Pageantry And Scholarship

Style & Fitness

August 07, 2005|By Holly Shiver | Holly Shiver,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Often stereotyped and written off as mere displays of beauty and charisma, pageants have been under much scrutiny throughout the years, but many are evolving to display a more dynamic side to women.

The Miss Black USA Scholarship Pageant has emerged under the premise of scholarship, health and fitness to better recognize the accomplishments of African- American women.

"Pageants in general have a negative stereotype; however, if your minds are open, ... you will see that these are average women that could be your mother, sister or daughter, all with one goal in mind and that is to advance themselves educationally, as well as to promote themselves with their talent," says Karen Lyew, executive director of pageant relations.

"To us, pageantry is displaying, and what we want to display is inner beauty, intelligence, spirit, passion and commitment," says Nicola Black, president of the Miss Black USA Scholarship Pageant.

The Miss Black USA pageant, created in 1984 as a platform for African-American women, has 25 delegates competing for the title. This year's theme is "Keeping the Dream Alive in 2005!"

The competition, which will be held today, includes Miss Black Maryland USA delegate Keia Angela Brown, a 19-year-old from Harford County.

Brown has had a bountiful career in pageantry since age 9.

She is motivated by the opportunities that some pageants allot, and by the chance to meet and help people; she credits pageants with opening many doors, helping her grow and preparing her for the world.

"You never know what can prepare you for a career in pageantry, or what pageantry can prepare you for," says Sharon Brown, Keia's mother.

"Pageantry affects your attitude, builds character and poise," says Keia Brown, who has become more outgoing and confident throughout the years. Closely intertwined with her pageant involvement is Brown's volunteer work. Despite working two part-time jobs and attending Harford Community College, where she is pursuing an associate's degree in paralegal studies, she finds time to complete the required tutoring and fundraising for the Miss Black USA Scholarship Pageant, as well as her own volunteer endeavors.

State delegates are required to have a platform, tutor for a minimum of 40 hours in their communities, and raise a minimum of $1,000 for the Children's Miracle Network.

The Miss Black USA Scholarship Pageant has an array of formidable delegates competing for this year's title, each of whom Lyew describes as phenomenal. "Any of the candidates can walk away with the title," says Lyew.

The candidates range in age from 17 to 27 and include women pursuing their undergraduate degrees, Ph.D. candidates, master's candidates, and two pursuing their jurist doctorate degrees.

One stereotype that the Miss Black USA Scholarship Pageant is attempting to dispel is of the typical standard of beauty and health.

The pageant will feature women of different shapes and sizes.

"We're not looking for your typical, stereotype size 4. That's not how we're made, that's not the general population," says Lyew.

"Health is not about how skinny you are -- are you toned, are you in shape, are you proportioned to your body type -- that's really where you look at health and fitness," says Black, the pageant president.

"I think what really allows us to stand out is this health and fitness and wellness criteria because when you say that we as African-American women are in the upper percentile concerning heart disease, diabetes, etc., what we're really saying is that we want to be able to educate our women on how to remain healthy," says Black.

Bally Total Fitness is a sponsor of the Miss Black USA Scholarship Pageant. The contest has replaced its bathing suit portion with a fitness segment.

Winners are determined based on four categories: the interview, talent, evening gown and fitness.

The next Miss Black USA will become the new face of Flori Roberts cosmetics and will be featured in its advertising campaign. She will also be awarded a $5,000 scholarship and a one-year free membership to Bally.

Keia Angela Brown's Fitness Regimen

She logs a schedule of food intake.

"I eat things that I like, but I watch the portion size using Weight Watchers Point Diet."

She works out.

Warm-up: Consists of stretching, bar activity / ballet, and approximately 500 crunches (throughout the workout).

Cardio: Brown does the Billy Blanks Tae Bo tape for an hour and 15 minutes. She also does an impromptu dance routine consisting of either tap, jazz, or both.

Cool down: Consists of more stretching and bar work to relax her muscles.


The Miss Black USA Scholarship Pageant will be held in Washington at the Warner Theatre, 13th and E streets, Northwest at 6 p.m. today. It will air for the first time ever on the Black Family Channel at 9 p.m. Sept. 3.

-- Holly Shiver

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