1977 was the year of the Snake in the Chinese Horoscope. Certainly, was a good year for those people who were born in the years 1929, 1941 and 1953.Trinidad Tobago has been known as one of the most beautiful countries in the Third World, but the Caribbean Island is also the birthplace of the first black Miss Universe Pageant in the History. Her name: Janelle Penny Commissiong.
In 1953 Janelle “Penny” Commissiong, the daughter of Venezuelan mother and Trinidadian father, came into the world in Port of Spain, Trinidad Tobago, a country very famous for its music and athletes as Ato Bolton and Hasely Crawford. In the 1960s she moved with her family to the United States.
In New York City, she studied fashion designer at the Fashion Institute of Technology. But she returned to Port of Spain in 1976, year where Miss Trinidad and Tobago, Margaret Elizabeth McFarlane, won the Miss Congeniality Title. Next year, Janelle Commissiong had been selected to represent the Island at the 1977 Miss Universe Competition in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
During the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant Miss TT was very popular, but was not favorite for the title. Miss Austria, Eva Maria Duringer, was a big favorite until last second.She looks like Farrah Fawcett, an actress best known for her role on Tv’s Charly Angel’s in the 1970s.Other favorites were Miss Colombia, Aura Maria Mojica, an exotic girl from Cali; and Miss Nicaragua, Beatriz Lacayo Obregon, a spectacular Latin Barbie from Managua. But none favorite did not speak English very well.
Miss Trinidad-Tobago was elected Miss Photogenic 4 days before the final. She was the second black woman to win the award in the Miss Universe History. On July 16th, in the National Theater of Santo Domingo, Janelle Commissiong was awesome in the semifinal and final. It was a very good day for her. Miss Austria did not show the same talent compared to Miss TT. Minutes later Janelle Commissiong was crowded Miss Universe.
Miss Trinidad and Tobago attracted international attention in 1977 because she was crowded as the first black in the chronology of Miss Universe. At the end of the transmission, via satellite, the Trinidadian celebrated the triumph of Janelle Commissiong. Port of Spain was a carnival. Every newspaper had the same story. The New York Times said that “Miss Universe 1977 was a black bombshell”. Certainly, the world did not have a black Miss Universe until 1977.
There were 12 judges: Oscar de La Renta (Dominican designer), Dionne Warwick (American singer), Gordon Parks (American photographer), Roberto Cavalli (designer from Italy), Marisol Malaret (formerly Miss Universe), Wihelmina (designer from the Netherlands) and other personalities. When Janelle was crowded as Miss Universe, Dionne Warwick said “I felt as If I had won”.
After her reign, she had an interview with Joaquin Balaguer, President of the Dominican Republic (a fan of Miss Universe Pageant) in the National Palace. Like Miss Universe, she visited many nations around the world: from Iceland, Argentina, Hong Kong, Peru, Puerto Rico to the United States.
In 1978 Janelle went to Chile, where she was a special judge at the “Miss Beaches of South American”. During her reign, she had been an advocate for black’s rights and the world peace. She wants to meet with Idi Amin Dada, one of the worst dictators of the 20th Century.
Like Roberto Clemente, Mary Eugenia Charles, Marlene Ottey, Billy Ocean and Tim Duncan, She is an icon in the Caribbean…