In 1987, the Prince William County Fair crowned its first black queen.
“I was in high school, and the thing I remember is them messing up my music on the talent portion. So I was out there in my pose for the longest time, and they were like, ‘Stephanie, just relax. We’ll let you know when we’re ready.’ Everybody’s looking at me, and I was terrified,” said Dr. Stepahnie Streat of Prince William County.
Streat was 17 and had planned to use a Janet Jackson song for her routine. But she didn’t need it to win that summer day, as she was crowned Queen of the Prince William County Fair during its annual beauty pageant — the first African-American to earn the honor.
“It was a big deal at the time because I think there were two African-Americans at the pageant, and when I won, being the first [African-American] ever to win that pageant, it was exciting,” Streat told PLN.
For the first time in 34 years, the beauty pageant will return to the Prince William County Fair this year. Streat will return to help judge the contest.
The three-day pageant will welcome contestants one month to 22 years old and brings several new competitions, including an interview, personality, and gown competition, for girls, pre-teens, teenagers, and young women up to age 22. The pageant will also incorporate the long-running baby contests for boys and girls from one month to two years old, who will wear summer attire (no pageant gowns).
Earlier this year, organizers at the Prince William County Fair, the largest in Virginia, attended a statewide conference in Williamsburg where other fairs showcased their beauty competitions and each fair’s crowned queen.
“We didn’t have a queen at the convention, and they all looked so glorious, so we talked about it, and we’ve decided to bring back the beauty pageant,” said Prince William County Fair Organizer Chrissy Taylor.
Since 1949, the Prince William County Fair has awarded prizes to livestock, giant cucumbers, candies, cakes, and artists, to name a few. To be eligible to win the pageant, contestants must be single, never married, without children, and never have been pregnant.
Whoever is crowned Miss Prince William County must represent the fair and the community wherever they go, in person or on social media. Failure to do so could result in losing the title.
For Streat, she said that spending a week in 1987 wearing her crown and being escorted around the fairgrounds like royalty was the fun part. She toured the events daily, taking photos with attendees, friends, family, and classmates from Stonewall Jackson Senior High School (now Unity Reed High School) near Manassas.
Being the first black person to accept the award also brought challenges, as some were not ready to see an African-American hold the title. “I remember, a couple of times, being called the ‘N-word,” said Streat. “The thing that I remember most is somebody telling me ‘that’s not beauty,’ and it was difficult.”
Streat represented Prince William County later that year at the state fair but didn’t win. Her crowning at the Prince William County Fair started her competing in several pageants. When not at her full-time job as a Fauquier County Public Schools social worker, you can see her working beauty pageants, fostering the next generation of queens.
“I have a daughter, and she knows my story. I try to use it in motivational ways because you never really know what you’re getting into, and I had no idea how much support I had at the fair until it happened,” said Streat.
An anonymous donor gave $2,000 to the fair to be used for scholarship prizes for this year’s beauty pageant.
The Miss and Teen Miss Prince William County Fair will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, August 12, at the show barn on the fairgrounds, 10624 Dumfries Road in Manassas. The Pre-Teen, Little Miss, and Tiny Miss pageants will be held Saturday, August 13 at 2:30, 3:30, and 4:30 p.m., respectively.
The Baby Miss, Wee Baby Miss/Mister, and Teeny Baby Miss/Mister will be held Sunday, August 14, at 2:30, 3:30, and 4:30 p.m., respectively.
Information about registration, fees, orientation, and practice dates leading up to the competition are on the Prince William County Fair website. The fair runs from Friday, August 12, to Saturday, August 20.