Janelle Penny Commissiong-Chow
Janelle Penny Commissiong-Chow (born 15 June 1953) is a former beauty pagent titleholder.
Early life and education
Commissiong is the daughter of a Venezuelan mother and a Trinidadian father. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, she migrated to the United States at the age of 13, and returned to Trinidad and Tobago ten years later.
In 1976, just before winning the Miss Universe crown, she studied fashion at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. After winning the Miss Trinidad and Tobago title, she went on to be crowned Miss Universe 1977 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.She was the first woman from the Caribbean and the first woman of African ancestry to be crowned Miss Universe.
During the Miss Universe pageant, Commissiong was a very popular contestant who won the photogenic competition of the pageant. Nonetheless, she was not considered the favorite to win the pageant. Most observers claimed Miss Austria, Eva Maria Duringer, was the odds on favorite to take the crown. Duringer finished as 1st runner up. During her reign (1977-1978) Commissiong was a public advocate for black rights in nations where people of African ancestry were minorities, and she campaigned for world peace.
Honours and awards
Commissiong was awarded the Trinity Cross, the country's highest award, in 1977. Three postage stamps were also issued in her honour.
Commissiong married Brian Bowen, founder of Bowen Marine, who died in an accident in November 1989. When her husband died in an accident in 1989 she headed the company for a brief period. She later married businessman Alwin Chow and they adopted a daughter, Sasha.
Like many famous people of Caribbean heritage, Janelle Commissiong is considered an icon in her native Trinidad and Tobago where she continues to manage successful businesses.