On September 12th, Miss Angola's Leila Lopes, 25, was crowned Miss Universe 2011, making her the fourth woman of African descent to win the coveted title (following Trinidad & Tobago's Janelle Commissiong (1977), Trinidad & Tobago's Wendy Fitzwilliam (1998) and Botswana's Mpule Kwelagobe (1999)).
Check out brief clip of Ms. Lopes' "crowning moment"
BEAUTIFUL BLACK Leila Lopes is a native of Benguela, Angola. The country of Angola is located in south-central Africa and bordered by Namibia. The nearly six-foot African beauty is a business management student currently studying abroad in Great Britain. It was there where she was crowned Miss Angola United Kingdom 2010 on October 8, 2010 and then Miss Angola 2011 in Luanda, Angola on December 18, 2010, paving the way for her admission to the 2011 Miss Universe pageant.
At the finale of the Miss Universe pageant, held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Ms. Lopes beat out 88 other contestants to win the coveted title. Shortly after taking the crown, Ms. Lopes had this to say about her plans:
"I've worked with various social causes. I work with poor kids, I work in the fight against HIV. I work to protect the elderly and I have to do everything that my country needs. I think now as Miss Universe I will be able to do much more."
Interestingly, when asked about racism, Ms. Lopes said the following:
"Any racist needs to seek help. It's not normal in the 21st century to think in that way."
When Ms. Lopes became one of the top five candidates, she made perhaps the most impressive statement of all. In response to being asked what physical trait she would change if she could, she said:
"Thank God I'm very satisfied with the way God created me and I wouldn't change a thing. I consider myself a woman endowed with inner beauty. I have acquired many wonderful principles from my family and I intend to follow these for the rest of my life."
Check out a brief clip of her response.
Now, these are the words of a genuine role model, especially for women of color who sometimes - unrealistically - aspire to look like their Anglo-Saxon/European counterparts rather than value and appreciate the obvious beauty they were born with.
As a quick footnote, a few of Ms. Lopes' competitors have been crying foul, claiming Ms. Lopes doesn't deserve the Miss Universe crown. Perhaps most notable are Miss France's comments (as made to France's Premiere magazine):
“She was the only girl I didn’t know very well. We didn’t see her much; she was very discreet. She was often in jeans and not wearing makeup. We were all surprised by her win. Many girls made efforts that were not rewarded. I don’t know, something is missing in her temperament. The fact that the competition was held in Brazil surely played a role.”
Um, so let me get this straight. Miss Angola, according to Miss France, doesn't deserve the Miss Universe title because she had an understated, more private persona (as compared to the other women) and wore comfortable clothes and no make-up? And, because Ms. Lopes spoke Portugese in a Portugese-speaking country, she was somehow given an "advantage"? Really, Miss France? Nonsense. It is beyond obvious that Miss France is simply jealous of Miss Angola's natural beauty and unwilling to give her credit for rightfully earning the Miss Universe title (hence, the "held in Brazil surely played a role" comment). Talk about catty!
Other criticisms include Ms. Lopes "isn't really black" assertions (this silliness doesn't even justify a response), criticisms of her use of an interpreter (seriously people? it's an international competition), and a claim that she falsified documents to enter the qualifying competition in England (still unfounded as of this reporting). I can't help but wonder if this is simply a reflection of certain people's inability to accept that a black woman won Miss Universe. What's next? Asking for her birth certificate?