Meet Shelby Jenkins, Miss Black Kentucky 2012 and Miss Texas U.S. International 2016.
She was adopted, and though she grew up knowing nothing of her biological parents, she always identified as African American.
Then she took an AncestryDNA test and realized part of her heritage was most likely Cuban.
Empowering Other Adoptees
Shelby was adopted by a loving couple who raised her in the Miami suburbs where she had a wonderful upbringing. She was the captain on her dance team and traveled the world with her parents.
“My parents gave me an amazing life,” Shelby said. She had no idea she was adopted until she was a pre-teen. “When I was 12, my mother said I was adopted.”
When Shelby won the Miss Black Kentucky pageant, she needed a pageant platform to bring awareness to a particular subject she was passionate about. She decided on an adoption platform would raise awareness for the challenges adoptees face.
Yet the choice wasn’t easy, since for much of her life, Shelby felt uncomfortable revealing that she was adopted.
“Being adopted, you never really know how people will judge you,” she said. “Some people act like it’s a disease. I held it in for 18 years because I was afraid to be judged.”
When she won the Miss Texas International pageant she continued with the same platform, which reacher a wider audience.
Shelby became an advocate for adoption. She regularly speaks at events for adoption and foster care, spreading the message that being adopted is beautiful.
“So many people came out and spoke to me regarding adoption,” she said. “It’s a beautiful thing because I feel like you get a second chance in life.”
A New Cuban Identity
Shelby’s Ancestry DNA test revealed that her ethnicity was part Cuban and/or Venezuelan.
After doing more research, Shelby found out that the woman who dropped her off at the foster center long ago was Cuban. This information, combined with her AncestryDNA test results led her to believe her biological parents had Cuban ancestry.
After she discovered this, she spent time visiting Cuba and learning more about Cuban culture. It’s her way of understanding the culture of the parents she never knew.