Afro-Mexican Beauty Queen Criticizes Racism in Mexico

Afro-Mexican Beauty Queen Challenges Racist Prejudices in Mexico
@samanthaaleyva/Instagram

While beauty queens aren't always appreciated for their intelligence, one woman is a true testament of the phrase "true beauty comes from within."

READ: How 'Nuestra Belleza Latina' Star Jossie Ochoa Gives Back to Children in Guatemala

Samantha Leyva, 23, just won third place in this year's Miss Mexico pageant, and she's so much more than a pretty face. As a Black activist and community organizer who supports Black Lives Matter, she plays an active part in challenging racism in Mexico. 

"I have been representing the afro-descendant community of my home state with lots of pride," she told Fusion in a phone interview.

While she won the hearts of pageant judges, she's been dealing with serious prejudice from pageant followers. Unfortunately, she has received some terrible comments on her social media accounts.

"This black lady doesn't look very feminine," one commenter wrote.

But it's not just the followers — pageant organizers have also criticized her, saying she didn't actually earn her title. 

"You're going to move on and be in the top five simply because you're different," an organizer told her.

In a country that promotes white beauty ideals as superior, despite its predominantly mestizo population, this isn't the first time Leyva's had to deal with racism in her native Mexico. The Miss Mexico pageant certainly hasn't helped, as they've typically given light-skinned women the crown in the past. 

Leyva's background is also very different from her court. She went to Autonomous University of Guerrero, a public university in one of the nation's poorest states. The pageant winner, Ana Girault, is a wealthy woman who studied in a private university.

"I think we have all grown accustomed to seeing another type of woman; another type of Mexican beauty," Leyva said.

PLUS: This Short Video Explores the History of Afro-Mexicans

Leyva knows that the racist insults will come, and her answer is: continue being a successful Afro-Mexican woman with curly hair and beauty and strength that radiate from the inside-out. She's using her platform to help increase the visibility of the afro-descendant community and achieve the national recognition it deserves.

(h/t Fusion)