Miss Black EIU contestants shed layers of inner selves


Jordan Gay

Alexandria Neff, a senior political science and english major, and her escort and father, Andrew Joseph Neff, walk down the runway before the Impromptu section of the Miss EIU Black 2015 scholarship pageant on Saturday, February 28.

T'Nerra Butler, Staff Reporter

Tionna Alderson’s story of how she is fighting to overcome a life-long disease helped her to win the title of 44th Miss Black EIU 2015 on Saturday.                                                                                                                           Alderson, a senior communication disorders and sciences major, was escorted onstage in a full-length sleeveless purple gown with her mother, who shares her fight with Fibromyalgia.

The Black Student Union hosted the annual Miss Black EIU Pageant in the Grand Ballroom of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.

“I love that I got to tell my story, and people actually heard it, and they listened,” Alderson said. “I have a tendency to hide it because I don’t want people to know I’m sick, that I’m vulnerable or that I’m weak because in my head I think I’m Wonder Woman.”

Alderson, who had the stage name Queen Resilient Mercenary, said Fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disease that attacks muscles and can cause reproductive issues in women.

In Alderson’s talent portion, titled “Miss America,” she addressed issues of how the country ignores the African-American community by having a woman stand on the stage representing America.

“Miss America, you have convinced us that we must remain silent. You intend to suffocate our suffering; Miss America, we can’t breathe,” Alderson said. “This was never a matter of survival of the fittest because you never made us fit to survive.”

During her creative expression portion, Alderson said no tests can completely diagnose her illness, and because of that some doctors disregard it.

Her scene started off in a bed, and she said no one should regret getting up in the morning.

“To not have your suffering recognized is almost an unbearable form of violence,” Alderson said. “I demand your awareness, but I don’t ask for your sympathy.”

For Alderson’s impromptu question, she responded that Miss Black EIU was her favorite part of African-American Heritage Month because those eight women bared their souls and then left them on stage.

With her title, Alderson said she would promote Fibromyalgia awareness and promote volunteering because students should give back to their community.

In addition to the overall title of Miss Black EIU, the women received separate awards for their attitudes in practice and individual awards from their presented scenes.

The pageant started off with a reflection of the 44 years of Miss Black.

Alexis Lambert, Miss Black EIU 2014, introduced the show.

“We come from a time where we were not appreciated, and with this celebration we find our dream girl; we find a woman who can trust her struggle,” Lambert said.

Whitney Turner, a junior psychology major, had the pageant name Adroit Ambience. Her creative expression, titled “Never Judge a Book by its Cover,” was about her being judged.

“How can they depict who I am without a picture or even a frame?” Turner said. “The lack of information makes them ignorant.”

Carolyn Davis, a senior sociology major, had the pageant name Amiable Tenacity, and her creative expression won her the title “Miss Creative Expression.”

In her act, titled “Insecurity,” she did a spoken-word piece on size and self-image.

“Why must I turn my back and suffer from humiliation?” Davis said. “Your beauty radiates in your smile and character.”

Davis also won the title of “Miss Talent” when she brought magic to the show. She performed three magic tricks, and one consisted of her making an empty Coke bottle full of soda again.

She had a witness to confirm that it was empty before she replenished it.

In the African Garment scene, each contestant walked in a fashion-show style to their pre-recorded voiceovers telling what their heritage means to them.

Sade Martin, a junior community health minor, had the pageant name Formidable Allure and won the title of “Miss African Garment.” Roses were thrown at her feet as she walked out.

“I am a strong, fearless queen,” Martin said. “My history will be instilled in all of humanity.”

Mariah Scott, a junior communication studies major, had the pageant name Divine Reason and talked about self-image in her African Garment portion.

“Even in an hour of weakness, our faith is a strong representation of our character,” Scott said. “My best curve is the one that helps me speak my mind.”

Alexandria Neff, a senior English and political science major, had the pageant name Imminent Caliber.

Her talent, called “Out of My Body,” displayed her being at her own funeral. She sat in all black next to a portrait of herself and held flowers.

“My favorite line from the piece was, ‘Torn from motherhood before I even knew its name,’” Neff said. “I was baring my soul, and to come and share my story in front of hundreds was hard, I don’t talk to people about this.”

Brianna Littlejohn, a sophomore communication studies major, had the pageant name Concealed Distinction, and her talent portion was called “The Black Movement.”

Her spoken-word piece depicted the recent struggles in the African-American community.

“Ever since they freed us, they’ve been after our demise,” Littlejohn said. “We take the hand we were handed and make things happen.”

The last scene was Impromptu/Evening Gown, and each contestant dressed elegantly walking hand and hand with their escorts.

Lambert came back on stage in a floor-length mint green mermaid gown as Queen Illustrious to thank everyone and to present the contestants with awards.

Anisha Coleman, a sophomore pre-nursing major, had the pageant name Euphoric Resolution and won the title of “Miss Congeniality” for having encouraged the other women in the pageant along their journey. She also won “Miss Enterprise” for exceeding the $500 that had to be raised for the pageant.

In addition to winning Miss Black EIU, Alderson won the title of “Miss Ebony” for embracing African-American Heritage Month and “Miss Togetherness” for always being ready to go during practices.

Finally, Littlejohn earned the title of “Miss Persistent,” which was this year’s Queen’s Choice Award selected by Lambert.

Destiny Lee, one of the five judges, was the reigning Miss Black Illinois U.S.A. 2015.

Lee is a graduate of Eastern and participated in Miss Black and Gold and in Miss Black EIU 2011.

“I enjoyed coming back. This is empowerment of African-American women on campus,” Lee said. “It’s historical to participate in something as big as this.”

Lambert said the women did tremendously well in the pageant.

“I just know that this show will only get better with time,” Lambert said. “The girls did things on that stage that I’ve never seen before, and it really is a good feeling to see those girls come alive. They couldn’t fake that, it was all real.”


 T’Nerra Butler can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].