Pageantry has been around for over a century, but it is growing more popular within the Black community. Within the past few months, I know I have discovered at least six. As a child, pageants were so beautiful, but something I knew I was too afraid to try. Later in life, I suppose after seeing them out and interacting with them more, it hit me that these queens do than just dress up, look cute, and smile for photos. Those events I just mentioned above, guess what, they have to get dressed nicely (may I add) and pay for gas or transportation to get there. Those events they host, cost money too. Their community service also costs them their time, but they do it and they raise as much money as possible to fund it. So in some ways, these ladies are hustlers, and yet I think people only admire their beauty. But hey, I have a platform where we can do that while also learning of the other benefits of pageantry. Below is a brief Q& A with Candace Cooper, founder of Miss Black America Coed and Erica Bryant, Miss Black America Coed 2018.
Miss Black America is a college based pageant open to college students and graduates from both Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Non-Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the country. The organization believes in elevating the next generation of leaders and scholars.
Fancy: What makes Miss Black America Coed unique?
Cooper: “Many pageants focus on internal and external beauty. Miss Black America Coed is one of many in that regard. However, what sets Miss Black America Coed apart is its focus on mentorship. Miss Black America Coed contestants and queens offer workshops to school-aged girls so that those girls can see educated beautiful women they can emulate. This is the heart of MBAC. We produce leaders, scholars and community heroes. Our organization is very invested in the future of young people. We want all of them to get an education and chart their own paths to success.”
Fancy: What are the benefits of pageantry?
Cooper: “Pageantry offers women an opportunity to access their highest self in the form of a competition. To prepare for a pageant, one must do the mental work needed to learn more about what her title means both to herself and others. She then has to prepare her external self to meet the demands of the image she holds in her mind about what it means to be a queen. The mental and physical combination and preparation is needed in life in general. The same preparation goes into making all transformative moves in life. One must know how to interview, speak publicly and dress fashionably when in the workforce, and one must know how to prepare for motherhood or marriage mentally before they embark upon their journey into both.”
Bryant: I have gained several benefits from participating in pageantry like gaining more confidence, improving my communication skills, and developing a spirit of excellence.
Confidence – In pageantry, there are certain areas that participants are responsible for participating in. Whether it be performing community service, attending different events, or contributing in during pageant weekend, confidence is key. This is an environment where you are not only representing yourself but your organization. There are eyes on you in ways that you may have never imagined. With the concentrated eyes, one can develop self-doubt. If you know who you are, and are well prepared, you, in turn, can ignore the doubts and exude the confidence that brings out your best self, present the best representation of who you are, and the organization you represent.
Communication Skills – In pageantry, there are many opportunities for communication. This can be at the different events queens are a part of, or even within communicating on social media or with those closest to you. This goes hand-in-hand with confidence. Being in pageantry gives participants the opportunity to be exposed to different environments, and we have to be able to adapt and speak to everyone and communicate effectively.
Spirit of Excellence – The last benefit I have received from pageantry is operating from the spirit of excellence. Many people believe that being in pageantry is just about beauty. In part, being in pageantry does make me more aware of how I carry myself physically, but it also translates to how I carry myself overall. I am representing myself and my organization, and I am a role model for others. I take this with pride. I want to have my best foot forward and being in pageantry has made me more actively conscious of that. I was told by a model coach that people notice you before you have even had the opportunity to introduce yourself and this has always stuck with me.
As Miss Black America Coed 2018, I am working to gain partnerships and networking to help me to be the best mentor to young women and men. I have a non-profit organization based on literacy, which is my platform. Literacy is important to me, but not just as a separate entity, but as a full package. I want people to know that it is a privilege and not shameful to be intelligent. And to carry themselves with dignity and class at all times. It does not matter where you come from – you can always make a difference in the world. It starts with self.
Learn more about Miss Black America Coed at http://missblackamericacoed.org.