Fraternity uplifts black women through pageant

With her head elegantly bowed, Meilan Whitaker’s fingers flitted over the keys of her keyboard, and the room fell in awestruck silence. As the last note drifted through Bayou Pointe, the crowd erupted in applause loud enough to burst eardrums. This was not the last time Whitaker would elicit such a response from the audience that night.

Whitaker was one of eight participants in Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity’s annual Miss Black and Gold pageant. Each year, through the pageant, one woman is chosen to represent the fraternity. This year, Whitaker took home the crown and responsibility behind the title.

However, that is not all the Miss Black and Gold pageant stands for. It is also an event designed to empower and uplift the black women within ULM’s community. Through the pageant, the contestants widen their horizons by stepping out of their comfort zones and making life-long friends.

Starting preparation for the pageant six weeks ago, Whitaker was shy. But you wouldn’t have been able to tell that from watching her last Thursday night as she sashayed across the stage smiling from ear to ear.   

“Starting out in the beginning of the pageant journey, I was so shy and stayed to myself.” Whitaker said, “Now, I’ve gained so many friendships from the contestants and alphas.”

As co-hosts of the pageant, Destinee Woods and Jalen Romain had the privilege of watching each contestant grow more comfortable with themselves through the process. To the both of them, this was the most rewarding part of the experience.

“[The pageant] gets them out of their comfort zone and become more confident about themselves,” Romain said. “That’s the key to the whole pageant. Yes, it’s a competition, but it goes beyond just winning titles.”

The Miss Black and Gold pageant not only uplifted the contestants but also everyone involved. Woods had never considered co-hosting an event before but found herself going out on a limb to try something new.

“I am usually not the one to do public speaking but it was something I wanted to try,” Woods said.

Allison Newton, the current Miss ULM, helped judge the pageant. As a senior, Newton said she was curious to see what up-and-coming leaders were being cultivated in the university. After attending the Miss Black and Gold pageant, she was impressed by what she saw, and found it difficult to choose the winner.

“It was a quality field of candidates and it was inspiring to see everyone show their hearts on stage,” Newton said. “I believe consistency was the element that decided the winner. It seemed so close to me.”

Whitaker is a sophomore pre-nursing majoring from Grand Cane, La. During her time as Miss Black and Gold, she hopes to host an event discussing the importance of women’s health.

Ty’leshia Brown won the title of Miss Gold, Khala Scott won the title of Miss Black and Kiauna Rollins won the title of Miss Congeniality.