongside another historic victory. Miss Teen USA 2020 Ki’ilani Arruda, became the second Hawaiian woman to win the teen pageant.

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