It took 74 years for the Miss Ireland competition to crown a Black woman, but the time has finally come. And in the words of the 2021 winner Pamela Uba, while it’s a crown for the people, it’s not just for any people, but those who feel that they “never belonged.”
“It’s for all the little girls and boys that relate to me and my story.”Pamela Uba told Sky News
The 26-year-old powerhouse not only works as a frontline worker at Galway University Hospital, but is also a medical scientist and model who likes to sing and play soccer in her free time.
Though Uba was born in South Africa, she has lived in Ireland since she was 7 years old, when she and her parents came to the country as asylum seekers, or people escaping persecution from their home country. She grew up in Ireland’s notorious direct provision program, and eventually went on to get a master’s degree from Trinity College Dublin in clinical chemistry. Through hard work and determination, Uba has not only proven herself worthy of a crown, but also defied the expectations of those who discriminate against her.
The Republic of Ireland’s population is 1.4% Black, and Galway — the county for which Uba was crowned back in March 2020 — is only about 3.3% Black. In a country with far less diversity than her home country of South Africa, which is only 7.8% white, it’s hard to deny the plausibility of Uba experiencing discrimination in Ireland.
Uba mentioned experiencing quite a bit of racism online in an interview with Sky News, but instead of letting that keep her down, she wants to inspire others and to show that those comments don’t need to dictate how people feel about themselves. It’s most important to Uba that she shows other children like her that anything is possible.
“It means so much to me,” she said in another interview with The Irish Times. “I am so grateful I can show girls that color is not something that holds you back and it doesn’t matter where you come from, the world is your oyster.”
In general, there haven’t even been many Black contestants of Miss Ireland. The competition website’s contestants tab, which shows pictures of the participants since 2016, seems to include little diversity. Still, Uba believes the country of Ireland is improving.
“Ireland is becoming more and more multicultural,” Uba told Sky News. “It’s great to see more and more of us being represented in the media and in Ireland as a whole.”
After winning the title of Miss Ireland, Uba will move on to the Miss World competition in December. Though Miss World has had Black winners in the past, already making it more diverse than Miss Ireland, the first Black woman to win was Jennifer Hosten in 1970. That means the competition existed for almost 20 years without a Black winner, and since then, few Black women have won.
Still, the diversification of the competition — and beauty pageants in general — has been in full swing recently. In 2019, after the Miss World crown went to Miss Jamaica, the five winners of Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss America, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA were all Black women. It was the first time in history that more than two of those titles were held by Black women at the same time.
Despite the discrimination Uba has faced and continues to face every day, she now has much of the Irish population supporting her in her journey to Miss World at the end of the year. Do you think she has a chance at winning and making history once again? Tell us your thoughts by tagging us on Instagram, @VALLEYmag, and Twitter, @VALLEYmag.