Freshman Kristyn Simmons was crowned Miss Essence 2014 at the 39th annual Miss Essence Scholarship Pageant on Feb. 28 in Ida Waldran Auditorium.
Simmons said winning was a blessing and a shock.
“The entire proccess up to pageant day was a very humbling experience,” she said. “Winning was the extra push I needed to keep grinding and striving for greatness.”
Simmons said the competition helped her expand her horizons.
“As a person this competition has helped me see that there really are people that care about you and want to help,” she said. “Everyone isn’t against you.”
Simmons said the pageant also helped her improve her speaking skills.
Simmons is from Memphis, Tenn. and is a pre-physical therapy major at UCA. She displayed her talents with her gospel praise dance that entranced the audience.
Students for the Propagation of Black Culture (SPBC) sponsored the pageant. SPBC is a UCA recognized student organization that strives to promote unity among black culture.
The “Laissez Les Bons Temps Roulez” themed pageant displayed 13 contestants: Simmons, freshman Kizza Finley, sophomore Ashley Plummer, freshman Jazzmin Hayes, sophomore Brianna Searcy, senior Jameeka McCray, sophomore Yaminah Cummings, sophomore Nia Robinson, sophomore Avery Carter, senior Catherine Miller, freshman Taylor Pippins, junior Jean-Neka Black and freshman Kaylee Jackson.
Simmons won a $1,000 scholarship as well as sponsorship in the Miss UCA pageant this fall. Simmons also won the swimwear portion of the pageant, winning an additional $50.
The pageant was created to give the campus’s undergraduate black women an opportunity to improve their presentation and interview skills, enhance their self-esteem when on the bigger stage, gain valuable friendships and have an opportunity to earn funds for their educational career.
SPBC adviser Angela C. Jackson said the pageant is in its 38th year.
“We are extremely thrilled to have 13 ladies competing because our average number of contestants [has]been six,” she said.
Miller was awarded first runner-up and a $500 scholarship. Miller is an education major with a math and science concentration from El Dorado. Her talent was a workout dance routine. The contestants also voted her for the Miss Congeniality award.
Carter was awarded second runner-up and a $300 scholarship. Carter is from Tulsa, Okla. She won the talent portion with an original monologue. She also won the pageant’s people’s choice award, which was determined by family, faculty and friends contributing money into the contestant’s bowl attached to their pictures.
The evening wear winner was Robinson, who is from Little Rock. She also won the most ad sales.
Black won the highest GPA and Pippins won the social media award, in which voters voted prior to the pageant by liking contestants’ pictures on SPBC’s Instagram page.
Former Miss Essence queen Deviasha Sharp gave her farewell speech, fulfilling her duties and passing the crown and duties to Simmons.
Sharp won the Bear Spirit Award in last November’s Miss UCA Pageant. Sharp is a senior majoring in public relations from El Dorado.
She has represented SPBC and the Office of Diversity and Community in her title of Miss Essence hosting on-campus forums and programs.
Jackson said previous winners have continued to represent the tradition of the Miss Essence crown by placing in Miss UCA and competing in various pageants.