Women’s History Month: The First Black Miss Universe

1-pennyMany people may have seen the photo of the woman on the left circulating on social media, captioned “First black woman to win the Miss Universe title,” but how many of you knew that she is a Caribbean national?

This beauty is Janelle ‘Penny’ Commissiong, from the twin island of Trinidad and Tobago.





Commissiong, born June 15, 1953, migrated to the United States when she was thirteen, and, upon completing her education, returned to Trinidad and Tobago ten years later.

While in the U.S., her place of residence was New York City; there, she studied fashion at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

She returned to her homeland in 1976, and, the following year, was selected to represent the twin island at the 1977 Miss Universe Pageant in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Janelle Commissiong today

Janelle Commissiong today

Four days before the final night of the competition, she was elected both Miss Photogenic and Miss Congeniality, and won the Best National Costume, becoming the first woman of African descent in Miss Universe history to win these awards. On July 16, in the National Theater of Santo Domingo, she went on to be crowned Miss Universe.

She advocated strongly for both black rights and world peace during her reign, and upon returning to Trinidad and Tobago after her reign, was awarded the Trinity Cross, the country’s highest award.

Watch the moment that the woman fondly known as “Penny” by her countrymen and women was crowned Miss Universe below.


By: Danielle Dixon

Follow her on Twitter: @tooprettydani


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