Ashley Williams - First Caribbean-American Miss Virginia USA

Source: Courtesy of KIROS Images

Ashley Williams, shy of her 26th birthday, can already check “to make history” off her list of life goals. She is the first Caribbean-American to claim the title of Miss Virginia USA and did so by showing up in all her natural glory. 

Before chatting with Williams, I stalked her Instagram (of course). I clicked on a video of her in competition mode and was fascinated by her essence. Rocking her bouncy curls and strutting on the stage as if she built it herself, it seemed the former NFL cheerleader was bred for pageant life. I soon learned that wasn’t the case. Williams fortuitously stumbled upon this profession – consequently breaking barriers and inspiring others to do the same.

Williams’ Embodies Miss Virginia USA 2023

Beauty pageant winners are usually dolled up, prim, and proper at all times, or at least that’s what I imagined before interviewing Williams. My image of a beauty pageant queen was pleasantly debunked when the beauty popped up on our Google Meet video call. The Florida International University alum wore a fresh face and free curls. She was gorgeous, astute, and self-aware, qualities pageant queens should possess.

We dove head-first into our conversation about her well-deserved feat as the first Caribbean-American Miss Virginia USA. Williams revealed that she never set out to be a pageant girl, but her hobby as a kid led her to this industry. She began dancing at the age of eight. This honed skill got her on the college dance team, then to the Miami Dolphins cheerleading squad, where she met the friend who introduced her to the pageant world. “It’s really cool to see how life has strung me along this really cool way, and all of it is truly because of dance. Every small step was so intentional and has led me to where I am today,” explained the multihyphenate.

Take me for what I am, or pick somebody else.

Williams revels in the fact that she is motivation for Black girls who dream of going into pageantry but very seldom see winners who reflect their image. “I’m grateful that I serve as a lot of girls’ inspiration and their token of representation,” declared the model. “I’ve gotten a lot of girls reach out to me saying that I’ve inspired them to compete and to wear their natural hair.”

Ashley Williams - First Caribbean-American Miss Virginia USA

Source: Courtesy of KIROS Images

Ashley Williams Proudly Rocks Her Natural Crown as Miss Virginia USA 2023

Williams courageously defied European beauty standards (in an industry that glorifies such) and competed for the Miss Virginia USA 2023 title while wearing her hair naturally. She’s no stranger to wigs and silk presses from her former cheerleading days, but after years of hair wear and tear and self-deprecating moments, authenticity is now her modus operandi. “Not only did I want to win as a Black/Caribbean woman, but I wanted to win as someone wearing her natural hair,” she made known. “People just automatically assumed that going for a pageant, I was going to go back to wearing my hair how I did before, but I was like, ‘Take me for what I am, or pick somebody else.’”

Williams hasn’t always been comfortable with her natural tresses. Like many young Black girls, she was exposed to hair relaxers at a young age. As a college and NFL cheerleader, Williams either covered up or altered her hair. However, during breaks in between performances, she rocked her natural mane. Her teammates often complimented her curls, but Williams would shy away from the praise because of her hair insecurities.

Then, the pandemic happened, and she was forced to embrace her afro. “I was like, ‘You know what, my hair is actually really pretty. I love the texture of it.’ I then cut off my perm and went for it,” Williams expressed. Now, she fully embraces her hair and relies on Miss Jessie’s Pillow Soft Curls to maintain her ringlets. “I love the lightness and freshness of that product [Miss Jessie’s Pillow soft curls]. It does really well with my texture and curl pattern,” she said.

Ashley Williams Makes Time for Work and Self

Williams will relinquish her crown in June. She will continue to support causes she is passionate about, such as diversity and inclusion and advocating for active-duty military personnel and veterans. “My time on USO tours overseas heightened my appreciation for our service members and made me want to support them the best I can,” voiced Williams. And when she is not championing our service men and women or redefining beauty standards, the pageant winner indulges in me-time in her cozy abode. “I love being at home. It is so hard for me to go out unless I have to,” she revealed. “I will bake some cookies and watch a movie. My alone time is everything to me.

Williams has some endeavors up her sleeve for the future, like growing her personal brand and possibly competing in pageantry again. But until then, she is taking time to rest, decompress, and “chill.” “I like to do things when my cup is full,” the former NFL cheerleader wisely proclaimed. When asked what advice she would give other young Black girls, she was unhesitant with her shrewd response. “Stick to what makes you unique and use it to your advantage. You are who you are for a reason.”

Follow Williams’ journey on Instagram.


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Ashley Williams Is Unapologetic As The First Caribbean-American Miss Virginia USA To Win The Title While Rocking Her Natural Mane, And Here’s Why  was originally published on