Beauty pageants have been criticized for focusing too much on the surface, but she says for black girls and women, who rarely see themselves reflected in mainstream portrayals of beauty, that sash and crown carry weight.
“In the black community, young black women and girls struggle with feeling beautiful,” says Saidah. “When I go out into the community and slip the crown and sash on an eight-year-old kid, I get to crown her a beauty queen. I also get to say, ‘Beauty is more than just the crown you put on your head. It's what you do with your life.’”