Miss Juneteenth: Tale of Mother-Daughter in the Context of Black Texan Culture

In Miss Juneteenth, a story steeped in pride for Black Texan culture, a struggling single mom hopes her daughter will repeat the success she had once had as a beauty queen.

 

Grace under pressure … Miss Juneteenth.

Miss Juneteenth. Photograph: Vertigo Films

Nicole Beharie (Shame, Little Fires Everywhere) stars as Miss Juneteenth 2004, otherwise known as Turquoise “Turq” Jones.

She is a single mother who saves every penny she earns working at the local bar and funeral home, hoping that her 15-year-old daughter Kai (Alexis Chikaeze) will repeat her glory days at this year’s pageant.

It is more than mere vanity: the new Miss Juneteenth will have her tuition fees paid at the historically black college of her choice.

For a woman in Turq’s situation, freedom means choosing from a limited set of options, and always with some sacrifice. It means trying to make the best decision under financial pressure and always in the judgmental glare of neighbors and relatives. She dreams of a better life for her daughter, but Kai, like most teenagers, has her own ideas.

The beauty pageant has been a means to explore mother-daughter relationships before, but rarely with a black woman at its center, and never with such specificity.

Even as Turq lives vicariously through her daughter, and hitches her wagon to various unreliable men, the realization slowly dawns that she must find something for herself.

Miss Juneteenth is in cinemas and on digital platforms.