By Shantiqua S. Stuart
On June 1st, 2007, Ms. Kalilah Allen-Harris was crowned Miss Black USA at the Miss Black USA Pageant in Gambia, West Africa. According to Ms. Allen Harris, the Miss Black USA competition was more than just a beauty pageant.
The Miss Black USA pageant is a nonprofit organization that opts to promote positive images of African American women while giving them educational opportunities through scholarships. The organization has become one of the largest scholarship contributors to African American women this year. In fact, the swim suit segment of the pageant was replaced by a fitness segment as a way to promote community health and positive images of all types of women.
After being announced the winner, Ms. Allen-Harris admitted to being extremely excited, yet in a state of shock. "I didn't believe it because the young women that competed with me in the pageant were remarkable…it was really an honor to be chosen among such high quality, talented, beautiful women," says Ms. Allen-Harris.
At the age of fourteen, Ms. Allen-Harris was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes. She said, "There's an estimated 6.2 million people who have diabetes and have never been diagnosed," therefore, she is inspired to educate others that are affected by the disease.
Despite her obstacles, Ms. Allen-Harris received a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration at the University of Tennessee, and she is currently studying orthopedic medicine at Meharry Medical College School of Medicine. The twenty-two year old has "always" wanted to be a physician. Ultimately, she would like to specialize in orthopedic surgery.
After her win Miss Black USA sat down with the Black Voice News:
Q: Why did you decide to compete for Miss Black USA?"
A: "It is an organization that strives to uplift Black women…it gives Black women the opportunity to showcase their talents and their beauty and to be judged on their own signatures as oppose to the more so European standards of beauty."
Q: What challenges did you face before winning Miss Black USA?"
A: "Medical school was a challenge. I missed all of my finals in order to attend the pageant… There were times when I would just break down and cry because everything was so hard, but I always knew that through prayer and in God's "will" everything would workout just the way it was suppose to. It was just real overwhelming. Prayer was my best asset during that time to help get me through."
Q: I understand that the pageant's contestants visited many historical locations, such as the James Island and Kunte Kinte's village. What were your thoughts about these experiences?
A: "I was overwhelmed with emotions…I didn't expect to be affected, …I really felt like my ancestors feared for their lives…I can feel them watching us…and we can only imagine the horrible things that they had to endure…I did feel as though a weight had been lifted, being able to learn and experience and finally having the opportunity to grieve…I have nothing but respect, admiration, and love for what my forefathers had to go through."
Q: What are your future plans as a beauty contestant?
A: "This is it. I feel like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, it's been great, it's been a blessing, and I'm going to do all that I can during my reign to make a good impact on society. I don't feel as if I need to continue to compete in pageants in order to be a good productive member of society."
Q: Who have been your role models?
A: "My mother is definitely a role model in my life. My mother and my grandmother are the strongest women that I know; they have taught me everything that I know about life."
Q: What do you think is the greatest health crisis for the African American youth?
A: "STDs are most easily controlled. They are obviously preventable. It really comes into what we are willing to teach our youth, and what we are willing to accept from our children as far as sexual behavior."
Q: What advice would you give to young Black women who are trying to accomplish their goals and dreams, but are faced with impediments?
A: "I would tell them that perseverance is all that you need. God is first, and then when you decide that you are going to put him first in your life, you really have nothing else to do. You just let it go and put it in his hands and what is suppose to happen, will happen as long as you are proactive and you have perseverance."
Q: Who would you support, Hillary or Obama, if those were the only two choices?
A: "They both have very strong points that I support, and they both are making history…I may wait a little closer to election time to see if they are both consistent throughout this campaign before I make my decision."
Ms. Allen-Harris says that after winning Miss Black USA, a typical day for her has been the same as any other day, except for the fact that she receives more emails and phone calls, and she is scheduled to make more appearances. Miss Black USA has already participated in the River Region Black Business Expo in Montgomery, Alabama. She is also expected to attend a BET Girls Summer Camp in Columbia, Alabama, this week.