Miss Black and Gold 2017: ‘Black women are underappreciated’


Courtesy Photo

Sophomore Mia Riley was crowned queen of Miss Black and Gold 2017.

Growing up as a middle child in Peoria, Illinois, sophomore Mia Riley said she never imagined she would be crowned queen of Miss Black and Gold 2017 at Wichita State.

Held by the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the Miss Black and Gold pageant is a scholarship competition and fundraiser.

Riley said that, for her though, the competition was about more than a scholarship. She said it was about family history, as her dad was also a part of Alpha Phi Alpha.

“I was really happy to share that moment with my family, especially my dad,” Riley said.

Riley said that, initially, she did not intend to participate in the pageant, but that her friends and family finally persuaded her, and she joined at the last minute.

“A couple of us were disappointed she didn’t show up for the informational,” said Joseph Shepard, pageant co-coordinator, and former student body president. “But we were happy to see her walk in on the first day of practice.”

For Riley’s talent portion of the pageant, she interviewed several students, asking them what it means to be a black woman in America. The closing message of her interview was: “Black women are under-appreciated.”

“Mia’s talent was very brave,” Shepard said. “She used her platform to send a message that ‘you aren’t too dark to be a queen,’ and ‘your pigmentation does not determine your level of success.’”

The pageant, which was created to showcase African American women’s intelligence, beauty, and talent, was started in the 70s, but was discontinued soon after. It was brought back to campus in 2007.

Riley said she was very close-minded when she first came to WSU, but that she has met some amazing people on campus. She also acknowledged how much the competition made her grow.

“I have grown, and I feel like my sense of growth has changed my realization of the position I am in,” Riley said. “In situations like this, I feel like I want to push myself in a corner, but everyone was telling me to just do it, and in a sense of growth, I came out and put myself out there.”

Riley said the pageant taught everyone that they have room to grow, and that, since starting their journey, all of the girls have underwent great change.

She said winning was never her priority. Throughout the pageant, however, people began coming up to her and asking what she would do if she wins.

“I had to start thinking, but I wasn’t worried about it,” Riley said. “I was confident the whole way, and I think my lack of worry is the only thing that set me apart from everybody else.”

She said she believes self-confidence is imperative.

“Always believe in yourself,” Riley said. “Put your best foot forward and use your best effort. If you have what it takes people can’t deny you that.”