Miss Black and Gold contestants discuss process, end goals

Analicia Haynes, Editor-in-Chief

Contestants for the Miss Black and Gold Scholarship Competition stood poised on the stage in the Grand Ballroom of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union Tuesday night, smiles beaming on their faces.

With one hand on their waist and the other down at their side, they stood in their designated position, ready for the music to play and their cue to start practicing the introduction for the show.

It was dress rehearsal night, just a few days away from showtime. Though several of the contestants said they were nervous, it did not show during rehearsal.

Contestants have been practicing since early October of 2018, and Kaleb Williams, a senior kinesiology and exercise science major and the coordinator of the competition, said not only is the competition returning after a three-year hiatus, but also this year also marks the chapter’s 50th anniversary on Eastern’s campus. 

He said the show, though it encompasses many aspects of a beauty pageant such as a talent portion and swimsuit competition, goes beyond a traditional pageant by emphasizing the importance of knowledge, education, intelligence and academics in general.

“It’s been a rollercoaster,” Williams said, describing the journey through practices and coordinating with the contestants. “But, I’ve enjoyed my time doing it.”

Williams said he has enjoyed seeing the contestants develop their personalities over time and become more confident with themselves.

Contestants like Cheryl-Anne Johnson (contestant no. 5), a junior athletic training major, said when she first started the pageant she was a caterpillar.

“I went into my cocoon and I feel like the day of the pageant you all will see a beautiful butterfly that I couldn’t imagine myself being,” Johnson said.

Johnson credited the competition experience with helping her learn more about herself as well as have the ability to encourage other women to be powerful.

“The power of a woman is limitless,” Johnson said. “That’s really what I’m here to do…I want to show everyone that being a woman is the most powerful thing in this world.”

Ariel Taylor (contestant no. 2), a senior family and consumer sciences major, felt that power when she said the experience helped her come out of her shell.

“I’m a very outgoing person but when it comes to talking to people or being in front of people I get scared and nervous,” Taylor said. “So I wanted to break down my shell.”

Taylor said she wanted to try something new, wanted her voice to be heard and is most excited about exhibiting her talent, which was inspired by her late brother.

“I’m excited for people to hear what I have to say about him and that I miss him,” Taylor said. “His kids are going to be on the stage with me. I feel like I’m going to cry at the end of the pageant.”

But, Taylor said despite the nerves, she is ready and does not care what anybody says.

“People have so many negative things to say about the pageant,” Taylor said, citing what motivated her to continue with the competition. “We just want to prove people wrong.”

Starr Winburn (contestant no. 6), a senior sociology major, said she also heard negative things about pageants bringing out the worst in people. However, she said that is far from true.

“If anything it helps you have more confidence in yourself, it helps with public speaking and it brings you closer to women your own age,” Winburn said.

Winburn said the competition was a lot of work but thanks to her family and boyfriend supporting her she was able to get through the process.

“I’ve learned how to have better time management and just praying and doing yoga helps a lot,” Winburn said.

Winburn said if she wins, she plans on remaining humble in front of her pageant sisters.

Leah London (contestant no. 3), a sophomore elementary education major, said she never considers herself a quitter and plans on seeing the process through to the end but if she does win, it will help her do good in the community.

London said she wants to concentrate on her platform to help motivate her to finish the process, a platform she said would help African-American youths in the Charleston community by establishing a type of Big Brothers and Sisters youth program.

“I know how it affects you when you don’t see people that look like you (in your community) when you’re young,” London said.

But there was a shared sentiment among the contestants and the people behind the scenes besides feeling excited or nervous. They said they all became family.

The competition kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Doors open at 7 p.m. and admission is $10 for students.

The other two contestants who were not featured in the story are Brianna Hogan, contestant no. 4, and Trieveonna Hardiman, contestant no. 1.

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].