By MIKE CHAIKEN
The queen of America, at least in the eyes of the Miss Black USA pageant, calls Connecticut home.
The Nutmeg State’s Tonille Simone Watkis is the current title holder for the national pageant, which will hold its next state pageant in Connecticut on Jan. 21, 2017.
CTFashionMag.com caught up with Tonille via email following her recent appearance at Hartford Fashion Week.
CTFashionMag: Why did you want to be Miss Black Connecticut USA and Miss Black USA?
Tonille: I am honored to hold the title, Miss Black USA and be a former Miss Black Connecticut USA, because I wholeheartedly believe in and support our mission to advocate for education and develop the whole woman mind body and spirit in women of color. Miss Black USA celebrates the beauty of black women of various cultural backgrounds, complexions, and hair textures. Even more importantly, 80 percent of our misses are in graduate or professional studies. This is why I wanted to be apart of this sisterhood – I’m truly blessed.
C: What do you consider your most important accomplishment as the title holder?
T: I’ve been fortunate to have so many enriching experiences since winning the crown like being appointed a goodwill ambassador for the Republic of Sierra Leone. Also, I’ve had the opportunity to be a celebrity advocate for ORS Olive Oil Hair Care’s “No Stereotypes” campaign, which celebrates the diverse hair types and textures among black women. However my national platform, the Heart Truth campaign, which is dedicated to raising awareness about heart disease, the leading cause of death in women in the United States, is most dear to my heart because my grandmother battles heart disease. I’m glad I’m able to educate my community about the importance of heart health after witnessing up close how devastating the effects can be.
C: How did the experience meet or exceed your expectations?
T: I honestly don’t think I could have imagined the amazing and fulfilling experience that I’ve had thus far with my Miss Black USA family. I’ve become part of a sisterhood of intelligent, driven, and inspiring sister queens. We have taken on the Miss Black USA movement and inspire each other every day with our amazing transformations, triumphs, and accomplishments. My sister queens are lawyers, nurses, television producers, actors, etc. They make up one of the most powerful networks I could ever have right at my finger tips. I have the ability to travel and spread the Miss Black USA platform across the globe, but even the glam of being whisked across the globe, is incomparable to the way my relationship with my sister queens changed my life.
C: In your mind, what makes a good Miss Black USA titleholder?
T: Miss Black USA must be resilient, prepared, passionate, and purposeful. As the adage goes, all good things can come with obstacles, but the way a queen handles them is proof of her success. Having thick skin, back up plans, and constantly envisioning my goals has helped me to succeed thus far.
C: You also had a chance to walk the runway at Hartford Fashion Week. What was that experience like for you?
T: It was such a pleasure to have the chance to walk the runway in Saints by SJ Designs. I had a great time of course because modeling is fun, but also because of the way the designers – Natacha ajd Anise Saint Juste, founders of Saints by SJ, use their work to support others in the community. The entire glam squad of hair Ms Blaze Hair Studio, make-up Sabrina and Shanice W., and stylist Kades Mode are all locally based. The music used during the show was composed by a local artist. I admire the way they use their platform to celebrate talent in their community and to bring the community together.
C: You also got to go to Ghana Fashion Week. What was that like? What did you do? What is fashion like there and how is it similar and is it different from the USA?
T: I absolutely love the traditional influences I see in Ghanaian fashions combined with a bit of modern flair. It’s great to see today’s designers paying homage and embracing their culture through their designs. I’m so glad to have served as an ambassador for Mercedes Benz’s Ghana Fashion Week to assist in promoting their emerging and established designers and creative entrepreneurs to a global audience.
C: How would you describe your fashion sense? What do you like about the world of fashion?
T: My fashion sense can be described as a combination of simple and elegant. I like clean lines and classy silhouettes. What I love most about the world of fashion is that fashions can be tailored to suit individual styles and personalities. Fashion is fluid and is meant to be customized.
C: What will you be doing, career wise, following your reign as Miss Black USA?
T: Following my reign as Miss Black USA, I will continue to pursue a career as an actress and further develop my autobiographical one woman play entitled No Boxes Allowed, penned to empower young black women to step out of societal “boxes” and into their own truths.