Queen of the Virgins: Pageantry and Black Womanhood in the Caribbean

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook


Beauty pageants are wildly popular in the U.S. Virgin Islands, outnumbering any other single performance event and capturing the attention of the local people from toddlers to seniors. Local beauty contests provide women opportunities to demonstrate talent, style, the values of black womanhood, and the territory's social mores.Queen of the Virgins: Pageantry and Black Womanhood in the Caribbean is a comprehensive look at the centuries-old tradition of these expressions in the Virgin Islands. M. Cynthia Oliver maps the trajectory of pageantry from its colonial precursors at tea meetings, dance dramas, and street festival parades to its current incarnation as the beauty pageant or "queen show." For the author, pageantry becomes a lens through which to view the region's understanding of gender, race, sexuality, class, and colonial power.Focusing on the queen show, Oliver reveals its twin roots in slave celebrations that parodied white colonial behavior and created creole royal rituals and celebrations heavily influenced by Africanist aesthetics. Using the U.S. Virgin Islands as an intriguing case study, Oliver shows how the pageant continues to reflect, reinforce, and challenge Caribbean cultural values concerning femininity. Queen of the Virgins examines the journey of the black woman from degraded body to vaunted queen and how this progression is marked by social unrest, growing middle-class sensibilities, and contemporary sexual and gender politics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Place of PublicationJackson
PublisherUniversity Press of Mississippi
Number of pages190
ISBN (Print)9781604732429, 9781604733488
StatePublished - 2009

Publication series

NameCaribbean studies series


  • beauty pageants
  • Virgin Islands
  • beauty contests
  • black womanhood
  • pageantry
  • tea meetings
  • dance dramas
  • street festival parades
  • queen show
  • gender

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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