The “Miss Black France” pageant was definitely a topic of debate in the European nation weeks before the Saturday show. But, the rallying of right-wing protesters escalated the debate to new, disturbing heights. Seen as a step backwards to many, the competition was a way to “shine light on the many Black women in this country who are rarely given any media attention,” said Frederic Royer, the pageant’s promoter. Endorsed by the Representative Council of Black Associations and Miss France, critics say it goes against the equality principles of the French Republic.

Protesters held signs demanding a White-only version of the competition. One protester said, “France should be for French people. Why should Asians and Africans come here and have more rights than us?” The last Black woman to win Miss France was in 2000 — a biracial Rwandan-born model. Frederic pointed out that it’s very difficult for Black models to find work in the French fashion industry, often traveling to London and New York for opportunities. Despite the commotion, the show went on and Mbathio Beye, a 21-year old Senegalese-born student, won.