I was twenty-one when I competed in my first pageant and, truthfully, I was apprehensive about the entire experience. In fact, had my grandmother not been involved, I’m almost certain I would have never competed.
I attended my first pageant approximately four years prior to competing; it was the Miss Hampton University 2006-07 pageant. Unlike many schools, Hampton University’s campus queen is selected through a pageant structured similarly to the Miss America Competition; the phases of competition include personal interview, lifestyle and fitness in swimsuit, talent, evening gown, and on-stage question. As a senior in high school, I coincidentally went on a college visit to Hampton University on the same weekend as that year’s pageant. As a fun evening activity, my mother, grandmother, and I decided to attend the pageant.
After the pageant, I was so impressed by the contestants’ poise, talent, and confidence on stage that I said to my mother and grandmother, “if I come to Hampton University, I’m going to be Miss Hampton.”
Truthfully, at the time, I had NO intention of attending HU (so I premeditated for that statement to be a false promise). University of Georgia was my number one choice, and I just knew I was going to be a UGA Dawg the following year. However, after Hampton University offered me a full academic scholarship (and UGA offered no scholarship monies), I ended up at HU the following fall.
Since my initial statement was never intended as a promise, I forgot about my purported “pageant dream” soon after the statement left my tongue. Three years into college, while at Thanksgiving dinner, I found out that my grandmother had not forgotten the promise I made years earlier. As I began to pile macaroni and cheese on my plate (what else is Thanksgiving dinner for, if not the mac and cheese), my grandmother approached me and said, “Desi, aren’t you supposed to be doing a pageant?” Initially taken aback, as I searched my memory bank in that moment, I was eventually able to locate the memory of that evening when I did, in fact, state my pageant intentions.
Although apprehensive (and extremely scared), I decided to follow through with that forgotten promise. A part of my motivation to follow through with the pageant was an effort to maintain my word; the other part was due solely to the fact that I did not want to disappoint my beloved grandmother. With nearly a year to prepare, I got started right away (well, after finishing my plate of macaroni). The following October, I competed for the title of Miss Hampton University. After walking out of my shoe at the end of my interview (yes, literally stepping right out of my heel and barefoot onto the carpet) then tripping on my dress in evening gown (though I managed to stay in my shoes this time ;-) I attained the title of Miss Hampton University 2010-2011 with my proud grandmother in the audience.
Although overjoyed to serve as Miss Hampton University, I never intended to continue my pageant career, so it’s still bizarre to me that not only have I competed at Miss America, but now I am preparing to compete for the title of Miss USA. It just goes to show that oftentimes the greatest opportunities in life are a result of stepping outside of your comfort zone (and maybe your shoe).