by MIKE CHAIKEN
When Aicha Diallo hands over her Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen to her successor on April 9, the soon-to-be student at Duke University said she will look back fondly on the opportunities she had to inspire young girls.
“I think I’m going to miss the way the crown made people,” said Aicha. She said she has been to provide a role model for girls. “Especially young women of color, inspiring them by (letting them see) that crown on another black girl. It’s more impactful than you would think,” said Aicha
Diallo, who is a first generation American from a family that emigrated from West Africa, broke barriers for the Miss Connecticut organization due to her heritage. She also staked a claim for the cause of diversity. And it also helped her develop pride in her African background.
Diallo, when she competed a year ago, danced in traditional African clothing during the talent category of the competition.
“When I was younger, I never wanted to wear African gowns and I never really wanted to embrace my culture,” said Diallo. But after performing on stage at Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen in the traditional attire of her culture, she learned that it’s okay to embrace her roots.
“I think it’s definitely helped me go, ‘This is OK, it’s OK to be me because a lot of people like it,’” said Aicha.
Aicha said the crown has helped build her confidence in broader terms, as well.
“I’m much more outgoing than I like to give myself credit for,” said Aicha. “I used to have a lot of trouble speaking to people because I was always so worried about what they were thinking about me. But through this experience, I definitely learned that everyone is going to have an opinion. No matter what their opinion is, you still have to stay true to yourself. It shouldn’t impact the way you present yourself.”
When Aicha competed at Miss Connecticut at the Mohegan Sun Cabaret a year ago, she was competing for her first ever crown and sash.
“I think I didn’t have any expectations. I think that’s what really helped me throughout the competition. I didn’t have any idea what I was stepping into. I didn’t have any expectations of whether I was going to win or whether I was going to do well,” said Aicha. “I kind of just went in with an open mind and had fun.”
After winning the title of Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen, Aicha headed off to Florida for the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competition on July 30.
“It was definitely tough, I’m not going lie to you,” said Aicha of the national competition. “We had 14-hour days. We weren’t allowed to be on our phone. We didn’t really get much communication from people outside of the 50 candidates who were competing.”
However, Aicha said, the competition also “was so amazing. You met 50 other outstanding teens. I met one of the world’s best Irish step dancers. You meet all these amazing people from all these different backgrounds… They’re also inspirational. You learn so much from them.”
When the Miss American competition was held at the Mohegan Sun in December, Aicha had the opportunity to reunite with her Outstanding Teen competitors.
“That was so much fun,” said Aicha. “I was able to plan a pizza party… We were able to reconnect and chit chat. We also got to watch our Miss (in Aicha’s case Miss Connecticut Sapna Raghavan) compete; so we were able to support them prelims and the finals . There were little events mixed in as well. So, it was definitely a fun experience.”
As she heads to Duke in the fall, Aicha said she is well-prepared for the college experience thanks to the title.
“The communication skills that you learn as a title holder are invaluable,” said Aicha. “You would never be able to get this kind of experience elsewhere. I’m already entering college one step ahead because I am able to communicate myself effectively.”
The Miss Connecticut and Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen Competition will be held Saturday, April 9 at noon in the Cabaret Theater located at Mohegan Sun.
Tickets are now available for purchase at missct.org/tickets.
Eleven candidates will compete for the Miss Connecticut title, and six for the title of Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen. Miss candidates will compete in private interview, onstage interview/social impact, talent and red carpet. Teen candidates will compete in private interview, talent, evening wear/on-stage question, and lifestyle and fitness.
Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen Aicha Diallo poses for a fashion shoot in Milford, Conn. Photos by Mike Chaiken.