Melissa Riley, junior in animal science, won the 18th Annual Miss Black and Gold scholarship pageant Saturday evening at Forum Hall in the K-State Student Union.
“It’s amazing; it’s surreal, honestly,” Riley said after winning the crown. “I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it!’”
Riley competed against six other students in the event hosted by the Kappa Tau chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha in the three-hour show, competing in four areas that made up 50 percent of their overall scores. This year’s theme was “A Night of S.T.A.R.S (Soul, Talent, Achievement, Respect and Sisterhood).”
The runner-up, who will hold the title of Miss Gold and take over Riley’s responsibilities if she is unable to continue, is Jaliyah Brown, senior in apparel and textiles marketing. The second runner-up, who won the title of Miss Black, is Tinaris Watson, junior in hospitality management.
In addition to the overall title, Riley was awarded Miss GPA for having the highest cumulative GPA, Miss Career for highest overall score in the professional wear portion and Miss Dedication for showing up and being on time for all rehearsals, including extra rehearsals added this year. Each title came with a sash.
As the winner of the K-State competition, Riley will receive a $1,000 scholarship toward her spring semester. She will also have the opportunity to meet and introduce distinguished guests and represent the university in the regional Miss Black and Gold pageant in Lawrence this upcoming March.
“I’m expecting just an amazing experience and helping out the Alphas and fulfilling my role as Miss Black and Gold,” Riley said.
The women started the evening with a dance to a medley of “Who Run the World? (Girls)” by Beyoncé before going into the professional wear and personal introductions. Each contestant wore a work-appropriate outfit and gave a short introduction.
The evening went on to the talent portion, where Riley performed an original poem, “The Anatomy of a Sunflower,” focusing on growing up African-American with a Caucasian mother and “having my petals plucked to determine my worth.”
Keneysha McKinney, sophomore in business management, also performed an original poem, entitled “Family,” talking about the K-State family being predominately white, and getting a Multicultural Student Center, saying “we need it because we need it.”
“Style Is,” an original poem by Brown, focused not only on her love of fashion, but also on the fashion industry taking “black culture and calling it ‘new’ and ‘edgy.’”
Contestants Brianna Jackson, freshman in psychology, JaTashia Matlock, junior in social science, and Watson each performed interpretive dances.
Zanaiya Peebles, freshman in biology, won the Miss Talent title by singing “Rise Up,” by Andra Day, with a video playing behind her featuring clips of police brutality against African Americans, bits of Martin Luther King Jr. speeches and Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles.
After the swimwear and eveningwear portions, the women were faced with a question they had not previously been asked and were unable to prepare an answer for ahead of the pageant.
“Richard B. Myers was hired as the 14th president of Kansas State University on Nov. 15, 2016,” asked co-emcee and president of Alpha Phi Alpha Dominic White, senior in architecture. “If you had the opportunity to advise President Myers on one major issue that he should try to accomplish in his first year in office, what would the issue be and why?”
McKinney, Brown and Peebles all mentioned a Multicultural Student Center as well, with Peebles saying, “I would advise Myers to talk to minority students about the Multicultural Student Center, because how do you build something for someone if you don’t know what they need?”
Jackson said she would advise him to talk with potential enrollment candidates for “people of color, in terms of diversity,” while Watson wanted to ensure that students are treated equally. Matlock said she wanted Myers to continue to encourage all students.
“I loved going through the pageant and being a contestant,” Matlock said after the awards ceremony. “It helped me step out of my comfort zone and do things that I never thought I would be able to do; you know, stand in front of people and speak. I’m not a big public speaker, but it helped me come out and express myself through my dance as well.”
For students who are interested in participating in the future, the process begins in August, said co-emcee Taj Brimmer, senior in mass communication.
“They just ask people and they sign up,” Brimmer said. “Anyone can do it; any student can participate.”
Matlock said she believes it is a beneficial program for women and she would encourage those interested to sign up in the future.
“If you are looking to build yourself, to become a better woman, step out of your comfort zone, build confidence, this is the pageant for you,” Matlock said.
This class of seven women brings the total to 182 contestants in the 18 years the fraternity has been hosting this event.
Miss Black and Gold (overall winner): Melissa Riley
Miss Gold (first runner up): Jaliyah Brown
Miss Black (second runner up): Tinaris Watson
Miss GPA: Melissa Riley
Miss Career: Melissa Riley
Miss Dedication: Melissa Riley
Miss Souvenir Book: Jaliyah Brown
Miss Talent: Zanaiya Peebles
Miss Swimwear: Tinaris Watson
Miss Elegance: Tinaris Watson
Miss Diligence: Tinaris Watson
Miss Sisterhood: Tinaris Watson