Despite the civil rights movement of the 1960s, beauty pageants remained racially segregated in the United States, even after virtually every other facet of life had been integrated. So the Miss Black America pageant was created in 1968 in response to the lily-white "mainstream" version held every September in Atlantic City (and the first one was even held in the same city as the Miss America contest). And Von Gretchen Shepard, the seventh Black Miss America, is one of the best-known winners.
Von Gretchen Shepard, Miss Black America 1975, defied the myth that beauty queens only go on to become former beauty queens. She quickly became a top model and soon thereafter became an actress, appearing in musicals. and in shows as different as "Baywatch" and "A Different World."
As for the Miss Black America pageant, that's still going on, despite Vanessa Williams having broken the color barrier at the so-called mainstream Miss America contest by becoming the first black Miss America. Neither the diversity of the Miss America contest nor the smaller profile of the Miss Black America contest, though, has hurt Von Gretchen Shepard's status as an impeccable role model.
Oh yeah, she also went to Harvard.