by MIKE CHAIKEN
The issues raised by the Black Lives Movement will be the focus of a virtual panel hosted by the Miss Connecticut Scholarship Organization Tuesday, July 7.
“The Black Queen Experience” goes live at 7 p.m.
Press materials from the organization said, “The panel will serve as a platform for the participating former titleholders to share their experiences competing, and how the world of pageantry can diversify, and become a more welcoming place for women of color.”
The panelists include:
Ericka Dunlap, Miss America 2004, Miss Florida 2003, public relations and branding consultant
Tanisha Chea, Miss Connecticut 2002, Miss Georgia USA 2005, marketing executive and brand innovator
Trenee McGee, Miss Windham County 2017, Miss New Haven County 2016, Connecticut city councilwoman
Olivia McMillan, Miss America’s Outstanding Teen 2015 and a Juilliard School graduate
Farah Bernier, diversity and inclusion practitioner, certified professional executive coach, and human resources executive partner will moderate the dynamic panel to highlight each participant’s personal experience in pageantry, and their observations for what can be done to mitigate racial inequity in the pageant industry, as well as in the workplace.
Ashley Reid, executive director and treasurer of Miss Connecticut said the panelists were chosen because of their prior relationships with the state organization.
“Each panelist has her own unique perspective on pageantry, and we knew they would present truthful, enlightening accounts,” said Reid. “Further, they are each accomplished in their personal and professional lives, and we want to highlight their successes following their involvement in pageantry.”
Reid said, “This panel will serve as both a platform for these participants to share their observations and insights, but to also show a larger audience how driven, intelligent and accomplished these women are.”
“Far too often, we know that women who participate in programs like Miss Connecticut experience prejudice because of stereotyping,” said Reid. However, she said, “women throughout the Miss America Organization at a local, state and national level have gone on to be lawyers, doctors, professors, civil servants, military and business owners.”
Reid felt the organization should be part of the discussion surrounding Black Lives Matter because the title holders at all levels are role models and should “be educated and involved in timely and important matters.”
The titleholders, said Reid, “are called upon to be the voice of their generation in many ways.”
“Our country is rightly focused on the systemic and pervasive racial inequalities embedded in our DNA, and it is incumbent upon us as an organization to – at a minimum – discuss this,” said Reid. “We believe it imperative that we provide a platform to highlight the experiences and success of Black women within this organization.”
“The work toward racial equality and anti-racism does not stop once the social media chatter dies down,” said Reid.
Miss America and Miss Connecticut have had issues with diversity in the past –and currently — with the contestants primarily being white.
Acknowledging the situation, Reid said, “There has been racial disparity in pageantry across the board.”
“The first Miss America was crowned in the 1920s. Vanessa Williams was crowned as the first Black Miss America in 1984. Nina Davuluri became the first woman of South Asian descent to win the Miss America pageant in 2013,” said Reid.
“If we are to fulfill our mission to provide scholarship dollars to young women, then that must include all women,” said Reid. “We must serve as a platform for women to earn money toward education, which can then propel them into a life of success and fulfillment.”
“Connecticut’s population is becoming increasingly diverse,” said Reid. “We would be woefully misrepresenting the people of this state if our candidate pool did not reflect that diversity.”
“The discussions we are having today about race have brought to light racial inequalities in education,” said Reid. “If our program can serve as one way for women who may be put at an unfair disadvantage because of their zip code and the failure of lawmakers to create fair education systems, then we have done our job.”
Reid said she hopes after the virtual discussion that those who watched will “have a better understanding of the experience women of color have had in pageantry.”
With this knowledge, said Reid, “We can best implement meaningful change, and have more diverse representation in our program.”
The event is open to the public. Registration is required but attendance is free.
To register, go to missct.org/events to register.