Amidst familiar romantic 90s pop ballads and an animated crowd, nine young women clad in little black dresses and colorful feather boas paraded across the stage at Ragan Theatre, welcoming the audience to the Miss Africa Utah pageant.
The second annual event, held on Sat., Feb. 25, and founded by UVU senior Gloria Kajo, sought to “educate people of the widespread cultural variety that exist with the African continent,” according to Kajo’s website www.gkfolks.com.
The pageant managed to accomplish just that. The contestants showcased traditional dress and performed a short dance from their native countries, in addition to fielding interview questions and advocating individual platforms.
Participants, contingent on a first through third generational line of descent, hailed from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Somalia. The women also represented BYU, University of Utah and Utah State University, in addition to UVU.
Spanning two-and-a-half hours, the contestants were provided ample outfit-changing time with African dance performances by students form BYU-Idaho and Idaho State University.
The evening was not without its snafus, however. When the first dance team failed to make an on-time appearance, the two resourceful hosts staged an impromptu dance-off, shaking their derrières to the delight of mostly-female audience members. Later in the competition, almost 20 attendees clambered onstage to join an encore performance from Idaho State’s African Student Union, inciting a casual, party-like atmosphere.
Once the four judges narrowed down the pool to the five women from Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia, the ladies answered additional questions, such as, “What will you do to promote African culture if you win the pageant?” and “How do you think having a black president in America has served to change people’s ideas about Africa?”
After much deliberation from the hosts as they incited laughter and cheering from the audience, Liberia was crowned Miss Africa Utah 2012. Performing her inaugural wave, the new queen briefly lost control of her large crown, drawing a large gasp from the crowd as onlookers stumbled over themselves to recover it from the stage floor. The audience released a collective sigh of relief as the crown was returned to her head undamaged.
While all the contestants went home with conciliatory prizes, one of the hosts summed up the evening quite nicely when he said,” Not everyone can win, but everyone’s a winner.”
By Deven Leigh Ellis
Asst. Life Editor