Born in June 1953 to a Trinidadian father and a Venezuelan mother, Janelle Penny Commissiong migrated to the United States when she was 13, and returned to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad in 1976.
Her rise to fame began when she won the title of Miss Trinidad before consequently being crowned in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic as the most beautiful and smart female in the whole universe.
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She had a year before, studied fashion at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, New York.
Commissiong, otherwise known as “Queen Penny”, was very popular during the competition, especially after winning the photogenic award.
Still, many did not expect her to come out tops and had tipped Miss Austria, Eva Maria Duringer, to take the crown.
Duringer, however, finished as 1st runner-up, with Commissiong being the first non-white women coming from a community that faced racial discrimination to emerge the winner.
Being the first black Miss Universe, Commissiong received lots of attention across the globe, being highly discussed in U.S. and Asian media.