What is your definition of a Black Southern Belle?
A woman with creativity, yet class in her style and taste buds that enjoy home-cooked style food. She respects her past and lives for the future.
What was your experience being involved and awarded in Miss America and Miss USA Organizations?
You know I love rollercoasters. The thrill, the height, the speed, being unexpected in every turn? That’s what my pageant experience was, a roller coaster. I’ve competed in The Miss USA Org. for one year winning Congeniality and overall Interview award and the Miss America Organization (including the Outstanding Teen Program) for over 10 years total; 8 in Alabama, 2 in Oklahoma. I held two local titles (Miss Clay-Chalkville 2013, Miss Cahaba Valley 2019) and two local titles in Oklahoma during my undergraduate studies at Oklahoma Christian University (Miss Oklahoma State Fair 2017 and Miss Frontier Country 2018). During my reigns, I’ve won numerous awards- mostly talent; but never placed in the Top 12 and 15 on the state levels. With a record like that, you have to have tough skin when God tells you being Miss Alabama/ Miss Oklahoma was not in my plan for you. But I will say, my impact will last longer than any physical crown.
Another part of a roller coaster that’s not as fun are the drops.
In lieu of a historic year of pageantry, seeing all the major pageant titles held by women of color, it’s a firm reminder that representation matters. I’m told all the time, “They are great women, why bring up their race?” My advice to the pageant community is this, “Maybe if the lineup of STATE titleholders were as diverse as the state they represent, people wouldn’t have to bring up their race.” I’ve seen so many women before me get so close to representing the great state of Alabama but never did. You can have the best talent, creative fashion style, super-serve your community, and even have a ‘fit body type,’ but it has NEVER been enough. If Black women do exactly what the organization asks of us, why are there only TWO women of color that have represented the state of Alabama in 90 years?! That’s not a coincidence, that’s a concern.
My advice to judges is this, “Don’t choose a Black woman just BECAUSE she’s black; choose her because she’s the right woman for the job. But also, if she encompasses everything the organization requires of a queen, her skin tone, body size, hair texture, etc. should not be the reason why she’s NOT good enough.” It’s a love/hate rollercoaster that I don’t regret riding. It only made me stronger.
What message do you want to spread?
Never stop serving God. You CAN be successful in a career that you love. Don’t be afraid to try something new within your talents. It can lead you to your dream career.
What would you tell another Black Southern Belle who is interested in getting involved in Miss America or Miss USA Organizations?
Prepare to succeed beyond pageantry. Come twice as prepared because the playing field is not level. Ask former black queens for coaching advice; we’ve been there, we know. Do NOT change for other people’s standards of a queen. You’re there to be relatable, encouraging, inspiring, and have fun, not just to win. Tough skin comes with the game. Treat everyone with love; it will take you far.
What is next for you?
I want to be able to use ALL of the talents God has given me and make an impact through each one. So here we go:
- I would love to host and produce a Traveling Soul Food Tasting show on the Food Network (maybe win awards for it).
- I want to sing background for Kirk Franklin, Jill Scott, Stevie Wonder, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Beyonce, etc.
- Tour the world with an uplifting and fun gospel album.
- Speak and also host conferences geared toward young women empowerment.
What radio or podcasts do you enjoy listening to?
School of Life Podcast, The 85 South Show, Rickey Smiley Morning Show, Sybil Wilkes Headlines (YouTube), Pretty Big Deal10