Emerging HBCU students now have somewhere to showcase their intelligence and talent. They’re doing it in the Miss HBCU Teen Scholarship Pageant. After being founded in 2021 by Darrell Williams, the pageant system has been able to make headway as the first of its kind. It caters specifically to young girls who are looking to attend a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) after graduating high school. Contestants are chosen based upon their application and the interview process. Once this happens, they are official representatives of their home state and are able to begin their reign as queen. 

After noticing the dynamic impact that HBCUs have had across the country, it was decided the Miss HBCU Teen was needed to help provide more exposure to these types of institutions. “It was extremely important to have a space that prioritized representation for people of color and prestigious HBCUs. There aren’t many spaces that do so, and for some that do, they aren’t as authentic with the sharing opportunities for everyone involved.” Founder Darrell Williams shared in an interview.

We have seen throughout recent years that representation of Black women within the pageant industry has indeed increased. It stemmed from the initial first Black female contestant which was Cheryl Browne. She served as Miss Iowa in 1970 in Miss America. This led to the eventual win by Vanessa Williams in the Miss America Pageant in 1984. 

“This pageant is an avenue to use arts to influence and excite youth in our communities. We partner with current & previous HBCU campus Queens, HBCU Alumni Associations, and local educators to establish a supportive community that ensures a successful pageant program is produced.” Founder Darrell Williams expressed in a statement on the website

The mission of the organization is to provide emerging collegiate women with scholarships, mentorship, and other helpful resources. In addition, with the increase of visibility, they hope to increase the amount of students that decide to attend HBCUs. Much of the staff that works for the pageant system, are HBCU alumni themselves and are looking to provide financial support to those who decide to participate in the pageant.

As the state queens journey through their reign and prepare for the on-stage competition, they are provided with exclusive programs. These are under the scope of networking, leadership training, civic engagement, and financial literacy. This ensures that they walk away with more than just the on-stage experience. Miss HBCU Teen winners receive a $3,000 scholarship, an all expenses paid photoshoot, a cosmetic package from Persica Skincare valued at $500, brand ambassador opportunities, and more! Runner-ups also receive scholarships in the amounts of $1,500 and $500. 

Their current queen, Carline Boston, is a freshman student at Fisk University and seeking to obtain her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Since her reign, she has been able to expand her platform of financial literacy specifically for African American youth.

When it comes to the judging criteria of the contestants, this stems from the categories of personal interview, evening gown presentation, talent, on-stage question, and participation throughout the pageant programs as a state titleholder. One must also be a current high school senior at the time of applying. Though the application for new state titleholders in 2023 has closed, you can watch this year’s pageant here and follow the pageant on their social media page to stay up to date with when the competition will take place this Spring.

Sherdell Baker is a senior journalism major student at Hampton University. She seeks to bring the quintessential views of contemporary college culture to the masses. Check out more from her