African beauties showcase culture in pageant

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Participants practice their pageant introductions Saturday, Feb. 11 in a UVU dance studio. Photo: Jeff Jacobsen/UVUReview

Africa, meet Utah: Second annual pageant at UVU.


African culture is coming to Utah Valley on Saturday, Feb. 25 in the form of the second annual Miss Africa Utah pageant. Founded by senior Journalism major Gloria Kajo, the pageant will feature eight young women representing various African countries with traditional dress, talents and platforms for improving local society.


Kajo, 27, carried a love of pageants from her native Nigeria, where she once participated in a fashion show.


“I loved everything about being beautiful,” Kajo said.


When she found that African women were underrepresented in the 2010 Miss United Nations pageant in Orem, Kajo, president of UVU’s African Club, took it as a call to action and created the first Miss Africa Utah pageant at the Club’s annual African Culture Night. With attendance of over 500 and coverage by The Salt Lake Tribune, Kajo decided to give the pageant solo time in the spotlight.


“This year, we separated [the two] so we can concentrate more on the girls and showcase their culture,” Kajo said.


The pageant has attracted participants from the University of Utah, Utah State University, Salt Lake Community College and BYU, in addition to UVU. Pageant rules stipulate that participants must be between 18 and 30 years of age and a third-generation African at most, although many of the women are first-generation Africans.


While scholarship money is sure to be a significant draw for participants, Kajo, who has been conducting rehearsals the past several weekends with advisor Nilufar Sherzod, current Miss Asia Utah and former Miss United Nations USA, insists the women are devoting their time for more than just financial reasons.


“They’re doing it because they love their culture,” Kajo said.


Umeaia Onwo, a 20-year-old BYU student majoring in pre-medicine, is very excited to be in the pageant this year after witnessing its inception a year ago. Onwo plans to sing for her talent and advocate saving the children as her platform because, she says, “they’re our future.”


The pageant will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 in the Ragan Theatre and will offer desserts and a chance to meet the contestants after the event. Tickets are available at Campus Connection or online at and are $10 for students and $12 for non-students.


By Deven Leigh Ellis
Asst. Life Editor