When American ex-pat and attorney Juanita Brown Ingram was crowned Mrs. Universe in 2022, she couldn’t believe it when they called her name. Ten years prior, she’d competed and lost in the same contest. Now, she was the first Black Mrs. Universe in the history of the genre. 

“People asked me how I felt standing on that stage,” Ingram said. “I felt great because I was there.”

Using her influence as leverage and inspiration, Ingram-Brown launched her own reality television series The Expats: International Ingrams in 2020. Alongside her husband and two children, season one of the show explored the family navigating Covid-19 while living in Asia, racial pandemics abroad, and living life as a Black ex-pat. The show received two Telly Awards and high remarks from critics as showcasing a Black-led cast in a refreshing new light. 

With season two launching recently on Amazon Prime, Ingram is setting a new standard for how Black ex-pats thrive internationally. In the new season of  The Expats: International Ingrams, the Mrs. Universe winner invites 12 additional Black ex-pats to display their experiences on the big screen. Determined to redefine the voices of Black faces in international spaces, Ingram has become a force beyond the universe; shifting the energy associated with people of color and reality tv. 

Winning For The Right Reasons

The Expats: International Ingrams
Photo Credit: Juanita Brown Ingram

Ingram knew for a long time that she wanted to inspire and motivate young girls. As an attorney, she’d done speaking engagements at schools and girl groups. However, she aspired to do more. 

“For our young girls, Black young girls, it was still important for them to see lawyers, judges, and doctors that were Black women,” she said. 

When God spoke to her and told her the entrance to influence was by competing in pageants, she initially said no. But her heart for servicing young women led her to win her first pageant contest in Indianapolis in 2007.

After moving to London with her family, Ingram began competing internationally, eventually leading her to win the Mrs. Universe competition last year representing her current residence country, Singapore. Instead of focusing on winning for fame, Ingram set out to win for herself and Black girls everywhere. She hadn’t seen many Black women in pageants growing up. After experiencing a health scare before the contest, Ingram was simply happy to be present. 

“It was beautiful for me because I was whole,” she said. “I was standing there back to myself, healthy, alive, and celebrating.”

Twelve Years As An Expat

The catalyst for Ingram’s travel docuseries was her own ex-pat experiences abroad. After going overseas for her honeymoon 19 years ago, Mrs. Universe knew it was her destiny to live internationally. When her husband had an opportunity to work in London, Ingram left the US. 

“We knew it was the right time for us to follow that feeling that I had during our honeymoon,” she said. 

The couple lived as corporate ex-pats in London for five years before moving to Taiwan in 2019. While working as an entertainment lawyer with reality tv stars in the UK, Ingram received the vision to produce a series that highlights Black excellence across the water. 

“I saw that there was a need and a void for a particular niche; not only for family-friendly content, positive content and diversity, and variety in how Black people are depicted but moreso how Black-led casts are treated by production,” she said.

After a not-so-wonderful stay in Taiwan, the Ingrams relocated to Singapore in 2021. Ingram describes it as a homogeneous environment where everyone is accepted, safety is top-tier, and inclusion is encouraged.

“The country as a whole has a harmonious racial initiative,” she said. “They have laws on the books where if you call someone a racial slur, you will go to jail.”

Recognizing the uniqueness of her ex-pat experience, Ingram sought to shine a light on other ex-pats living full lives abroad. With many reality tv series showcasing Black-led casts in unfavorable and stereotypical manners, Ingram wanted to do something different with The Expats: International Ingrams.

“I wanted to normalize Black people just being, and certainly just being in international spaces,” she said.

Showcasing Authentic Black Stories

The Expats: International Ingrams
Photo Credit: Juanita Brown Ingram

For Ingram, the goal was always showcasing authentic, Black stories. For decades, she’d seen tables thrown, fights occur, and mayhem ensue on Black-led, reality tv shows. She noted that while White-led casts are depicted in many lights, from Duck Dynasty to Chrisley Knows Best, Black shows perpetuate stereotypes and a lack of diversity. 

“I knew that we needed diversity and what better way to show diversity than to show us in international spaces,” she said. “Because I don’t think people realized how much Black people travel.”

After being questioned by a Black UK woman about how Black women are portrayed on reality tv, Ingram realized she needed to help change the narrative associated with Black faces on television. 

“It emphasized to me how these shows have an impact on how we are handled and sometimes mishandled in international spaces,” she said.

However, her docuseries didn’t receive any major network backing due to her lack of drama between cast members. Self-financing both seasons of the show, Ingram is heading into Emmy season hopeful and excited. The show is on the ballot for five categories including Outstanding Reality Series and Outstanding Cinematography. The official nominations will be announced in July. 

“I felt like it was important, for it being the first show of its kind, to own our own narrative and tell our own stories,” she said. “And what I was not going to do is have Black people in international spaces on national television acting a fool because we will get deported.”

Dating, Living, and Raising A Family Abroad

From displaying the lives of third-culture children living abroad and interracial couples to dating internationally and the LGBTQ overseas experience, The Expats: International Ingrams is tackling many different subjects. However, Ingram’s truest ambition is to show Black people that they have options. 

“Black people need options and they need to make informed decisions,” she said. “So these conversations help them to make an informed decision about where they can pursue peace because we have a right to do that.”Season one and two of  The Expats: International Ingrams is available now on Amazon Prime.

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