by MIKE CHAIKEN
History was made this past weekend at the Miss Connecticut Scholarship competition when the top two titles of the organization were awarded to women of color.
Sapna Raghavan of Ellington, a woman of Indian descent, was crowned Miss Connecticut on Sunday afternoon at the Mohegan Sun Cabaret in Uncasville. Aicha Diallo of West Haven, a 16-year-old woman of Guinean descent, was selected as Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen on Saturday night.
“I’m still processing, but I’m feeling good,” said Raghavan, 22, hours after winning the title in a phone interview. “I’m excited to be working with these awesome women It’s going to be fun.”
Raghavan said she was excited to be making history as part of the tandem of titleholders who were both people of color.
Raghavan, who is also the first Indian to hold the top spot, saw the situation at Miss Connecticut as part of the positive trend toward diversity in America.
“We have our first female vice president of the United States (Kamala Harris), who is a woman of color,” said Raghavan. “In fact, she’s from the same place in India that my family is from, which is really amazing.
“So to have representation in this area of life (the Miss America program) it seems like in 2021, we’re finally getting representation for women of color that we deserve,” said the new Miss Connecticut. “I hope this continues in this way.”
Raghavan said the opportunity for two women to serve the Miss Connecticut program is a direct result of the rebranding made by the Miss America Organization. The emphasis has been on leadership skills rather than aesthetic beauty. This has meant the swimsuit competition has been jettisoned. More emphasis has been placed on scholarship, leadership skills and talent.
“I think having the both of us (she and Diallo) be winners is just a visual representation of what all that 2.0 branding is about,” said Raghavan.
For the next year, as Miss Connecticut, Raghavan will be focusing on improving diversity, especially within the business world.
“Being a woman, and a woman in business– I work in consulting– on a daily basis, I have to think about how I’m going to present myself. Do I come across as too aggressive do I come off as too bubbly? Unfortunately that’s the reality every woman faces whether you’re a woman of color or whether you’re just a woman.”
“Unfortunately, we have to start breaking down those barriers,” said Raghavan.
Raghavan said the Miss Connecticut Princesses, which is a program the organization runs for young girls to be mentored by the titleholders, have more Indian children participating.
Raghavan said they now see someone who looks like them. They have representation on stage because, like them, she is a person of color.
“I can be that face (to stir ambitions),” said Raghavan. “It’s awesome I have the opportunity represent my people.”
Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun will play host to Miss America in December.