“It showcases diversity, inclusion and leadership within the Black community,” Foster said. “Each of these women are setting a positive blueprint for our people on our campus. They are involved in honor societies, campus organizations and doing hard work within their major.”
As family, friends and supporters gathered around in the conference room of the Kellogg Hotel Center, psychology senior and host Joya Bailey introduced the six contestants to the intimate audience.
Contestant No. 1: Jenessa Ediagbonya
Jenessa Ediagbonya is a kinesiology junior from Macomb, Michigan. Ediagbonya said she wanted to compete in the Miss Black & Gold Pageant because earning the title would allow her to be the model for positive change, advocate for social causes that empower others to embrace their heritage and to reach their full potential.
Contestant No. 2: Da’Veeda Fitih-Turner
Da’Veeda Fitih-Turner is a senior studying graphic design, hailing from Detroit, Michigan. Fifth-Turner said the reason she decided to compete in the pageant was to make a huge impact on the Black diaspora on campus. Winning the Miss Black & Gold title would allow her to do so, she said.
Contestant No. 3: Alexis Parson
Alexis Parson, hailing from Fort Wayne, Indiana is an advertising management senior. Parson said she wanted the title because she’s determined to help spread awareness about discrimination within MSU communities among other communities as well. Parson said she wants to be an advocate and help be a voice for those whose stories get overlooked in today’s society.
Contestant No. 4: Ebony Battle
Ebony Battle, who is from Kalamazoo, Michigan, is an acting senior who wanted to compete in the pageant to gain a better sense of herself and to surround herself with women who have similar ambitions, she said.
Contestant No. 5: Ivory Maxwell
Ivory Maxwell is an animal science senior also from Detroit, Michigan. Maxwell said she participated in the pageant because she wanted to prove that she can achieve any goals when her mind is set to it. One of her goals after pursuing her animal science degree is to open a non-profit animal clinic to welcome stray animals.
Contestant No. 6: Niya Bush
Niya Bush is a Lansing, Michigan native and a human development and family science senior. Bush participated in the pageant because with her dedication and hard work, she wanted to build her community and network with women with chronic illness. Bush herself suffers from a chronic illness, and she said she wanted to show others that having a chronic illness shouldn’t discourage them from reaching their goals.
The audience watched in awe as the six women showcased their talents by singing Broadway, presenting their art, reciting self-written monologues representing their determination, performing comedy, singing and more.
The event closed out with a last category discussing humanitarian topics. Each contestant was asked to share their perspective on immigration policies and ways countries could balance security and humanitarian concerns.
Judges counted their scores for each contestant and came to a decision to crown the women. The winners of the Miss Black & Gold scholarship pageant are as follows:
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Miss Talent: Niya Bush
Miss Congeniality: Ebony Battle
Miss Gold: Da’Veeda Fitih-Turner
Miss Black: Alexis Parson
Miss Black & Gold: Jenessa Ediagbonya
Being ecstatic from winning the Miss Black & Gold title and scholarship, Ediagbonya said getting ready for the pageant was a whirlwind of emotions. She said her pageant sisters were there to rely on as their encouragement pushed her to improve in several ways.
“There were many times where I felt I wasn’t allowing myself to enjoy the moment and just thinking way too far ahead,” Ediagbonya said. “This title will give me a larger platform to help continue to make a meaningful impact in my community.”
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