What is it about Texas and beauty pageants? Seems like every second girl from that large state has participated in a beauty pageant. They love their pageants in that state. Here a pageant is used to start a discussion about the day to day reality for many black people in the United States.
Black Lives Matter can be illustrated and put up for discussion in different ways. Here a beauty pageant is used to forward it. You might think that it is a strange combo but after watching Miss Juneteenth you will see them like glove and hand.
Juneteenth is something which happens in Texas which celebrates the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. Miss Juneteenth is a beauty pageant which happens every year in the city of Fort Worth in which the winner gets a full scholarship to whichever black college they choose.
That scholarship is very enticing for single mother Turquoise Jones (Nicole Beharie – from television’s Sleepy Hollow). A woman who works whatever job and as many as she can get her hands on in order to support herself and her teenage daughter, Kai (Alexis Chikaeze – first film). Kai’s father, Ronnie (Kendrick Sampson – from television’s Insecure), has been in and out of their lives.
Turquoise also won Miss Juneteenth herself as such it is doubly significant for her daughter to compete in it. Doubly because she had Kai shortly after winning the pageant and could not take advantage of the scholarship. You can feel and taste how she loves her daughter, but feels her life would have been different if she could have taken advantage of going to a prestigious college. How she would not be putting makeup on corpses at a funeral home part time and working full time as a bar manager…life would be different.
Like most teens, Kai is not thrilled about doing anything her mother wants her to. So the thought of competing in Miss Juneteenth is not top of her list. She would rather spend her time with her boyfriend and dancing.
Motherhood is really something. Not something which is easy to depict in film. This is probably doubly true when it comes to black motherhood. With all that is heaped on them due to the great combo of racism and sexism…well, it is tough beyond belief.
Being black, female and poor in the United States is shown to be a precarious situation at best. One thing set Turquoise off on a path which was never going to breed success or even financial stability. No matter how hard she worked. Life is not the same if you are black compared to if you are white. It is not only the single mother who is living a precarious life. Many around her teeter on the brink as well. The bar owner. Her mother. A large portion of this and probably all black communities.
The film premiered at Sundance in 2020 and also screened at SXSW that year. From then word of mouth has grown about this little gem of a heartbreaker. Awards have been won. Critics have raved about the young director and the performance of Beharie.
The film is available now on Digital and VOD platforms.