Practice makes perfect for contestants

Kalyn Hayslett, Verge Editor

The Miss Black and Gold pageant, “Deception of the Golden Throne,” has become a tradition, not only for the fraternity hosting it, Alpha Phi Alpha, but for the Eastern culture as well since 1992.

To demonstrate grace, courage, strength, confidence and style is what the 10 contestants hope to embody during their performance at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Grand Ballroom.

However, the road to earning the crown has been a multi-step process that started in September.

The reigning Miss Gold and second runner-up of last year’s pageant, Ma’Chana Ambrose, a senior kinesiology and sports studies major, is the current co-coordinator of the pageant.

Ambrose said there are about five phases that the contestants go through to prepare themselves.

Each phase builds on each other and ultimately increases in difficulty.

“Everything is a process so we take baby steps,” Ambrose said. “We start with the girls getting to know each other and introductions, go into walks, then we go into talents, then dances and impromptu (questions). That’s in a whole nine weeks.”

Once the contestants have all their topics, information and ideas confirmed for all five of the phases, the coordinators focus on the details of the pageant.

One of the underlying struggles that all of the contestants had to overcome was low self-esteem, especially during the talent scene, Ambrose said.

Contestant 8, Tyiesha Steele, a junior kinesiology and sports studies major, said she was most nervous about the talent portion.

“It’s nerve racking that people are going to see a glimpse of your life that a lot of people wouldn’t know about,” Steele said.

During the talent portion of the pageant, the contestants give a performance where their past experiences are woven in to show the hardships they had to face and conquer.

The contestants were asked to show vulnerability and transparency when explaining sometimes painful experiences.

Contestant 4, Angela Davis, senior sociology and Africana studies major, said it was difficult determining what she wanted share during her talent portion, but she decided to tell her toughest times which shaped her the most.

“I knew I had a testimony I wanted to tell. The part of my life that hurt me the most that has made me the strongest. The part that I have buried and I want to get off my shoulders because you never know who needs to hear this,” Davis said.

The contestants use their talents to share personal challenges, give input on political issues and provide solutions to cultural obstacles.

“The show deals with issues that we are going through now, not just as minorities,” Ambrose said. “It will not only be a good show but people can actually learn something from it. The show has a message to it.”

To address tough, personal and sometimes taboo topics requires a lot of courage.

In order to help the contestants build confidence a co-coordinator encourages them every practice.

“If the world was coming to an end and needed people to lead and get the world together I would bring them to the forefront in a heartbeat, because that’s just how much I believe in them,” Ambrose said.

With consistent encouragement from the coordinators, friends, each other and from the Alphas the contestants have grown comfortable in their own skin, allowing them to have more fun with their scenes.

“The support from my friends, coordinators and pageant sisters and just the encouraging words help me get through it,” Davis said.

Once the nerves have settled down, the contestants can look forward the pageant with excitement.

The initial reaction of the audience and judges is what Steele is looking forward to the most.

“I am most excited about the introduction dance. Everybody is going to come out all fierce,” she said.

Davis said she was contemplating competing for about two years and this year she finally decided to push herself out of her comfort zone.

“I feel like I owe it to myself to get over my fears,” Davis said. “I guess it was just challenging myself because my biggest competition was me.”

The purpose of the pageant is to build contestants confidences and help them discover more about themselves while motivating others.

The Alphas has maintained this tradition because a lot of women come in lost and trying to find themselves and through this pageant they see the growth in the contestants, Ambrose said.

Tickets can be purchased in advance for $7 and $10 at the door.

Kalyn Hayslett can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]eiu.edu.