For over a decade, California’s HeartShine pageant system has welcomed women of all ages to its ranks and celebrated everything about that makes them beautiful. The various competitions are designed to honor contestants’ accomplishments rather than outward appearance. The 2023 edition of these spectacles contained a first for the network: Five of the eight winners crowned were Black women. Fittingly, they snatched the coveted titles before the end of Black History Month.

“Five African American wonderful women that were crowned queen and one Latino woman and it was during Black History Month,” Shlanda Breeden, the newly branded Miss California state queen, remarked to KCRA of the occasion. “What are the odds of that?”

Mrs. California state queen elite Deirdre Bolden is a 13-year veteran of contests like these, but the induction of several Black women into the winners’ circle was something that she had never witnessed in her experience. “I have never seen that before to be honest with you, in any pageant system,” she quipped.

The series differs from traditional extravaganzas in that points are awarded and the competitors are scored based on what they do for their own communities instead of their stage presentations. “HeartShine is a service-based volunteer pageant. We are more concerned with inner beauty than we are outer beauty,” Bolden said.

HeartShine Co-Director Danna Mack-Barnes proudly noted the diversity of this year’s winners as well as the basis on which they were judged. “The mission is always let your heart shine bright, always give back to the community,” she stated.

For Miss California state queen teen Michalia Banks, the results of the 2023 affair prove that the possibilities are truly endless. “Black women can do anything,” she declared. “They can go out into the community, they can go out and do pageants and win just like me.”