Former Miss America Nia Franklin says she faced criticism for not embracing natural hair: 'It's my choice'

Nia Franklin didn’t know that she would be a part of history when she was crowned as Miss America 2019. But when she was joined by three other black women who were crowned Miss Universe, Miss Teen USA and Miss USA, respectively, the significance of Franklin’s reign amplified.

All four women were praised for representing different types of black beauty. Still, Franklin says that she faced criticism for choosing to present herself differently at times. Namely, when she decided not to wear her hair natural during appearances as Miss America 2019.

Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin speaks about facing criticism for not wearing her hair natural during her reign at NYFW: The Talks, The Evolving Standard of Beauty. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for IMG)

“I would actually get people that were upset that I wasn’t wearing my hair natural for most of the time during my time as Miss America,” the former titleholder said during a New York Fashion Week panel about the evolving standards of beauty on Thursday. “And I think again, that was a poignant thing for me because we shouldn’t just be judging someone based off their hair, regardless. No matter how they chose to wear it.”

The nature of that criticism was in stark opposition to what she had experienced while growing up in North Carolina where she attended a predominantly white high school and looked up to girls with long blonde hair. She explained that back then her “kinkier and shorter” hair wasn’t necessarily seen as beautiful. Suddenly, it was expected that she wear her hair that way in front of the entire country after Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe 2019 were all crowned while wearing their hair natural.

“I ended up crowning the current Miss America in braids and that was a conscious choice for me,” Franklin said of her moment on stage during the Miss America 2020 competition.

Still, the singer and advocate for the arts wants people to recognize that black women should be celebrated regardless of the way that they showcase their beauty.

“As black women, we have the luxury of wearing it in many different ways and that’s something to be celebrated,” Franklin said. “I’ll continue to wear my hair natural, straight, wigs, however I feel like I want to because it’s my choice.”

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