Darlene Aiken, Founder/Director of the Miss Black Collegiate USA Scholarship Pageant is an author, college lecturer, professional speaker, and self-esteem expert from New York. She was featured in Splash magazine's October 2012 issue.
After a very intriguing interview last month, I had the privilege of witnessing Ms. Aiken's proud moment when she crowned her 1st Miss Black Collegiate USA Queen on Saturday, October 27, 2012 at the Twelve Hotel in Atlantic Station, Atlanta,Georgia.
The Miss Black Collegiate USA Queen is Miss Ashley Nicole Jones, from Washington, D.C. who is currently attending Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She will be recorded in the history books as being the First Queen to be crowned by Ms. Darlene Aiken. The moment Ashley was announced as the winner, there was great excitement, applause, and screams from her colleagues, family, and the audience. It was a beautiful, happy moment.
What is so wonderful about this pageant is the genuine love that was shared among the Contestants, staff and volunteers. This love ignited to the point that it spread throughout the audience. The young ladies learned about the importance of self-esteem procurement and this is why they were able to genuinely support one another.
This pageant was uniquely designed by its founder/director and the camaraderie amongst all is a testament to its success. Jealousy has no place when you are secure in who you are and these Contestants learned how to become secure in their own skin, which is why they were able to support one another. One Contestant said “instead of wishing the other Contestants would trip and fall, as in other pageants, I’m actually filled with joy to see all of us achieving and being part of this great moment”.
The Contestants learned the real meaning behind Ms. Aiken’s motto “Exposing Minds, Not Bodies!”, as they witnessed first hand, how Ms. Aiken followed through with the pageant's mission via her interaction with each of them as well as staff, performers, and volunteers. Additionally, she had many opportunities to interact with them and impart useful information that they were able to employ throughout the pageant, and in life, as well. These young women are learning to be in touch with their inner beauty which exudes outwardly.
The seven contestants came from as far as Texas, Washington, D.C., and Illinois. Others were a little closer, but they are all talented and intelligent young women who set the bar high for future Contestants. The Runner-Up was Miss Briana Butler from Maryland who attends Wake Forest University, N.C. She will always be remembered for her great, powerful talent routine when she danced to the highly spiritual song "He Has His Hands On You" sung by Marvin Sapp. She felt the spirit deeply and so did the audience because we were in tears just like she was. What an emotional moment. Briana lost winning the crown, according to the judges, by one point.
The other Contestants also worked hard and were so excited to be a part of this competition. They too, were very friendly, energetic, intelligent, spiritual, beautiful, well-mannered and truly professional young ladies and everyone was extremely proud of them, as well.
Conversations with these young ladies were inspiring and impressive. I recall Ayahna Hunter, from Maryland, who attends Morgan State University, MD said “I’m so honored to be a part of this unforgettable moment, I’m just so thankful”. Amber Spears, from Austin, TX who attends University of Michigan said “I’m learning so much and I feel so important to be a part of this rewarding experience”. Chrystal Golden, from Humble, TX, attends University of Texas at Austin said “we have practiced so hard and so much but time went so quickly mainly because of the fun of getting to know the girls who will be friends for life”. LaShantell Williams, from Dallas, TX, who attends Full Sail University, FL said “I’m feeling so anxious to be here knowing I’m giving 100% effort and allowing God to guide me, which makes me step out on my faith even more”. Everyone will always remember Rachel Sanni from Skokie, IL, who attends Howard University, Washington D.C. Her spirit overflowed with enthusiasm and excitement as she said “when I started this pageant I had to make sure the other Contestants and I did a good job by entertaining everyone with our talents and presentations”. I agreed.
Without the judges, the Contestants would not been able to proceed to each category successfully. The celebrity judges were Cas Sigers-Writer/Film/TV Producer; Dr. Geneva Baxter, Associate College Dean and Nancy J. Lewis, Founder of Progressive Techniques, Inc. Evangelist and Motivational Speaker. They judged the Contestants on private interviews, talent, evening wear and their scholarship/civic engagement.
Ms. Aiken had the perfect hostess for her first pageant. Beautiful, Rhythm & Blues entertainer, Natasha Jane. Ms. Jane not only was the Mistress of Ceremony but she rendered her beautiful voice throughout the three day event.
Events included the Friday’s Launch Party, Saturday’s Pageant Crowning Ceremony, and Sunday’s Gospel Brunch which was presided by Rev. Wallis C. Baxter. Grammy Award-Winning singer, Yasmeen, formerly with Sweet Honey in the Rock, performed songs from her latest CD, There is a River, which was also dedicated during the Pageant's Gospel Brunch.
Ms. Darlene Aiken’s first Pageant could not have been a success without Celebrity Stylists, Carlton Spence, Founder of Style Evolution, LLC, Make-up Sponsor, Iman Cosmetics, Contestant's evening wear sponsored by Macy's Bridal Salon for Demetrios, Jewelry sponored by R.J. Graziano, Jeweled T-Shirts by San Jules, and a host of other sponsors, staff, assistants, and volunteers. It was like one tightly knit family helping anywhere there was a need. Ms. Vanessa Edwards-El of Palmer Special Events is an expert at event planning and it showed.
After the crowning of Miss. Jones, everyone closed the night at the VIP After Party, sponsored by The Heaven Network, where former Atlantic Starr Recording Artist, Talein, performed and everyone danced to the tunes of the fabulous DJ, Antheny Hampton of PaRock. We were exhaling from the pressure of making this Pageant a success. There was so much laughter and joy throughout this night. All the Contestants, the audience, and volunteers had a phenomenal time.
A special thank you to Renee Joshua-Porter for choreographing the Contestants' opening African dance number, the pageant's legal team Wanda Mabray-Beckwith, Esq. and Alonzo G. Jacobs, Esq. and Tracey Tompkins who supported this vision from day one and was very instrumental in bringing together a lot of people to make this event a success.
I’m thankful Splash Magazine was able to cover Ms. Darlene Aiken’s first Pageant here in Atlanta, Georgia and to see those beautiful young ladies blossom.
Next year it will be bigger and better, so make sure you purchase your tickets (see website below) in advance for next year and I’ll see you there. If you happen to see the reigning Pageant Winner, Miss. Ashley Jones making her tour stops, please congratulate her as well as the other Contestants because each one of them is a winner, not only for competing in the first Miss Black Collegiate USA Scholarship Pageant, but simply because of who God created them to become.
Please visit and give any comments on Ms. Darlene Aiken’s media outlets at:
Copyright © 2012.NOV This story was written and photographs were submitted by Renee Sudderth for Splash Magazine. They are not to be sold or reproduce without written permission of Renee Sudderth