Maria Perez, President of Nuestras Raíces Delaware, the organization that sponsors the Little Miss Hispanic Delaware beauty pageant, spoke to Latino Rebels to address outfall in response to reports that recently crowned seven-year-old Jakiyah McKoy had been stripped of her title because of her skin color.
“We were giving her the benefit of the doubt,” said Perez. “She joined the pageant and of course one of the things is you have to be of 25 percent Latino heritage.
“Her parents were asked to bring in documentation. Of all of the documentation brought in there was nothing that confirmed Dominican heritage.”
Perez insisted that her Dominican heritage would have been indicated on her mother’s birth certificate. “The mother said she didn’t want to go through it,” said Perez. The family opted instead to bring in New York state documentation of guardianship.
Previous reports had cited McKoy’s grandmother as the alleged source of Hispanic heritage, and that she had been unable to provide the necessary proof because her undocumented relative was deceased. Her family requested a formal inquiry by the state of New York into the grandmother’s heritage.
“Nothing came up,” according to Perez. “There is no information on this deceased woman.”
“We can’t have her be the queen if she doesn’t have the proper documentation,” she said. “It’s not the first time that we’ve been confronted with the [burden of proof]. It’s happened in the past and they’ve brought in the proof and we were satisfied with it.”
Many, however, have questioned why McKoy was asked to provide proof of heritage to begin with while other contestants were not.
“Whenever we are questioned, we ask for them to bring that stuff in,” said the president of Nuestras Raíces. When questioned whether or not the reason for the skepticism over Jakiyah’s heritage was racially motivated, Perez denied all implications.
“Color has nothing to do with it,” she said. “We’re all Latinos. That’s why we’re so beautiful because we come in all different colors.”
Perez went on to cite several previous contestants who have been crowned in the past who were both black and Hispanic, including Leslie Rozario of Dominican heritage who won the ‘big girl’ pageant several years ago.
“The little girl that won is Mexican and American,” said Perez. Other previous winners have been Puerto Rican and Italian, and French and Puerto Rican, among other combinations. “All beautiful and different nationalities.”
The Nuestras Raíces president went on to speculate that the rumors that Jakiyah had been stripped of her title because she was black had been started by the McKoy family themselves.
“It seems to be that it’s all coming from her side of the family,” she said.
McKoy wound up a runner-up for the pageant in spite of her failure to provide proper documentation.
“All the little girls got crowned,” said Perez. “I feel so bad for [Jakiyah] because she is getting put in the middle of this and that’s exactly what we wanted to avoid.”