Multicultural fraternity hosts scholarship pageant

Joy Petersen

Miss Teen USA South Carolina went down in infamy for her verbal stumble in the Miss Teen USA 2007 pageant, perhaps displaying her appearance more than her intellect.

The Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.’s fifth-annual Ms. Black and Gold Scholarship Pageant was intended to combat those stereotypes and empower black women.

The multicultural fraternity hosted the pageant Sunday, which featured six black women, all currently attending college, competing for a scholarship to cover school book costs and fees, and a chance to compete in the regional pageant.

Alpha Phi Alpha member Alex Kado said the fraternity hosts the event to give back to the community. The fraternity raised the award money.

“We don’t look at it as us giving money away,” he said. “We look at it as we’re helping enrich this campus.”

Popular culture usually doesn’t reference black women’s talents, said Kado, an electrical engineering senior.

“Black women are so negatively portrayed in the media,” he said. “They’re not really appreciated for their intelligence and their beauty.”

The process, therefore, was not based on the contestants’ appearances, Kado said. It included a current-events statement, creative arts piece and community involvement explanation.

“We target scholarship, community involvement and their talents and just try to present to the campus some of the beautiful things women do bring to the campuses across the nation,” he said.

One part of the contest, however, required the women to don swimsuits. But because this part of the pageant was to show the women’s confidence, the swimsuits had to be one-piece and modest, Kado said, otherwise points would have been deducted.

African-American studies senior and contestant Eva Moses-Mcdew said that wearing a swimsuit in public is something she is proud to do.

“I think it all goes into confidence,” Moses-Mcdew said. “In general, black women embrace their bodies more than the general public, and with that, a swimsuit is just a statement like, ‘This is my body; I’m not scared to show you, and it’s beautiful.’ “

The criteria included a 2.5-or-higher grade point average, community service experience and an age younger than 25. Contestants could not have children.

Bethel Deresu, a contestant and marketing and entrepreneurial management senior, said that by hosting a pageant like this, a multicultural fraternity helps bring out the best of what women of racial minorities have to offer.

“Some people think that, when you’re a smart woman, you take for granted physical beauty,” she said. “You don’t see them both together all the time. But displaying that you could be smart and you could look good physically, I think is a great thing.”

Brittany Geissler, a University first-year, said she has a stereotypical impression of pageants.

“More people should encourage the charity part of it and doing it to make a difference in the world, than just looking at it for just beauty,” she said.

To Geissler, pageants portray women in many ways.

“It encourages kind of the wrong message, sometimes,” she said, “but I think it shows, also, that they’re strong, independent women who do what they want and try to make a difference.”

Geissler said she would support the event’s focus on intelligence.

“They have a lot of set rules that really make it more of a fun thing than just guys staring at girls,” she said.