Nicole Beharie is finally returning to our screens with her upcoming film Miss Juneteeth, about a former beauty queen and single mom (Beharie) preparing her rebellious teenage daughter (Alexis Chikaeze) for the “Miss Juneteenth” pageant.
Beauty pageants have been popping up in stories a bit recently, mostly to talk about body positivity and, in the case of Misbehaviour, to allude to the historic importance when it comes to racial representation, but with Miss Juneteenth, we are looking at Black beauty institutions, specifically Black American ones, and the ways they intersect with class and opportunity.
Juneteeth is a mostly American holiday (it is also celebrated in Mexico by Mascogos, Afro-Mexican peoples) that commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that the last remaining enslaved African Americans in the Confederacy were freed in Texas. It is a time of celebration, of celebrating African-American history, and includes Miss Juneteenth contests.
Just from the trailer alone, we can see the focus is not necessarily on beauty but class, education, and opportunity. Beharie’s character, Turquoise Jones, may have won the contest, but it did not lead to her leaving her small suburb for better pastures. It’s a status that gives her some level of celebrity, but celebrity won’t keep the bills paid if you’re still working low-paying service jobs.
Her reasoning to have her daughter, Ronnie, compete is because the winner will get the opportunity to go to any Historically Black school of their choice for free, which is a huge opportunity. Free education is always important, but getting the opportunity to do that at a Historically Black school provides a sense of community, as well. Yet, community is complicated, as we see Ronnie getting shamed for not knowing the difference between dinner forks.
Director Channing Godfrey Peoples spoke to Deadline at Sundance to explain how she came up with the movie, which is based on her own experiences as a Texas native.
“I grew up with Juneteenth so it was just second nature to me,” said Peoples. “We continue to celebrate that the same way every year. There’s parades, there’s blues music, there’s barbecues. And in the centerpiece of it is the Miss Juneteenth Pageant. It’s a Scholastic beauty pageant for young African American women to gain college scholarship.”
Not only will this be a great way to see Beharie’s great talent on screen, but also a compelling mother-daughter story that is strongly committed to highlight Black American culture and tradition.
(image: Vertical Entertainment)
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