Shayna Y. Rudd, of Washington, wore a past-her-shoulders weave to have a better shot at the Miss America title. She said an adviser gave her two choices: imitate Beyoncé’s long luscious look or Jada Pinkett Smith’s flowing mane. “I couldn’t be who God wanted me to be,” Ms. Rudd, 24, said ruefully. “I didn’t win. My spirit was crushed.”
She has since sworn off relaxers and extensions; instead, she occasionally presses her tight-curled hair and slicks it into a bun, which is what she did earlier this month when she won the title Miss Black USA. (She bested 28 other contestants, only 3 of whom wore their hair natural.) “Don’t buy into anyone else’s standard, set your own,” Ms. Rudd said.