History was made at the Miss Universe Puerto Rico competition when an Afro-Latina from Loiza was crowned. Afro-Latina pageant competitor Michelle Marie Colón from Loiza won the Miss Universe Puerto Rico competition, marking the first time a non-white woman will represent the island at the Miss Universe pageant in years. The 21-year-old pre-med student competed against 25 other delegates during the competition on Sept.30 at Luis A. Ferré Performing Arts Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She impressed not only with her beauty, but the six-foot-tall model showed off her smarts too.
“I have no words to describe the emotion that I feel in my heart right now..I dedicate this triumph to all those brave souls who dare to dream big! For you, for me, for us,” Michelle wrote on Instagram after earning the Miss Universe Puerto Rico crown.
Michelle was born and raised in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, but also has Dominican roots. She had a successful modeling career, even walking in New York Fashion Week in 2019 but she was also recognized for her philanthropy. She’s the founder of the C.A.R.E. Empowerment Program, a mentorship program designed to help equip and empower young girls to become future leaders. She received the L’Oréal “Woman of Courage” award at the Miss Universe Puerto Rico competition in recognition of her efforts.
This moment is particularly significant considering that Michelle is Afro-Puerto Rican and Afro-indigenous, and the Miss Universe Puerto Rico pageant typically favors white Puerto Ricans. The only two non-white Puerto Rican women who have won the pageant in recent history have been Kiara Liz Ortega in 2018, and Zuleyka Rivera, who took the crown in 2006, and later went on to win the grand title of Miss Universe.
Michelle previously won the Miss Teen Americas Puerto Rico competition in 2018. She proudly represents the town of Loiza, which is known as one of the towns in Puerto Rico with the heaviest African influence and largest number of residents of African descent.
Even Puerto Ricans who don’t normally follow pageants because they are against the unrealistic beauty standards and objectification that beauty pageants have come to represent are rallying behind Michelle. Her charisma, kindness and positive attitude have shone through throughout her entire campaign, making her a favorite in the competition from the very beginning. Many flocked to social media to congratulate the future doctor and voice their support for her.
A BLACK MISS UNIVERSE PUERTO RICO!! SCREAMING CRYING ALL KINDS OF EMOTIONS !!! AINT NO ONE GONNA DO IT LIKE HER. MY INNER CHILD IS HEALING 😩
— Alinés (@alines_torres) October 1, 2021
“A Black Miss Universe Puerto Rico!! Screaming crying all kinds of emotions!!!,” one Twitter user wrote after Michelle’s win. “For the first time, I can look at our representative and see myself. I know lots of little Afro-Latina girls on the island can relate,” tweeted another user.
Puerto Rico finally crowned a beautiful Afro-Latina to represent us at Miss Universe. For the first time, I can look at our representative and see myself. I know lots of little Afro-Latina girls on the island can relate 💚💛❤️ #MUPR2021
— Alexis 🌺 (@xoalexisv) October 1, 2021
“I have my personal gripes with Miss Universe, but wow I’m so happy they finally picked a non-white Puerto Rican woman to represent us👏🏽,” wrote one Instagram user on the AfroLatin Diaspora account, summing up the sentiments of many people of Puerto Rican and Afro-Latinx descent upon learning of Michelle’s win. Others went on to describe how important this representation is for young Black girls from Loiza.
Michelle will go on to compete against women from around the world in the 70th Miss Universe pageant in Eilat, Israel in December 2021, airing on FOX and Telemundo. The winner will represent the pageant for one year, traveling the world as a volunteer and advocate for organizations including Smile Train, Best Buddies and God’s Love We Deliver.